How do you make the media industry more diverse?

I believe it starts with attracting, developing and retaining young talent from a much broader pool – and, here at News UK, we just won an award to recognise our efforts doing just that.

The Management Today DE&I Leadership Award, Best For Social Mobility Inclusion, was given to recognise several initiatives we have been undertaking.

The problem

Media is one of the most elite industries in the country. A 2021 survey of journalists for the NCTJ found:

  • 92% of journalists are white.

  • 86% are university-educated.

  • Just 11% of journalists are from working class backgrounds.

Similarly, the advertising industry’s All-In Census found:

  • Black and Asian professionals remain underrepresented at C-suite level.

  • Women are less likely to be C-level, despite being more prevalent overall.

  • People with disabilities and those from working-class backgrounds are less prevalent in the industry than in overall society.

Walking the walk

In order to attract, develop and retain young talent from a much broader pool, News UK took decisive action to make our teams more reflective of British society.

1. Rebooting recruitment

We partnered with the UK government’s Kickstart scheme, the first media brand to do so, to create 42 paid placements for unemployed young people, recruiting from regions across the country.

Recruits sourced through Jobcentres studied for an NCTJ Certificate of Foundation Journalism qualification, receiving six months of on-the-job experience and training across News UK’s editorial and broadcast brands.

Each had coaching from the Media Trust charity, while Barnardos has also been on-hand to provide pastoral support. The recruits were given an accommodation grant where it was needed.

2. Nurturing apprentices

We also launched 45 two-year-long apprenticeships to encourage greater diversity in the media.

The apprenticeships offer two years of employment and training for each successful candidate, across The Times, The Sunday Times, the TLS, The Sun, Wireless and News UK’s commercial teams, both in the UK and Ireland.

The blind hiring process focused on competencies, to enable talented school leavers to compete fairly with graduates for roles.

3. Seek expert help

We have also established more than a dozen partnerships with diversity recruitment specialists to ensure we are looking further than we ever have for every role.

Outcomes are applauded

For us, the proof is in the pudding. In all, we have opened careers in the media to nearly 100 bright young people in the past 18 months.

Sixty-six percent of our trainees were from ethnic minority backgrounds, 70% were women and 15% LGBTQ+.

Pleasingly, 16 of our first 26 Kickstarters specifically went on to find jobs at News UK.

DE&I Leadership Awards judges told us:

“…..They [News UK] are doing a lot and really investing in creating real opportunities in their own company. They’ve addressed the big problem in journalism head-on and are making in-roads.”

 

“It’s so important to have representation in journalism, to remove biases in reporting and to bring fresh perspective. I’ve really been encouraged by this initiative and the number of tangible (paid!!!) opportunities it provides the next generation of up-and coming journalists.”

 

“… The funnel was eye-opening as to scope and opportunity. The terms of up to two years as the most advanced level for 40+ participants are impressive.”

More than that, one of the Kickstart apprentices was recently nominated for an award of her own. Sharin Hussain, currently an apprentice for The Times, was shortlisted in the the Department for Work and Pensions’ own Kickstart Awards, celebrating young people who have been employed in a Kickstart job.

Sharin secured a two-year apprenticeship role with The Times after her Kickstart placement with talkSPORT. She also created the Muslim Network at News UK  –  and has contributed guidance for managers whose staff are fasting during Ramadan.

How to change

Organisations can only create this kind of on-the-ground improvement if culture change starts from the top.

News UK’s diversity and inclusion strategy was developed in 2020 by a diversity board, led by Dominic Carter (EVP, Publisher, The Sun) and Briony Hughes (HR Director for The Sun, Broadcasting and CFO).

Meanwhile, News UK CEO Rebekah Brooks has been a key champion for making News UK more representative of all the audiences it serves. And I must credit the tireless work of my colleagues Shelley Bishton (head of creative diversity) and Alya Lilani (culture and diversity partner).

Our strategy has an ambition to achieve a 50/50 gender split across the workforce, and a target of 20% ethnic minority representation in the company.

Our D&I training programme has been delivered to more than 1,000 staff, while more than 500 journalists have taken a reporting-on-race masterclass.

Spreading change

But we don’t only want to make our own company more representative and open. We think we can also help the industry at large.

This year, we hosted the first Disability Journalism Forum, with more than 250 people attending. The forum was co-founded by Times trainee Georgia Lambert, who also founded our Disability Network.

We created a broader networking group, comprising more than 100 aspiring journalists with disabilities, and created a mentoring network to support them.

There is every reason to make media more inclusive. Representative journalism creates more accurate coverage and a larger audience, while Kantar research shows inclusive ad campaigns drive better long-term brand growth and even higher near-term sales.

After all, achieving outcomes on inclusion is not really about winning awards. If we can help the industry become more accessible, we will all win.