2020: The Year of Change

20 things YOU can do NOW to kickstart improving diversity in the media in 2020

Now we’re fairly settled in the new decade we thought we’d reflect a little on our New Year’s intentions and give you some you could adopt too. At PressPad we totally believe that whoever you are, whatever your background, identity, position or perspective that you can empower yourself to be a force for good, a force for change and an ally of diversity.

The new year is a chance to press ‘reset’ on a lot of the ways we think about and do things as well as to lay down realistic challenges to ourselves about how we can improve our life and the lives of others. So, as we say goodbye to the naughty noughties, a decade that brought us Boris, Brexit and Buzzfeed, and hello to a new decade, our founder Olivia Crellin thought what better way to kick things off than a listicle replete with ALL the GIFs and memes that we know you love and deserve!

1. Share details of your salary with your peers - male or female

The whole thing about not talking about money is just so stupid when it’s screwing employees over – especially women and ethnic minorities. The government has been wising up, getting companies to publish their equal pay gaps recently, so why not help in this new world of transparency *sigh….it’s only been law for 50 YEARS* and do your little bit? After all, salary is just a number. And do share your digits (not THOSE digits) with your male colleagues: it’s possible they are being ALSO unfairly paid, but if not, at least it sets an example to be more open in general – I’ll show you mine if you show me yours…

2. Amplify your colleagues’ voices

When you’re next in a meeting with colleagues, think about the share of bargaining power in the room and where you sit in that hierarchy. Then think about who you could hold some space for and make sure they’re not cut off, ignored or belittled. You might just find yourself a new friend, creative collaborator or just a frickin good idea for your team hiding in plain sight because everyone else is too busy thinking about what they’re going to say next to notice who is doing all the talking.

3. Recommend colleagues you rate for roles & promotions

Sponsorship happens. Let’s not kid ourselves. The old boys networks have been working very well in the last few centuries, especially in a networked industry like the media. If you don’t put your hat in the ring for those you think would be good at the job don’t be surprised if they don’t then get the job. Endorsement can happen IRL and not just via LinkedIn or twitter you know! If you rate someone, then recommend them, otherwise the value of our workers is being decided by a precious few and that’s not how we get the most diverse teams.

4. Share job opportunities with your followers online and those outside of your organisation

Lots of organisations only advertise many positions internally, which is great once you get your foot in the door but pretty rubbish if you haven’t yet. It means that those who can’t afford the instability of starting out as a freelancer perhaps quit the profession entirely and move into an industry like teaching or PR where there appear to be more opportunities. If you’re a total force of nature then by all means suggest your company tears up its HR manual and advertise ALL POSITIONS internally AND externally but failing changing an entire system in one fell swoop be sure to share those positions that do come up for external candidates among your followers online so that not just those in the know, know about them.

5. Share old applications

There have been plenty of times I have shared grant or prize applications, job interview prep or successful pitches with peers and newbie journalists – hell, some people even make a career out of helping others this way. We’re not at school anymore and there is no such thing as ‘cheating in a test’ if you share good practice and outlines to others – in our book, that’s just empowering other people. No one can steal your life experiences and qualifications so it’s not like you’ve got anything to lose from helping someone else gain some clarity and insight. With that in mind head over to Journo Resources and see our application for the Georgina Henry Prize that we’ve just shared with all of Jem Collins’ readers.

6. Be honest about how you got your break and opportunities - name names and numbers

It’s a pet hate of mine when you see or hear an amazing newcomer or success story talking about their career and not acknowledging all the people and resources that got them there. It makes me suspicious because however great you want to think you are or they are: No one exists in a vacuum and everyone has had some sort of help to get where they are today. It might have been a parent working in the industry or a scholarship or a friend who read over every job application submitted. Acknowledging these people or assets does not negate talent but it sure as hell helps others looking from the outside in to demystify your ‘success’, understand what is possible and even learn from and access some of the same sources of help you benefited from. It was a craze a while ago to publish Failure CVs, I’d love to see us all publish the credits to the movie that is our careers so that we can all understand that most of the glory we bask in is reflected!

