By Hamish Mackay
A new report reveals that some 80% of journalists come from professional and upper-class backgrounds, as the number of the people working in the industry hits an estimated record high of around 108,000. And the report urges newsroom bosses to address issues around the social class background of their workforce as a priority.
Press Gazette reveals that the report – from the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) – stresses that that 80% figure compares to 42% of the general workforce coming from higher class backgrounds, according to UK Government statistics.
Press Gazette informs us: ‘The newly-released Diversity in Journalism report found that working-class people were heavily unrepresented in the news industry and that journalists were almost twice as likely as the general population to come from advantaged backgrounds. The data, which covered 2021, found that social class was the only factor surveyed where the UK news industry is getting increasingly unequal over time.
‘While other metrics like race and gender representation had improved in recent years and were representative of the workforce overall, for class the number of people coming from higher socio-economic backgrounds had risen by eight percentage points from 72% in 2016.’
Higher socio-economic backgrounds are defined as: associate professional and technical occupations, professional occupations, managers, directors and senior officials. Among the overall workforce, the report categorised 42% of people as coming from ‘higher’ socio-economic backgrounds, and 58% as coming from ‘middle’ or ‘lower’ socio-economic backgrounds.
Newspaper reporters were also found to be more likely (84%) to come from a higher class background than their editors (73%) in this year’s data.
Press Gazette reports that the data also found that a record number of people now described themselves as journalists, with an estimated 108,000 of the UK’s 32.2m workforce describing themselves as either journalists, reporters or editors – the highest level ever recorded. In 2016, an estimated 73,000 people described themselves as journalists or newspaper/periodical editors – according to the Labour Force Survey.
The NCTJ report’s author, Mark Spilsbury, suggests that the reason behind the rise in the number of journalists did not necessarily mean more people were working for newspapers or magazines, with content writing and journalism-adjacent roles now becoming more spread out across the economy.
He also suggested the primary reason behind the newspaper industry’s failure to recruit working-class people was a reliance on hiring university graduates who tended to be from wealthier backgrounds.
At a launch event for the report, Mike Hill, director of the MA News programme at Cardiff University, spoke of his experiences entering journalism as the son of a Yorkshire miner and shared concerns that his journey into the industry would be impossible now.
Hill said: ‘Becoming a journalist to me was akin to getting onto the space programme. My dad was a miner, which when I tell that to my students now it’s a bit like saying he was a blacksmith or a thatcher’.
He added: ‘Rather than this being an inspirational tale, it’s also a cautionary one. There are lots of things that have happened between me in the late 1980s and 1990s becoming a journalist and now that means I wouldn’t make it currently. There isn’t the funding from employers to send people on training courses and people are spooked by the £10,000 figure to pay for postgraduate journalism training. Then there’s the lack of cash, there being no network – I didn’t know anyone who went to university let alone who was a journalist’.
The NCTJ report found that 13% of journalists came from non-white backgrounds which matched the ratio found in the overall workforce – and 3% higher than in 2016. However, it found that non-white staff were less represented in senior roles, with just 10% of editors being of non-white ethnicity.
Some 53% of journalists identified as men, while 47% identified as women – roughly mirroring the 52% and 48% respectively recorded by the overall workforce. Among editors, 51% were recorded as male and 49% as female.
A two-year campaign by The Herald newspaper to create a fitting memorial as a tribute to every Scot who lost their life during the Covid-19 pandemic has reached its fundraising target of £240,000.
The National Covid Memorial, designed by artist Alec Finlay, is being created in Glasgow’s Pollok Country Park and will be the most significant public memorial in Scotland for decades. The Scottish Government has made a donation of £42,000.
The Herald’s editor, Donald Martin, tells us: ‘Thanks to the generosity of the public and all our partners, Scotland now has a fitting memorial for those affected by Covid-19. The work, commitment, and support of everyone involved in the project has helped create a wonderful space for people to quietly remember and reflect. I hope it provides much-needed comfort during these difficult times’.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated The Herald on the campaign’s success, saying: ‘The heartbreak and loss the nation has suffered throughout the past two years as a result of coronavirus is not something any of us will ever forget. The Herald’s National Covid Memorial will offer a dedicated space to remember loved ones no longer with us; to reflect on the sacrifices made to protect ourselves and others; and to celebrate the ways in which communities pulled together through one of the most difficult periods of recent history. My congratulations and thanks to all of those involved’.
Investigative reporter Marion Scott and Russell Findlay MSP.
