Please let more working-class journalists write about working-class issues – we understand it better

By Jessica Evans, Freelance Journalist

More middle-class journalists writing on the issue of classism and elitism than working-class writers being commissioned those articles is part of the very problem they’re writing about.

In the past six months the, ‘I’m a working-class writer’, narrative, has become quite the trend. Excuse me for being crude. 
 
Even more so, since the election. Twitter, in particular, has been making me cringe the way many middle-class journalists have been writing tweets and eureka-esque long-form articles about how ‘progressive’ the north is, and how we collectively should start listening to ’the north’. A little side note to those people: You’re decades late to the party in realising this – meaning: you were probably part of the very problem you’re talking about.
All my life, centralised government in London and most middle-class journalists haven’t been interested one iota in what a place like Liverpool has to say – you only need to look at Hillsborough to see a glimpse of that – and now because they’ve had an epiphany (or more likely jumping onto the trending bandwagon) about how the north may have some interesting things to say, many upper and middle-class journalists have began to write gritty investigative and comment pieces about working-class people and the north.
 
Don’t get me wrong, over this year, at first, as a working-class scouse journalist, it was encouraging to see lots of articles about classism in the workplace and the challenges of being working-class. 

However, most of the time, I looked at the writer who was claiming to come from lowly, working-class roots, and found they were from a privately educated school, privileged background and a wealthy family too. Historically, they also held a pretty swish postcode. 

On one hand, it was great that these articles were even being written and some light was being shed on these issues. But not so great (harmful, even) is that most of the journalists I’d read, weren’t working-class, but were claiming to be. 

 

As a journalist, of course you have to investigate and write about all sorts of topics, even though they may not have affected you directly, but to claim to be working class, when you’re not, makes a mockery out classism. 
 
It reminds me slightly of the Olivia Colman ‘rags to riches’ narrative that did the rounds for years. It’s a case of ‘riches-to-more-riches’ story. To flirt with the idea of being working class or hip-ify it, is damaging and only perpetuating the problem more.

With any fragile issue that hinders and harms people’s lives, careers, mental health and well-beings, it’s always good to learn about it from someone who has actually experienced the realities in question. Isn’t it just simply adding to the problem if 90% of these types of articles are being written by middle-class journalists, when they could have commissioned the piece to a writer who actually is working-class? 

For every classism piece I read from an upper, middle-class journalist, I now feel slightly deflated. There’s so many talented working-class writers out there, who would not only love the work, but who would tell the story a lot better, with more sensitivity and understanding on the subject. I’m not saying that every piece should be written by someone working-class, but at this juncture where the problems are still very much alive and kicking, help us out and give us half at least. 
 
So, I plead with editors, podcast hosts, radio hosts, those putting panelists together for the latest snazzy journalism festival or roadshow for 2020. If you want an accurate piece on classism, real, authentic experiences from working-class perspectives and true story-telling about that issue, get a working-class writer involved. Not a middle-class writer talking about their ‘humble beginnings’. 

Jessica Evans is a freelance journalist, editor and consultant. She has previously written for Stylist, The Independent, Refinery29, Elle, Red, VICE, BBC Three, The Telegraph, The Pool and Cosmopolitan. She is also the Founder of @thefreelancesessions. Jessica is currently creating a magazine to help working class women break into journalism.

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