Making the case for diversity
It is often said that the British media industry is pale, male and stale; but to quote City Journalism lecturer Jane Martinson “it’s probably fairer to call it pale, male and posh.” And Jane is not alone in that realisation. In 2017, Sky News’ Lewis Goddall set Twitter alight with his article “The BBC gender pay gap is bad – but its class gap is worse” highlighting that diversity is about more than what you can see. His article called out what many of us know to be true: coming from a working class and poor economic background is a huge, unspoken disadvantage. While we would love for unpaid internships to become entirely a thing of the past everyone knows this will take time. Until this changes we want PressPad to exist for anyone and everyone that needs it.
Getting into journalism is expensive
It’s not a surprise that journalism became dominated by people from privileged backgrounds given that the financial barrier of entry has been steadily rising throughout the years. Think about it. Many journalism jobs now require you to have a university degree to even apply, and that costs money. A report in 2016 found that more than half of the country’s top journalists had gone to private school, and 80% of editors in top jobs came from private or grammars schools.
Unpaid or low paid internships in expensive cities make things worse and become a inescapable catch-22 for young journos. To get a job in journalism you need work experience, but how do you get it if nobody will give you a job? That’s where internships come in. They are now an essential part of how people get a chance to hone their journalistic skills and prove themselves to future employers.And this problem is not exclusive to journalism. Journalist Ross Perlin’s book Intern Nation (2012) digs deep into the increasing and often exploitative use of interns across a wide range of industries, including politics and overseas aid.
However, the Sutton Trust estimated in 2018 that it costs a young person £1,019 to do a month of unpaid work in London where some of the best opportunities are. A six-month internship in 2018 would have cost a young person £6,114. Shorter work experiences are also challenging for different reasons: short lets are hard to find, hotels are expensive, hostels aren’t always safe (particularly for women and LGBT people), sometimes they require greater deposits, or the cost of commuting is just too high. This prices out talented, diverse people who cannot afford to work for free or who don’t have friends/family to stay with to lower the cost. We lose talented people before the process even starts because they’re ruled out by the sheer cost of taking up these opportunities.
Why does this matter?
When newsrooms do not reflect the demographic and economic diversity of their communities, the distance between the journalist and the reader grows, and can diminish trust. Former social-mobility tsar Alan Milburn’s State of the Nation report found that only 11% of journalists were from working-class backgrounds, compared to 60% of the population. A report by City University in 2016 found that the British journalism industry is 94% white and 86% university-educated. Just 0.4% of British journalists are Muslim.
How is PressPad helping?
We have identified that people from poor socioeconomic backgrounds are often incredibly resourceful in applying and obtaining media internship opportunities but the high cost of living in London prevents them from taking these up. We want to provide young journalists with affordable accommodation plus mentoring so they can fulfil their potential.
At PressPad, our interns get matched with mentor-hosts that not only give them an place to stay, but also give them much needed advice. Moving to a new city, navigating a busy newsroom, pitching stories, learning from your mistakes, and finding your own voice takes time and support. We want to make sure that talented people from all backgrounds can add their voices to the British media.
In the past year we’ve run two pilot schemes and helped 24 young people collectively do more than 72 weeks of work experience including partnering with AMMPE World to bring students to their international conference in London.
Our host database is 100 strong and growing, including some journalism legends like Meirion Jones from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and The Times’ diplomatic correspondent Catherine Philp. We were even chosen to take part in the Duke of York’s Pitch@Palace start-up initiative – a remarkable achievement less than six months after our soft-launch.
Our first intern, Jabir Mustapha Sambo, is now a freelance journalist with BBC Hausa after his work experience last summer when he stayed with CNN’s Blathnaid Healy. You can read more about other intern-host pairs in the British Journalism Review.
Financial barriers: Worrying numbers of young people say they didn’t do an internship because they couldn’t afford it.— The Sutton Trust (@suttontrust) November 26, 2018
If all internships were paid, more young people would see them as a viable option, regardless of where they live #PayInterns (4/4)https://t.co/dsyVqxXmjQ pic.twitter.com/2r4YUwPW3l