Where Are Britain's Black Journalists

This article was culled from the UK Guardian and it talks about the lack of black Journalist in the British media. It was written by Anne Alexander.

The debate about the lack of female reporters is welcome, but few ask why ethnic minorities are largely absent in the media.

Not long after I started working as a political reporter at parliament, an adviser to a senior politician whom I knew relatively well entered the office I shared with five male colleagues. She started introducing a new staff member she had in tow. “That’s Frank from AFP, there’s Ian from the Manchester Evening News, Bill from the Lancashire Evening Post, and this is Anne, their PA.”

Having been initially stunned into silence by what she had said, I recovered quickly enough to inform her of her mistake, to which she stammered, clearly embarrassed, “But I thought, er, because, er …”

I never really found out what she thought, but have often wondered whether her assumption was based on my race (African-Caribbean origin), gender or my class (council estate, parents factory workers).

Most likely it was a combination of all three.

And if you look at the general makeup of the parliamentary press gallery – a privileged group of about 300 journalists given special access to report on parliament – and within that the smaller group of lobby journalists, you can sort of understand why she assumed I was there to provide administrative support to my male colleagues.

I was reminded of all this following a particularly oestrogen-light press conference at Downing Street this week where all of the questioners, and indeed most of the attendees, were male. Channel 4’s Cathy Newman asked in an article for the Telegraph “Where have the women of the lobby gone?”, which sparked another flurry of debate.

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That the women appear to have disappeared implies they were more noticeably well-represented at some point in the recent past.

In fact, women still make up around a quarter of all lobby reporters, with a handful of the most senior roles on political teams. Of course, I fully support fair representation for women, but at the same time I have to ask, what about the groups who have still barely even made it to the table?

When I had been appointed the Express and Star’s political correspondent in 2002 about six months before, I’d become the only (and possibly the first ever) black female lobby journalist.

Eleven years later, there has been a 100% improvement; there are now two of us. Indeed I can count the ethnic minority lobby members on one hand.

More widely in journalism, research by the New Statesman last year concluded that ethnic minorities remain “largely absent” from opinion pages, senior executive roles and staff jobs within the British media.

This when the non-white population stands at around 14%, according to the ONS Ethnicity and National Identity in England Wales report 2011.

And then there’s the issue of class. Journalism as a whole is similar to many other areas of the media, such as publishing, in being largely, though not exclusively, the preserve of the middle class.

The difficulties getting work experience and toiling for nothing or next to nothing just to get that first foot on the ladder can be eased by a parent with industry contacts and/or the means to provide financial support – help which is largely absent for working-class people.

Yes, let’s see and hear more women in the lobby, in journalism more widely and beyond, but let’s also not forget there are other barriers to progress for a significant minority.

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Source: This article was culled from the Guardian UK where it was originally first published.


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