Progress being made in diversity of journalists, reveals new NCTJ report

Diversity in journalism has come under scrutiny in a new report published by the NCTJ, examining the characteristics of UK journalists.

Diversity in journalism has come under scrutiny in a new report published by the NCTJ, examining the characteristics of UK journalists.

The report, authored by research consultant Mark Spilsbury, was presented at an industry event today at the Financial Times.

The research, based on 2021 Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, suggests that progress is being made in some areas:

  • There is good gender balance in journalism, including in senior roles, with the proportion of women in senior journalism roles at 49 per cent.
  • There has been an increase in the number of journalists who report having a work-limiting health problem or disability at 19 per cent, up from 16 per cent in 2020 and higher than the level for all UK workers (17 per cent).
  • There has also been a decrease in the proportion of journalists from white ethnic groups (87 per cent, down from 92 per cent in 2020). This is now on par with ethnicity levels of all UK workers.

However, the proportion of editors from non-white ethnic backgrounds is only 10 per cent compared to 14 per cent in junior roles, suggesting that more needs to be done to promote journalists from other ethnicities into senior roles.

There are also ongoing issues with social class which the report suggests needs to be addressed as a priority.

The research found that journalists are highly qualified, with 89 per cent having a degree-level or higher-level qualification, which is not reflective of the UK population as a whole.

At today’s industry event, a panel of senior editors and journalism educators discussed the key findings of the report and what action should be taken.

Lucy Dyer, editorial development manager at News Associates, said: “If journalism isn’t diverse yet then journalism training is always going to be further behind.

“Our tutors are former journalists, and they have to have a certain amount of experience in the industry. I interview hundreds of aspiring journalists, and it gives me so much hope for the future of journalism and therefore journalism training.”

She advised employers to ensure their trainees enter the newsroom with an NCTJ qualification. She said: “When companies try to hire people who have signed up for a full-time course, the trainee then wants to go straight into the job and that undermines the qualification. For them to receive the NCTJ qualification will be so much more worthwhile for you.”

On gender balance in journalism, Louise Hastings, managing editor of Sky News, said: “The report shows that women are attracted to come into the industry, and more importantly that they are able to progress their careers.

She added: “It serves all of us well if we share good ideas to get the best people into the industry and that they are representative of communities.”

Mike Hill, director of the MA News Journalism course at Cardiff University, said the key to tackling socio-economic diversity was to reach out to students early.

He said: “We do a lot to attract students who could be put off by the course fees by offering bursaries, such as the Master’s Excellence Scholarships.

“We also do a lot of work in the community, for example we go into a part of Cardiff called Grangetown to carry out a role models week to encourage young people to go to university.

“It’s about doing more earlier, it’s offering more money and it’s about working with employers to get paid work experience opportunities.”

Retaining journalists from diverse backgrounds was a key discussion point for the panel. Luke Jacobs, regional editor, South East, Reach PLC, said: “It’s really encouraging to see an increase of people from non-white backgrounds entering the industry. The most interesting thing will be about retention. How do we keep those people in the industry?

“That’s half the battle. Half the battle as managers is to ensure these staff members stay with us. It’s about being proactive to keep these figures at this level and to improve them as well.”

Joanne Butcher, NCTJ chief executive, said: “Our research programme, including reports like this, is vital to present the facts, highlight the real issues and measure progress. It is also important that we take action.

“We know we need to do more and that is what we are currently debating at the NCTJ and with our partners. Expect to see greater investment and the introduction of more interventions designed to make a difference.”

The report updates the NCTJ’s 2021 research, and will be updated annually.

Click here to read the full report.

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