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Ethnic diversity in UK journalism workforce described as "troublingly low" as NCTJ report is published

By Angela Haggerty | Reporter

March 26, 2013 | 5 min read

The UK journalism industry workforce is lacking in ethnic diversity and continues to be heavily influenced by social classes, according to a report published by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

Troubling: The report showed lower than expected diversity levels

The Journalists at Work report, last conducted in 2002, showed there had been little change in these factors, with 94 per cent of journalists in the country of a white ethnic background, a drop of only two per cent in 10 years, despite more than half of all journalists working in London and the south-east, one of the most diverse areas of the country.

Ian Hargreaves, professor of digital economy at Cardiff University and former editor of the Independent and New Statesman, chaired the report. He said: "Ethnic diversity remain troublingly low, especially for an industry where more than half of those employed work in London and the south-east. The parents of journalists tend themselves to work in higher status jobs. Unpaid internships are common and levels of student debt are much higher than 10 years ago."

The report estimated as much as 60 per cent of the UK's 60,000 journalists worked in London and the south-east - a rise of five per cent in the last 10 years.

The report stated: "Comparing the Journalists at Work results from 2002 to 2012 shows that very little has changed: journalism is a profession disproportionately located in London and the south-east, much as it was in 2002 when 55 per cent of journalists were located in the same two regions."

"Journalists are less ethically diverse than the workforce as a whole - 94 per cent are white compared to 91 per cent overall," it continued. "This is particularly surprising given that we might expect journalists to have a higher proportion of non-whites because they are predominately located either in London or other urban centres where the proportion of people from ethnic minorities is much higher.

"For example, the 2011 census data suggests that 59.8 per cent of London's population is white, with 18.5 per cent being Asian/Asian British and 13.3 per cent Black/African."

The study showed a higher proportion when compared to other industries of journalists who had a parent in higher level occupations, particularly managers, directors and professionals. Journalists tend to be highly qualified, with 82 per cent holding a degree and more than a third with a post-graduate qualification. However, 83 per cent of new journalists said they completed a period of work experience or internship before employment, and for 92 per cent of those the work was unpaid, suggesting financial hardship for those trying to get a job in journalism and highlighting the potential difficulties faced by those in poorer circumstances.

The work of the Journalism Diversity Fund was highlighted, having provided 137 students with bursary funding since 2006/07, to help increase social and ethnic diversity in the industry and provide assistance to those in challenging circumstances. The fun receives financial contribution from the Newspaper Licensing Agency, the Scott Trust, Associated Newspapers and BSkyB.

The newspaper sector was estimated to account for the employment of almost a quarter of journalists, the highest proportion, and the number of journalists in total was said to be only a small decrease over the last 10 years, at around 60,000.

More than 50 per cent of the 1,000 journalists surveyed said they'd had enough training in press ethics, while 14 per cent disagreed. However, a quarter of journalists felt that business pressures in the workplace as an effect on ethical boundaries: "Journalists seem to recognise that issues exist over application of ethical boundaries within their wider workplace, even if they themselves are not transgressing.

"Less than a third have confidence in the existing system of regulator procedures in journalism. Twenty-seven per cent do not have confidence in these existing procedures."

Joanne Butcher, NCTJ chief executive, said: "We commissioned this independent research to better understand the changes taking place in journalist, we we would be in a good position to meet the training demands of the industry.

"We have updated and extended the original survey to take into account the most pressing issues facing journalist today, and we believe the report provides a revealing snapshot of the industry and practising journalists. It should also act as an impetus to the industry to ensure journalists are given the training the support necessary to do their jobs."

The report surveyed 1,000 journalists and used information from other sources, such as the Office of National Statistics, to compile its overview of the industry.

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