Bursary recipient brings a diverse eye to her local newsroom

Della Cheshire shares her thoughts on why diversity is so crucial in journalism.

Della Cheshire has hit the ground running with her studies at Brighton Journalist Works and reporting for The Argus. Keep up with her on Twitter @DellaCheshire
She was awarded a bursary in August and is now sharing her thoughts on the importance of diversity in journalism:


Della Cheshire

I recently secured my first work experience placement in the specialism I want to get into – investigative journalism.


My cover letter began: “A front-page scoop winning NCTJ student with a passion for investigative journalism is applying to xxx for work experience.


“Della Cheshire, 39, a benefits claimant with fibromyalgia, is studying the Diploma part-time at Brighton Journalist Works funded by a Journalism Diversity Fund bursary.”


The idea to write my cover letter as a news story, to highlight my diversity, came from a conversation with an executive producer for a national news operation. She explained that newsrooms are full of journalists from a certain background, and if you have anything different to offer, you should shout it from the rooftops.


I can see it makes sense, but it doesn’t come naturally to me to highlight what marks me out as different to the norm, and what in my case feel like negative aspects of my life.


A cover letter I sent to the deputy editor of a national newspaper just after I started the NCTJ course read: “I’m a trained proofreader and copy editor looking to gain a broad range of journalistic work experience as my eventual aim is to become an investigative journalist.”


I’m still waiting to hear back from him.


The message from the BBC workshop at the Journalism Diversity Fund celebratory lunch was exactly what it says in the title – celebrate your diversity. It might even help get your foot in the door.


Various media organisations also run post-NCTJ training schemes which target journalists with particular diversities, for example disability or ethnicity.


Media organisations, after all, have to keep up with the 116 separate pieces of legislation encompassed by The Equality Act 2010. A journalist who is considered diverse will be more employable than others with equivalent talent because diversity is desperately needed in UK newsrooms.


Your diversity is more than just ticking a box. It gives you insight and access to stories. You, in all your diverse glory, are more likely to find an in where the average journalist cannot.


If you’re worried about being pigeon-holed, about always being the one who’s called on to cover benefits issues, for example, you may well be, at least initially.


But why not play to your strengths? The Journalism Diversity Fund certainly considers your diversity as positives – they awarded me a bursary on the basis that I was in financial need but also because they saw potential and a future for me as a journalist.


It’s because of that bursary, I’m training to be a journalist. I’ve already covered news from my community that would otherwise have gone unheard.


Next, I’m planning to write features on food banks and fibromyalgia because I have insight and access but even more importantly these are just a couple of things that need better coverage.


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