Some of the most entrenched problems in journalism today can be traced to a diminishing diversity amongst journalists themselves. To give you a simple, and apparently trivial, example, the number of senior journalists who take gaming serious is tiny. And so, most of the mainstream media missed Gamergate, and thus missed the birth of techniques and communities that led directly to the election of Trump and issues around the Brexit referendum.
Indeed, some of the post-Brexit reporting was genuinely painful, as middle class journalists “braved” leaving London to explore the Terra Incognita of the Brexit-voting post-industrial North. We need more working class people in journalism to stop embarrassments like that happening. We need more people from outside the south east. And we need more people from other ethnic backgrounds. But it's getting harder for them to get in.
And that's why I'd like you to consider backing PressPad, an initiative to help people from diverse backgrounds get into journalism. They're crowdfunding to raise money for a part-time co-ordinator, who will connect aspiring journalists with working journalists who are willing to host them in their own homes during internships. You can read more about their internship initiative at their website.
Diminishing diversity in journalism
Journalism actually used to be more class diverse than it is now. The collapse of the local newspapers has effectively choked off one of the major routes into journalism for the working class. You served an apprenticeship on one of the local papers and, if you were good, you got a job on a national from there. That path has all but gone.
As a result, journalism looks increasingly like, well, me. I'm a classic example. I'm very middle class, very white and very straight. I went to a private school. The very same private school, in fact, as the editor of The Spectator.
This is it:
Now, to be a little fair to myself, Dollar was a "budget" private school in those days, and people who lived in the town - like my family - got heavily discounted rates. And I'm only a generation or two away from solid working class roots. My late grandmother sold newspapers on North Wembley station until she retired. As a primary schooler, it seemed like an impossibly glamorous job, and might actually have had an influence on my future career… I was only the second of my family ever to go to university, the first being my uncle.
And to be fair to Mr Nelson, The Spectator has one of the most accessible journalism internship schemes out there. You don't have to submit a CV, just an aptitude test, and the internship is both paid and provides travel expenses.
The problem isn't people like myself or Fraser being in journalism. The problem is that there aren't enough other types of people.
Accessing journalism's internships
Accessing journalism is getting harder. It's a popular, over-subscribed profession. If you don't have money, it's harder to get in. And now we're in an era where one of the surest routes into a job is unpaid internships. To even access those, you have to be able to pay to survive in London, which isn't easy.
This video explains the problem:
I'll be backing the crowdfunder. (I haven't yet, because I'm negotiating with my wife for the Thursday evening to attend the launch party…) I hope, if you care about the future of journalism (and you probably do if you're on my blog), that you'll do the same.
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