Sports broadcasters have made great progress in recruiting diverse on-air talent, but there is more work to do behind the scenes in their newsrooms, presenter Sonali Shah told an NCTJ conference.
“Unless you have people at all levels with that diversity, there isn't that camaraderie. You still feel like a freak, the odd one out,” Sonali said during a debate at the Journalism Skills Conference at Sheffield College.
The danger was that people were being recruited from a range of backgrounds “but then you have to fit in with the stories that the old male white editor wants you to do”, according to Sonali, who presented Newsround before moving into sports presenting on tv and radio for the BBC.
Janine Self, vice chair of the Sports Journalists' Association, recalled her problems trying to get a job in sport on a regional daily 30 years ago. Things had changed, but working in male-dominated sports room “you have to grow a skin, you have to be practical”.
Andy Cairns, executive editor, Sky Sports News, said the gender balance among his 200 journalists was 70:30, and recent recruitment was 50:50. “The culture is changing and continues to evolve. It's a much healthier working environment,” he said.
Martha Kelner, of the Mail on Sunday, said she did believe there was any bias against women in print newsrooms. She advised students to find a niche in sports reporting, as she had by reporting on the Paralympics. “Find something you can do that no-one else can do,” she said.