The Sunday Post’s chief reporter, Marion Scott, has won parliamentary praise for her investigative work – recognised by the Scottish Parliament during a special debate marking World Press Freedom Day.
The praise for Marion, a former Scottish Journalist of the Year, came just days after she visited Holyrood – accompanying the family of Louise Aitchison following her revelation of how police failures had preceded Louise’s murder by a man with a history of violence against women. Louise’s family spoke to MSPs of all parties as The Sunday Post continues to campaign for an urgent FAI to be launched.
In the Holyrood debate, Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: ‘Thank goodness then for people like Marion Scott… she embodies the best of journalism, compassionate, fearless and giving a voice to the marginalised’.
Findlay, a former Sunday Mail journalist, added: ‘Marion does not seek praise and will likely give me an absolute doing for embarrassing her and anyone who has ever met her will know I am not joking’.
The Sunday Post’s editor, Jim Wilson, commented: ‘Marion has been one of Scotland’s most skilled and committed reporters for many years but her kind of talent and tenacity is needed now more than ever. She is everything that a journalist should be and it was fitting for that to be recognised in the Scottish Parliament on World Press Freedom Day’.
The Press and Journal (P&J) morning daily has introduced a revamped and much larger daily Opinion section. It has also appointed an ombudsman in a bid to become much more responsive to its readers. The new Opinion section carries the usual regular columnists plus an extra platform slot which will allow a third piece of commentary each day.
The letters to the editor page has been expanded to allow 10-12 submissions daily, with editor-in-chief Frank O’Donnell explaining: ‘I have had feedback that letter writers are often disappointed that their contributions are not included – typically due to lack of space. The expanded letters page will allow more views to be shared. We also have a new section that summarises the best (and funniest) comments made on our website and social media channels, as well as what’s exercising the public on Twitter’.
The P&J has appointed assistant editor Joe Churcher as its readers’ ombudsman in order to help bridge the gap between readers and journalists. Joe will write regular comment pieces explaining the practices and ethics of the P&J as well as answering questions via direct correspondence.
Explaining his new role, Joe told readers: ‘When things do go wrong, we never shy away from admitting it and making amends. But it is not enough that we simply tell you this is the case. We know there are all too many people who remain sceptical about such assurances, who understandably distrust the methods and motives of the media in the wake of dreadful episodes like the tabloid phone-hacking scandal. That kind of behaviour is not and has never been part of our culture – but we know that we have to do better at demonstrating that in order to move out of its long shadow. So as part of redoubling our efforts to do that, I am delighted to have been asked to become the P&J’s first readers’ ombudsman.
‘My role will be to listen carefully to what it is you want to know about how we work: why we make the choices we do – and then to pull back the curtain and show you the answers. We push hard on your behalf for openness, honesty and full transparency from everyone we write about – not least those in positions of power. It is only right that we should expect the same of ourselves – and, what’s more, we know our journalism will end up all the better for it.’
Lorraine Weir, the deputy editor of the Lennox Herald weekly title, has left newspapers for a new role in the political arena. She has joined the backroom team of Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP for Dumbarton who has been deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party since 2020.
Lorraine, 37, began her journalistic career on the Renfrewshire Gazette and then worked on the Ayr Advertiser before joining the Lennox Herald 12 years ago. She was appointed deputy editor two years ago.
BBC Radio Scotland sports presenter Richard Gordon is joining newly-promoted Cove Rangers FC as head of media and communications. He will step down from presenting Radio Scotland’s Saturday Sportsound programme – a role which he has carried out for the past 30 years. However, he will continue to front the Sunday and midweek editions of Sportsound.
Charlie Allan, the former sports editor of Aberdeen’s Evening Express, is already a member of Cove Ranger’s media team.
Recent buyer of Loch Lomond island Inconnachan, Scottish-born Kirsty Young, the former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs for 12 years, who stood down four years ago due to illness, is to make her return to the BBC to front some of the coverage of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Kirsty, 53, left the radio programme to receive treatment for a form of fibromyalgia – a condition that causes pain all over the body. She will return to the BBC to anchor a full weekend of programming from Saturday 4 June for the Platinum Jubilee. She will be joined by presenters including Huw Edwards, Clare Balding, AJ Odudu, Roman Kemp and Anita Rani. Reporters across the UK will include the BBC’s Scottish-born senior weather forecaster, Carol Kirkwood, contributing from Scotland. Carol is pictured at the top of the page.
Kirsty and Roman will lead coverage of the Platinum Party at Buckingham Palace on 4 June, when figures from the entertainment world will stage a night of musical tributes.