The report on the lack of social mobility in the UK singles out journalism as one of the industries that has failed to embrace class diversity. Why?
I’ve been on More4 News explaining why I think we should ‘blame’ (amongst other things) middle class women. We should also blame middle class men, internships, the recession and the crisis in mainstream journalism. [Watch the interview here]
The figures on this are hard to nail down but the research by this group of ‘independent’ experts suggests that top journalists are almost as likely to come from Independent schools as lawyers or top medics. This is relatively easy to explain.
Firstly, there has been an explosion in the number of women going through humanities and social science degrees in the last 10-20 years. These graduates tend to go towards careers such as the media. Whether that’s because women are innately more communicative, team-working, creative etc I leave for you to decide. It doesn’t really matter.
Journalism is being feminized and mainly by middle class women. I am not saying they are less diverse by social background than men. Indeed, if you look at the very top female management at somewhere like the BBC it is possible to argue that it is less dominated by the Oxbridge (Old Boy) network. But it is still mainly middle class.
That means that there will be fewer jobs for working class people.
Of course, there are other factors. To get a job in national news media you much more likely to have to intern at some point for some time. It is much easier for middle class young people to work for free. Their parents or relatives are more likely to have the cash or spare room in London to support them.
And new media hasn’t done much to redress the balance. As far as I can see, pretty much all the people in social media or new media are the same middle class people who worked in mainstream media. But it’s still early days, so it is difficult to judge.
I think this is a problem for journalism. If the news media is not diverse then it will not reflect the wider population. That way it will become less relevant. At a time of crisis in the industry and the wider economy, that is not a good thing economically, let alone politically.
It is also a crying shame because journalism can be one of the more meritocratic cultures to work in. Journalism needs innovation, intuition and hard work not expensive educations and social smugness. I suspect that outside of ‘top journalists’ the industry can still be relatively open. Or at least it could be if there were any new jobs to be had.
Media is not that diverse. As you said. Besides nowadays people tend to think that they are much better informed than before, when internet was not accessible to everybody to report news and only main communication meadia could be used like that. Well they are wrong, we are not better informed, what we are needed is information or news courators, which is a profession that had not existed in this environment so far, but it needs to be created desperately, and also be adjusted till it aquires maturity.
Of course is meritocratic, a system of jerarquies need to be in place for news to be emmited after being supervise level by level, or do you really think there is comlete freedom of expression, well there is but people say or do whatever is convenient for them, If it is better not to tell a story in a magazine most people would not do it, these kind of acctions are better supervised and carried out with meritocracies.
When I first read your assertion about middle class women in journalism I hit the ceiling (and I don’t think it was a glass one). But when I tried to work out more about what you’re saying it raised many more questions. Why is there always a correlation between “top” journalists and the national arena? Can we not accept there are “top” journalists working in regional and local media? I’d like to argue that several hundred newsrooms around the UK reflect the mosaic of our society more accurately than a handful of London operations. Could we not also look at journalism in the nations and see how diverse newsrooms are in Cardiff, Bangor, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast? Is this class glass ceiling unique to the UK? What is the feeling among your summer school students? I’d like to argue and believe that newsrooms would be foolish to recruit journalists who don’t identify with the needs and wants of their target audiences. A journalist, after all, may only be as good as their last story. But back to your point about middle class women. Is it a case that in spite of the demands of 24 hour news and rotas, that it’s precisely this environment which makes flexible working possible and thus attractive to many (men and women) wishing to balance career and home? I agree with you wholeheartedly on the subject of internships and that’s not something unique to the national newsrooms. A student of mine has just been expected to work for 3 weeks free of charge in a newsroom so he can learn each shift. At the end of that 3 weeks he’s been given no idea whether he’ll get any freelance shifts. Multiply that student’s 3 weeks by say, 6 more, and that’s an awful lot of free journalistic resource for that organisation. I also return to the access available to anyone wishing to get into broadcast journalism. If you decide to go down the route of a postgrad practical course (a perfectly valid way to enter the industry) you face fees and living costs and absolutely no guarantee of a job. Time, therefore, for a serious commitment to bursaries and sponsorship? Can I finally ask what is our definition of “journalist”? In the broadcast world should we look deeper within an organisation to see how diverse it is? Producers, researchers, craft skills people? Does not each person bring something to the newsgathering process?
The fact that a journalism degree or post-graduate qualification is
pretty much an entry-level requirement is a big factor in this. Only the
middle class can afford to spend three years racking up student debt
studying something with such poor prospects as a career.
Even though a wider range of students are going into higher education,
if you’re from a poorer background, and have any sense, you won’t do a
journalism degree – you’ll do something that will lead you into an
industry that actually pays reasonably well.