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SoE announces ‘best practice’ initiative on diversity

The Society of Editors has welcomed an open letter by 50 BAME UK journalists calling on news organisations, including the SoE, to do more to create a more diverse news sector.

SoE announces ‘best practice’ initiative on diversity
Ian Murray: “The aim of us all must be to create newsrooms that represent our society as a whole.” Photograph: Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash.

The journalists say that they are the ‘rare ones’ who have created careers in journalism. But have called on news organisations to take a proactive approach to recruiting BAME journalists, in particular by creating positive recruitment campaigns from ethnic communities.

The letter comes as the SoE announces it is to work with the news industry to create a database of best practice from the sector and to help connect media bodies with organisations and individuals who can assist in accelerating the process of diversifying newsrooms.

The letter to the SoE says: “We, the under-signed, are the rare ones who made it – against the odds in ways which are largely not understood. We wish to step up and play our role in delivering that new layer of talent and help build a workforce that is more representative of Britain now and for the future generations.”

And the latter adds: “We urge greater scope on recruitment while keeping in line with the principles of talent and merit. One cannot see them if one is not looking for them.” 

In its call to action, the journalists’ letter says:

“We request you to consider positive recruitment campaigns from ethnic communities across Britain with a declared commitment; properly paid traineeships for BAME youngsters with adequate mentoring and equal promotion and pay for BAME staff already in newsrooms.

“A good start would be regular reviews of diversity in newsrooms and for an initial assessment and publication of current BAME representations in news organisations.

“We call upon the Society of Editors to urge its members to use this period of reflection to re-evaluate and reform past practices and move forward with a totally skilled workforce with appropriate BAME representation.

“Let’s all get the whole story.”

In its response, the SoE welcomed the letter, recognising that the need to create a more diverse news sector has never been more imperative.

“The call for action outlined in the letter is mirrored, the SoE believes, by the industry’s own ambition and desire to ensure newsrooms reflect fully the communities they serve,” the SoE stated.

“The SoE also recognises that while many initiatives on recruiting BAME journalists have been in place for some time in the sector, there is much more to be done.

“There have been some success stories, but these need to be built on and shared as best practice. For this reason the SoE is launching its own campaign to collate information on initiatives throughout the media sector that have proven results as part of a data base of information that will be made available to the whole of the industry.”

The SoE is inviting both industry bodies and organisations wishing to support the initiative with assistance, insight, and resources to add to the data base.

“And the SoE recognises that, as the BAME journalists’ letter makes clear, recruitment, while remaining focussed on talent and ability, should and must be better targeted amongst ethnic communities across the UK.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the SoE said: “There is no doubt that more should be done to achieve the media industry’s ambition of ensuring newsrooms fully reflect the communities they serve both at a local and national level.

“A lot is already being done, but the speed of change is not rapid enough. To that end the Society hopes that by creating a database of best practice and enabling news bodies to more easily be connected with organisations and individuals willing to help, this vital change can be accelerated.

“The aim of us all must be to create newsrooms that represent our society as a whole.”

A full list of the BAME signatories can be found here.