The Importance of Diversity in Journalism

Written by Mariaelena Agostini, Multimedia Producer at Globelynx

The events of the year 2020 such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests have all prompted the media to bring in change and promise equal representation of all the communities they serve. Despite that however, it seems that much more still needs to be done to ensure equality and diversity in the journalism industry. 

In the UK, British media does not yet fully reflect the diversity of experiences and perspectives in contemporary British society – this goes for gender, but also race, religion, sexuality and disability. In regards to gender representation, an analysis of the front pages of all major newspapers conducted in September 2017 by the no-profit organisation Women in Journalism (WIJ) revealed a staggering imbalance in the way men and women are written about by the press and how many of the main news stories are written by women journalists.

selective focus photography of magazines

Little seems to have changed three years later, a sign that change is happening too slowly. The research from September 2020 by the same charity showed that out of the 174 front-page bylines counted over one week in July, just one in four went to female reporters. As for what concerns female guests, out of the 111 people quoted on the front pages, just 16% were women. That’s one in six.

The situation does not get better when enlarging it to ethnic diversity. The report found out that not a single Black woman (or man) journalist had written an article on the front page of any of the newspapers during the monitored time period (aka, over the course of one week in July 2020), and just one Black woman was quoted as an expert.

women at the meeting

Women account for almost half of the global population. As the media reflects society, it is crucial for newsrooms to ensure that they are representative of the audience they serve. The 2011 Census has also shown the British society to be the most diverse ever: according to data, 86% of the total population identified as “white”, yet there is a growing ethnic-minority population, and in some towns and cities white Britons are a minority. This should prompt newsrooms not only to hire more women and ethic minority people at higher levels, but to also feature in topics that address issues of interests of these audiences.

Some progress is being made in newsrooms to achieve equality and increase the number of female and ethnic minority voices. News organisations such as the BBC for example have pledged to achieve a 50:50 gender split of expert voices on their programmes. The initiative, known as ‘The 50:50 Equality Project’ now involves 70 organisations in over 20 countries, with Globelynx a proud contributing partner. So far, it has worked in ensuring equal representation: of the programmes involved in the 50:50 Project for at least two years, 78% reached 50% women contributors, indicating that change is taking hold.

It is obvious that a change will not happen overnight. But what is certain is that it needs to happen quicker than it has been.

Follow Mariaelena on Twitter @AgostiniMea