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Illustration showing need for more diversity in the media (credit: @laurence_ware_design)

We’re working to diversify the Cable team. Let’s start with our freelancer base

Cable Community News

The Cable exists to challenge the structure of the media, but we are not representative enough of our city. Here’s what we’re doing to change things.

Illustration: @laurence_ware_design

There are occasions where I can feel conspicuously brown. The Newspaper Awards in London on 28 March, where the Cable was nominated for Independent Community Newspaper of the Year, was one. 

We decided I should be the beneficiary of our ticket to the swanky awards ceremony. The Hilton’s chandeliers and champagne flutes were a far cry from our media co-op’s modest existence. I felt like the proverbial fish out of water, a bumpkin among bigwigs. 

Here was the great and good of the UK’s print media sector, a sea of black tie… and white faces. Mainly male, mainly middle aged. I scan for fellow journalists of colour – there are a handful at most. My heart sinks at the scene.

The same day, the Ethical Journalism Network published a report on structural racism in the media. It warned the UK news media landscape is dominated by white editors, and this is “impacting on the representation of Black people in the media industry and in content”. Damningly, it also found that “newsroom processes [continue] to be exclusionary” and racism is “commonplace”.

That week, the Guardian announced a programme of restorative justice, owing to the slave trade money it was founded on. Days later, gal-dem – a pioneering outlet for women journalists of colour – announced its closure. The space for writers of colour felt even smaller. 

Of course, it’s not just race where representation is woefully lacking. A 2019 report found 43% of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters went to private schools, as did 44% of newspaper columnists. This compares with 7% in the British population. 

Perhaps it’s no surprise, given that about three-quarters of the British news media is owned by four wealthy, white men.

The Cable exists to challenge the structure of the media. We model changes the industry needs to make: by being member owned and led, we avoid corporate interests gutting the newsroom to increase the bottom line for shareholders. No clickbait journalism to increase advertising revenues. 

But in terms of representation we do too little to buck the trend. Since its founding in 2014, you can count the people of colour to have been on the staff team on one hand. Now, it’s just muggins here. The only brown, only Bristolian, only woman reporter, and the only one who didn’t go to journalism school. 

I’m not complaining – this is my dream job. I get to work in journalism without having to compromise my ideals. I get to report on the stories of my beloved hometown, as part of a team of talented and diligent reporters. I’m damn lucky to have a permanent contract when so many of our comrades are facing redundancies. 

But it is inexcusable the Cable staff team has not better reflected the diversity of this city – something we were rightly challenged on at our last AGM. Historically, I’ve not been shy about making my frustrations known. Anti-racism work has been started in the team as a result.

Applying for this job wasn’t a frictionless decision. But I was assured that diversifying the staff team, content and coverage of the Cable was a priority. I made clear, on taking the job, that things needed to change. 

I understand the challenge. We’re a small team in a cash-strapped, time-poor organisation that’s constantly fighting for funding to survive. Bringing in more people underrepresented in the media is not easy. 

But in lieu of being able to offer 10 more jobs, we can diversify our freelancer base, which will be a key part of the Cable’s strategy going forward. 

We’ve also committed to our recruitment being done in consultation with a diversity recruitment company, with adverts worded to encourage people with transferable skills who are willing to learn – even if they don’t have extensive experience – and advertised on  platforms specific to diverse recruitment.

I get imposter syndrome and feel under-qualified. I get the feeling of intimidation when you look at an organisation and no one looks like you. 

But, as the wonderful author and my mentor Nikesh Shukla titled his recent book: Your Story Matters. “You don’t need any experience,” he writes. “All you need to be is someone with a compulsion to tell a story and a willingness to show up for the act of telling it.” 

So I’m asking: do you feel underrepresented in the media? Do you have a story you want to tell? If you’re a photographer, videographer, podcast producer or writer, if you have an idea for an investigation, culture or opinion piece – I want to hear from you.

Get in touch: priyanka@thebristolcable.org

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  • Good article on discrimination. However, as a 70 something year old (white man of mixed race family), when I attended your first meeting. I was ignored then and later. Asking why that was, responses were along the lines of “we are all volunteers,” “don’t have time right now.” At that time, I imagine I had at least as much experience and ability of researching, writing, editing and volunteering as anyone there. What chance would I have now, all the intervening years? Your diversity awareness (and listening skills) seemed non-existent then, and still seem somewhat lacking now. Wake up …most of you.

    Reply

    • Hi Tony – I’m really sorry that you came away from that meeting with this experience, and I’d hope that any current and future meetings with any of our staff (who are no longer volunteers, but are still always very stretched for time!) would leave you feeling listened to, even if we couldn’t accommodate a request.

      Anyone is welcome to pitch a story to us through the website – the guide for that is here: https://thebristolcable.org/what-were-looking-for/.

      – Eliz

      Reply

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