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Training Matters: The Journalism Diversity Fund needs you

KM Group Editor, Leo Whitlock. Picture: Tony Flashman FM3379213

KM Group Editor, Leo Whitlock.
Picture: Tony Flashman FM3379213

The Journalism Diversity Fund is an industry-sponsored fund that provides bursaries to socially and ethnically diverse recipients who do not have the financial means to study an NCTJ-accredited journalism course.

Managed by the NCTJ and currently supported by donations from NLA media access, Associated Newspapers, Press Association, Sky and Thomson Reuters, the fund has been working to increase diversity in UK newsrooms for the past 10 years. The fund is also ably supported by volunteers from within the industry who give up their time to get involved in the selection process.

In this week’s blog, Kentish Gazette editor and regular volunteer Leo Whitlock explains the benefits of getting involved with the work of the fund:

Calling all editorial directors, editors and news editors. The Journalism Diversity Fund needs you!

Your knowledge of how a newsroom works and your expertise in picking the star performers of the future will help the fund to make a real and lasting impact.

By giving up a couple of hours of your time to help choose who needs to be given a financial helping hand, you will be handing a little something back to the industry we all love.

Being part of a diversity fund panel is thoroughly enjoyable and very rewarding so what does it entail?

The Journalism Diversity Fund was created 10 years ago with a donation from the Newspaper Licensing Agency (now NLA media access) and is managed by the NCTJ.

Its aim was and remains to make our newsrooms better reflect the communities they serve.

It signalled a recognition that our offices were being dominated by journalists from white, upper and middle class backgrounds.

This was not helped by the economic crisis three years later which meant there were far fewer jobs for trainees to apply for and company training schemes were closed or radically scaled back.

Rather than paying for the reporters of the future to be trained, hard-pressed employers decided to look for candidates who already had their NCTJ prelims or Diploma in Journalism.

That put those without the means to fund their own training even further on to the back foot no matter how determined they were to become reporters.

Now people from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds without the means to pay for an NCTJ-accredited course are encouraged to apply for a diversity fund bursary.

That money is then used to pay for course fees and there is the possibility of help with living expenses.

To be successful, a potential trainee has to show they have been accepted on an NCTJ-accredited course, they come from a socially or ethnically diverse background, they cannot fund their course by other means and they have a genuine commitment and potential to be a successful journalist.

That is where you come in. Once the deadline has passed and applications are received, a senior journalist is called upon to shortlist candidates for interview.

Those shortlisted are then invited to attend an interview before a panel including a number of experienced editorial leaders.

With a presumption in favour of awarding a bursary wherever they can, it is the panel’s job to tease out whether a potential trainee really is passionate about working in a newsroom and knows what they are letting themselves in for because they have completed a raft of work experience placements.

Through this process I have met some very talented people from a whole range of backgrounds who will undoubtedly rise through the ranks and become leaders of the future.

And I have had the privilege of meeting colleagues from around the country and comparing notes on the state of the industry.

Best of all, sitting on a diversity fund panel has given me the chance to nose around the offices of BBC News at New Broadcasting House, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, the Financial Times and lots of others. Irresistible.

If you are interested in volunteering and helping to spot the stars of the future or just want more information, call Lisa Nelson at the NCTJ on 01799 544 014 or email [email protected].

If your company is interested in joining NLA media access, Associated Newspapers, Press Association, Sky and Thomson Reuters in making a financial contribution to the fund, contact NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher on 01799 544 014.

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  • September 11, 2015 at 10:37 am

    Here’s a wild thought. Do you genuinely want a diverse workforce? You’re not just playing at being progressive and enlightened to make you look good? Then why not try paying ALL editorial staff properly? I can’t speak for other ethnic groups, but when I talk to Brits of South Asian origin and tell them how little local/regional journalists earn they laugh loudly and say they wouldn’t touch this profession with a barge pole.

    They are no fools when it comes to money. If they spotted a career with proper pay and real long-term prospects they’d willingly endure a year or two of being hard up while they undertake their training. But why the hell should they endure that for the meagre “rewards” of local/regional journalism? Seriously, think about it.

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