By Vivienne Francis
Illustrator credit: Daniela Di Martino
Over the course of a week back in July, researchers found that not a single story by a Black reporter featured on any of the front pages of national newspapers. In the same week, Newsnight – the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs show – failed to include a single non-white expert guest.
These are just some of the findings of research carried out by Women in Journalism, a leading networking, training and campaigning organisation for journalists, on the lack of diversity in the UK’s newspapers, radio and prime-time news programmes.
As a Black woman who has been involved in journalism – as both a journalist and an academic – for more than twenty years, this information comes as no surprise.
As a lecturer, what matters to me is how our curricula acts on this data as we work with the next generation of journalists and editors.
Using Women in Journalism’s research as a jumping off point, students on MA Arts and Lifestyle Journalism at LCC were invited to create an Instagram campaign geared at giving more visibility to the voices that aren’t heard in UK’s newsrooms.
“It was important to work on this campaign as it allowed me to believe that our work could positively contribute to the media industry,” says student Maria J. Arabia.
“It was even more valuable because we got to do this while collaborating with people from different backgrounds contributing with their own talent. This campaign gave us a chance to actually do something within our own industry and be part of the conversation.”
The students set out to create content that was highly informative, meaningful, and visually engaging. The work has been used to relaunch Women In Journalism’s Instagram account and to mark International Women’s Day.
Commenting on the work, Alison Phillips, Chair of Women In Journalism and Editor of The Daily Mirror says: “This is such a crucial issue to us – and to the entire industry – for until such time as we are truly reflecting the nation and the full spectrum of news consumers we are failing in our role as journalists.
“The students involved were so committed, passionate and full of ideas for the project. The final designs look amazing. We very much hope to work with UAL students again on further projects.”
In spite of working remotely and being scattered across several time zones, the students successfully negated the challenges imposed by the coronavirus. “As a result of the campaign, it’s given me a confidence boost with regards to working with a team,” says student Gabrielle Dixon.
“I’m very independent but I’ve learnt that I can, and should, rely on my co-workers to help. Seeing the finished Instagram posts feels like a real accomplishment and I’m glad to have shared it with a team! I’m so proud to add this work to my portfolio.”
Fellow student Alex Groce adds: “This project taught me a lot about the resources and communities that are out there in order to help young journalists succeed in the industry. Journalism can seem like a competitive and cutthroat industry at times but working with WiJ has shown me how many people are out there who want to help and support each other.”