In addition to financial support, all Journalism Diversity Fund recipients are paired with a working journalist to mentor them for the duration of their studies. Launched in 2018, the mentoring scheme aims to help students realise their true potential and be given a greater understanding of the journalism industry. We spoke to 2020-21 recipient Neha Gohil, who is now working as a reporter for My London, and her mentor Kiran Bhangal, a journalist at Sky News, about their experiences.
I began the fast-track multimedia journalism course with News Associates in September after I was awarded funding from the JDF. I remember waiting eagerly to find out which mentor I would be partnered with and I am so grateful it was Kiran.
Kiran was and continues to be a constant source of support, advice and encouragement. I completed the NCTJ course amid changing Covid-19 restrictions and Kiran was always available to listen to any academic and personal issues I faced. Our conversations ranged from discussing the struggles of working from home to advice on reaching 100wpm in shorthand.
As a British-Indian, it meant a lot to be partnered with someone from a similar background to me and I am glad the JDF continue to work hard to create a more representative industry.
Having now completed my journalism course, I plan to stay in touch with Kiran for continued support throughout my career. I am incredibly grateful to the JDF for the funding and the mentorship programme.
I went into the mentor scheme thinking about what I could offer the mentee and how I could make our sessions together worthwhile. I considered a range of activities, discussion points and a list of tips for how to break into the industry. However now I know what my mentee wanted and needed was plain and simple – the opportunity to talk to a professional and for them to listen and provide their feedback. It was always spontaneous, not structured and that’s what allowed us to connect and build a rapport.
My mentee and I had catch-ups at least once a month and they usually lasted an hour. We would spend the time discussing any updates in their schedule since the last conversation and any progress they had made. We would also talk about anything they were finding challenging and I would always do my best to guide them by simply thinking about what I would have done in their shoes.
For example, my mentee discussed how they were finding it difficult to manage their time when it came to studying and preparing for their exams – something I’m sure everyone has faced at some point. I suggested creating a daily planner, something I still do to this day. Don’t be afraid to highlight what you may regard as a very simple suggestion. My mentee was keen to know what works for me and open to trying it out.
I didn’t quite realise how much I would take from the experience. It reminded me just how much talent young people have to offer the industry and what people in my position can do to help. This is why I have agreed to take part in the mentor scheme again in the near future, it is simply a case of giving back. As an Asian woman I feel it is important to showcase diversity in the industry and offer comfort and reassurance. There are some budding journalists from an ethnic background who believe the industry is full of obstacles and therefore may not be one they can thrive in. The Journalism Diversity Fund’s mentor scheme allows those doubts to be quashed and could be the difference in a young person entering journalism with confidence instead of fear.
I found the scheme itself very flexible and I was able to manage the sessions around my work schedule. I would definitely encourage others to become a mentor, it is rewarding and most definitely worthwhile.