7. Give freelancers, producers and fixers bylines - when they want them

It’s so important when it comes to diversity and inclusion to acknowledge those who aren’t as visible in the media. A lot of those people do work that is just as vital as the contribution of the final editor or reporter/presenter. It’s the same in many other professions but unlike authors who can write a whole chapter of acknowledgements, a story only gets a byline (and rolling TV coverage doesn’t credit any of the production team) as means of recognition. If you feel someone else considerably contributed to a report you have taken credit for, share some of that credit with them – especially if there is a power imbalance in that relationship and their work was considerable. Student journalists who feed professional journalists contacts and sources, foreign producers i.e. fixers who sort everything from security to accommodation to case studies (although beware – some prefer the anonymity for safety reasons) and producers or researchers who do the ‘grunt work’ should be acknowledged if we’re to change the status quo of who and what is considered ‘valuable’ in our industry.

8. Do your research...on individuals

Don’t just accept the fact that if someone has a degree from Oxbridge or freelanced for a short time at a prestigious institution or comes with rave references from a previous boss…who may also be their godmother or friend of the family…that they are the bees knees. Yes we are busy, but if you’re too busy to actually get to know someone you’re going to hire personally then that’s a sad state of affairs. It pays to get to know individuals on your own terms rather than accept someone else’s value-judgement. How can we progress if we just ape others’ opinions?

9. Find your tribe/support group but also your allies and converts.

The idea of finding your tribe is icky but a support network is so important when faced with a hostile status quo. But don’t stop there. Be receptive to allies and also make sure to have a few people you can work to convert to understanding the importance of diversity – if you’re only preaching to the choir you’re not going to fill the church pews!

10. Stand up to your organisation’s management

Boss doesn’t always know best, especially if these are people who have risen to the top in an era with very different priorities and understanding about the definition of equality. It’s scary standing up to an organisation and the very people who have your future career in their hands but if the noughties taught us anything, it’s that there is no such thing as an ‘innocent’ bystander (This Refinery 29 GIF says it all). If you believe it’s important, speak up, a reckoning is on its way for those who don’t. Whether it’s having a word with a ‘superior’ for derogatory language, calling out bullying and not turning a blind eye to harassment or even taking an institution to court over equal pay, your stand could have implications for hundreds, if not thousands of others. I remember one journalist telling me that they would never advertise internship opportunities in their workplace on their social media because they were unpaid and they were ashamed. Take this up with the powers that be! There are organisations like ours that will support you through these conversations. We tell ourselves that we have no power but what is an institution but the people who belong to it? It’s a big challenge, even a risk, but the rewards are equally monumental and future generations will thank us.

11. Trace the problem to its source but don’t wash your hands of it.

Equality of opportunity is complex because it takes two forms. The first is at the point of origin i.e. the circumstances into which someone is born and the context that shapes them and the second is at the point of access i.e. much further down the line when a person comes into contact – if they even get this far – with an opportunity they want to apply for. It’s really important that robust conversations are being had over which solutions work on which pressure point and to see diversity as an issue that must be prioritised throughout the employment pipeline from the very earliest moments of a child’s life right up to the moment they are sitting across the table from a recruiter. The BBC is one of the organisations that tries to make sure they are improving access from an early age with School Report right up to apprenticeship programmes and training schemes. We need others to follow suit and to put pressure and resources into organisations that are tackling this issue well before it shows up as a weakness in our workplaces.

12. Listen to those outside your media bubble

I wrote about this before in a blog for One World Media. We all moan about the power social networks have but we really are still in the driving seat. All you have to do is follow or like a range of media or individuals from conservative to liberal, black, white and Asian, men AND women. There are tools out there (mentioned in the OWM blog) that can help you analyse your social feeds so you know just how much of an echo chamber you’re in too.

13. Read Galdem. Read Joe.co.uk. Read Pink News. Read the New European. Read Breitbart. Read Burnt Roti.

How else can you appreciate someone else’s experience and perspective? Reach out and bring these voices into the mainstream. That’s the best service you can do to make your own journalism relevant and make such voices welcome in society as a whole and not resigned to just these niche outlets.

