Women in Journalism Committee Member Jem Collins returns this week to spotlight another incredible women journalist in the run up to our 30th anniversary. Don’t forget to nominate your own here.
For the past couple of years’ I’ve been part of a WhatsApp group for journalists from working-class backgrounds. I’m not normally a group chat fan. Mere minutes left unattended ends in dozens of messages. Hard deadlines are interrupted by the endless ping of notifications. This one, however, is an exception.
It’s been a comforting community and an honest place, where we’ve shared our experiences and frustrations of working within the journalism industry. Class is a nuanced and complex thing, with many intersections, but I think all of our chat would agree journalism has problems.
Working in this industry has been one of the single biggest drivers of imposter syndrome for me. It’s made me question my ability, my choices and even myself – and the further I go, often the more alienating it feels. And the fact is, it’s not getting better.
New research from the NCTJ last week found that 80 percent of journalists come from the top social classes. This is up from 75 percent last year, and compares to 42 percent of the population. So, this week I wanted to highlight a journalist who’s spent a lot of time doing something about it – Robyn Vinter.
Currently a fellow at the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, Robyn is working on a project to help members of the public better understand the benefits and consequences of speaking to reporters. She’s also a frequent byline in The Guardian and The Observer, providing some of the most nuanced reporting on stories in Yorkshire and the north of England, which is worth a follow in itself.
It was also Robyn who set up our working-class WhatsApp group, and it was Robyn who spent five years running The Overtake, a new media website dedicated to telling stories outside the London bubble. The Overtake was a huge success – almost too much of a success. It was read by tens of thousands of people, as well as being shortlisted for Women in Journalism’s very own Georgina Henry Award.
If you have a spare half hour, it’s well worth listening to her interview about why it closed down, despite not owing anyone any money. I’d also strongly recommend her thread on why it’s vital we get more working-class voices into journalism. Ultimately, for journalism to represent the country we need to be more representative – and that’s a job for all of us.