14. Sign up to be a mentor

If you feel like you’ve got experiences that would benefit others then sign up to mentor. There are lots of schemes out there including some non-journalism ones that basically involve inspiring young people to consider journalism as a career. If you’re going to give a talk at your former school or current kids’ schools think about offering the same talk to the local grammar or comprehensive school if that’s not your schooling background otherwise these connections and knowledge stay in the same circles.

Our partner, The Student View, is an excellent charity working to improve news literacy and knowledge of the media industry and has volunteers go into schools to run workshops. Schemes from some of our other partners such as Second Source, WiJ Mentor Scheme, and the Refugee Journalism Project give you a pretty robust starting point to spread your knowledge, wisdom and love…and remember, you’re likely to learn a whole load of stuff too.

*SPOILER: PressPad is launching a mentoring-only online platform soon to allow those without spare rooms to get involved in speed-networking calls with a range of aspiring and current journalists outside of your personal network – WATCH THIS SPACE*

15. Make your help sustainable and look after yourself

Journalists are busy people and those with a conscience who make themselves available to a broad range of people for advice and assistance are probably even busier. It’s easy to get burned out and jaded when request after request from university students wanting a ‘quick chat’ or career changers looking to ‘pick your brain’ slide into your DMs. If you have a significant social media following and have been doing a lot of advising and informal mentoring of late, why not reserve one or two days in the year when you do a twitter Q&A and give yourself a break the other 363 days? It’s more important than ever to have people who care on an individual level – so look after yourself. We need you!

If you’re someone looking for advice – don’t stop contacting those you admire: tenacity is important and making connections is vital BUT do think carefully about how and when you make contact to make it as easy as possible for the person on the other end. Your awareness and consideration will impress them as much as your persistence.,

16. Question your own prejudices: no one is without them

Diversity and inclusion is complex because it’s intersectional. The same goes for prejudice. Don’t assume just because someone is white that they are racist or that someone who is a person of colour doesn’t discriminate against other ethnic minorities. Equally an able-bodied, lesbian, white woman needs to also work to understand those with disabilities and ethnic minorities, just as much as a disabled Asian man could have grown up in an atmosphere of homophobia. Virtue signalling is one thing but truly no one has a perfectly clean diversity rap sheet so think about where you have space to grow as much as calling others out for their shortcomings.

17. Know your profile and if it’s not an issue your background or experience can relate to - ask those who can

This tweet by our ambassador Nadine White about the royal correspondent Penny Junor’s remarks shows up a textbook version of how damaging and lazy it is to ignore your own ignorance. While opinion journalism and social media commentary is huge, the basic tenets of journalism teach us to go to the source. This is particularly important when a story you’re working on touches on issues that you have no first hand experience of or relation to.

18. If you do get experts on to talk about issues of identity - respect their expertise and don’t gaslight them!

This article from gal-dem shows how important it is to treat such individuals as experts and not some cheap ‘he said, she said’ combative entertainment TV. To quote the piece written by Micha Frazer-Carroll: “Rather than simply being emotionally laborious, author and activist Lola Olufemi says that the idea that you can be “impartial” or “balanced” about issues like racism, transphobia or misogyny is actively counterproductive to any systemic change. “An adversarial format for discussing structures of oppression will never work, the ‘two sides of the debate’ idea falls apart the second we are discussing real-world experience.”

19. What goes around comes around

If you can help others without worrying about preserving yourself, you and the world become a much better and happier place. The irony is that through operating out of fear and trying to clutch on to whatever it is we’re afraid of losing, we are prevented from staying authentic and relevant. As with all progress, get with it or risk becoming obsolete.

20. Give back - it’s the ultimate sign of success

Step up and sign up to find out more to find out how you can do this via PressPad.
Please get in touch with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin with other suggestions of what individuals can do to improve diversity in their workplace and in the media more specifically. We’re currently engaging with organisations to come on board as founding sponsors for PressPad’s first year post-pilot and we will be posting another blog in due course with 20 recommendations for organisations and managers that we would love to see all our founding sponsors sign up to by the end of 2020. Check back on the website or sign up to our newsletter to give that a read later in the year.

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