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Training Matters: Club encourages diversity in journalism

Blogger portrait of Liam Bruce. Photograph by Colin Mearns 29 Jan 2015 Ronnie ChartersAn important aspect of the NCTJ’s work is to champion training for all. The NCTJ accreditation board have taken a special interest in diverse recruitment on accredited courses and have encouraged all centres to take action to address the diversity issue.

One example of how centres are engaging diverse communities is Glasgow Caledonian University’s Caledonian Club, an award-winning widening participation and community engagement initiative, which works with schools at all ages to encourage applications to university.

In our latest blog Ronnie Charters, right, and Liam Bruce, left, two students studying the NCTJ-accredited BA (hons) multimedia journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian University, talk about their work as student mentors on the programme.

Journalism isn’t often hailed as a progressive profession. The old maxim; “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” applies more to journalism than perhaps any other job. In Glasgow, a kid who wishes to be a journalist no longer has to have an editor as a neighbour, or a reporter as a godparent to get into the field.

At Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) an innovative approach is taken to ensure that anyone, no matter their background, is given equal footing in the race to be one of the 25 lucky undergrads joining the NCTJ-accredited multimedia journalism course each year at GCU.

The UK Recruitment and Outreach team work through the Caledonian Club and the Schools and College Outreach Team (SCOT) to offer pupils the chance to study at GCU, despite their background.

With a focus of ‘opening doors to pupils on the doorstep of GCU’, the team looks at the schools in Glasgow where the attainment rates are particularly low, with an emphasis on those going to university.

However the club is not an extension of the marketing department’s efforts to get more students to GCU. The programmes being run are designed to widen attainment in all areas of education with a focus on the child, ensuring that opportunity is open for all.

Due to the work of the Caledonian Club/SCOT in the school community and the high level of support offered to the pupil throughout their vocational journey, there has been a year on year increase in the number of applications to journalism from partner schools including St Andrews and Whitehill. This allows children from these low-achieving areas to access some of Scotland’s best journalism training.

The club are not shy in utilising their assets and it is undeniable that we, as journalism mentors, are assets.

Throughout the various projects we open up the department and develop exercises to give the pupils a taste of the ‘journo life’ in a fun, engaging way. The 2015 summer pilot project for example brought St Andrews’ year fives on campus to experience a zombie apocalypse. Naturally we focussed on reporting the tragedy to the world: we organised a mock press conference with an apocalypse survivor and worked with the pupils to write and record a story suitable for print, TV and radio. We even managed to teach them some shorthand by printing warning signs in Teeline which they had to decipher when they were sent out in search of vox-pops.

As well as working through the school year, the team also works extensively with the pupil along the UCAS process and we as mentors are involved in that: we work with students on their personal statements, do tours of the facilities to help students get more familiar with the journalism department and contribute to interview prep sessions. This is all done in an effort to ensure those who have what it takes but are maybe shy in new situations are given the best opportunity to shine when it comes to the interview.

Through the course of the club’s activities we play a big role in many projects and also have a close relationship with the staff having built up over time from being mentored in school through university and working on the projects the staff take a real interest in our lives and prospective careers.

As a result of us working in partnership with schools, we have seen the inspiration levels of pupils aspiring to journalism skyrocket. It is undoubtedly very rewarding to be in the department when there are interviews going on and a pupil you’ve been working with comes out brimming with confidence. It is that scenario which makes our job as journalism student mentors so enjoyable.

We can say, without a shadow of a doubt, we certainly would not be where we are today, were it not for the hard work and untold dedication of the Caledonian Club and the School and College Outreach Team, and we are sure we speak for many other students at GCU when we say that.


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  • March 8, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Opening doors isn’t the issue in journalism, it’s career progression.

    I’m from a working class background and doors were closed to me at places like the BBC because I couldn’t afford to live on five day contracts, which is standard practice at places like that.

    A few small contracts then a few years of 3 month contracts then some permanent work if you’re lucky. One guy I know who works there now was subsidised by his parents to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds. Ironic really as the BBC likes to shout from the rooftops how inclusive it is. Having disabled bays in your canteen doesn’t quite cut the mustard when you’re pricing millions of people out of your employment strategy.

    The modern media runs on an army of internes, people who can afford to work for nothing for a l ong time in the hope of ingratiating themselves to the right person.

    The problem then is that the media becomes filled with people who all have exactly the same world view. It’s skewered towards the right because they have no experience of real hardship (I lost count of the number of times colleagues came back from doing a story on a foodbank and made a point of the fact people using them had newish mobile phones – yes – poverty is a little more complex than that).

    The editors I deal with at nationals when I freelance are all middle class without exception and get younger and younger as senior people leave for PR roles.

    It’s a terrible shame, but the bottom line is that the media industry doesn’t care, and politicians certainly don’t care – they know they’re not going to be held accountable by a 21-year-old from Harrow.

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  • March 8, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff about the need for diversity in the newsroom.
    We do need journalists from a variety of backgrounds to make them more representative of our readers and to understand what issues they are concerned about.
    Jeff is right about the number of middle-class university types coming through.
    However, I believe it has different political consequences than he says.
    It has tended to make most journalists be of soft-left, chardonnay/champagne socialist, Guardianista-type background. And a bit PC too.
    This is probably why the student loans and debt issue has gained greater prominence than might be the case, because it so affects our graduate journalists.
    By contrast, the lack of interest paid on savings has probably passed them by because they are not affected, so unlike older readers.
    Gone are the days of the old-fashioned salt-of-the-earth Labour type people, which are few and far between in the Labour Party too nowadays.
    I am politically of the right and I have tended to be in a small minority in the newsrooms, sometimes a minority of one.
    Yes, we do need more diversity, but diversity of opinion and background.
    People are often obsessed with issues of race and colour but a black Oxbridge graduate will be little different to a white one.

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  • March 8, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Agreed 100 per cent guys! Why not come out and say it? Levels of nepotism in this line of work are truly in a class of their own.

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  • March 8, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I really have no time for exercises in equality though, I really don’t. I went through some truly soul destroying stuff at the BBC, kept getting told by one person to ‘talk about my working class background’ in interviews because one of their staff was ‘the son of a docker’.

    I then had to sit there and be patronised by some trainees in a workshop, asking me how I’d improve a headline (at this point in my career I’d interviewed prime ministers and lectured on journalism at university).

    After going through the whole ‘talent pool’ debacle which was aimed at finding ‘the best northern talent’, I, nor anyone else I knew, got through.

    I decided to put an FOI in to see how many had made it through to receiving full shifts, and out of 150 plus it was less than five. After this though I became persona non grata, and one senior figure there refused to provide a friend of mine with any careers advice because she ‘felt betrayed’.

    It’s such a nonsense of a place.

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  • March 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    It is interesting to see there is at least an acknowledgement here that in getting journalism work, what counts is who you know rather than what you know.
    Jeff is very right about the barriers to entry being based on income. A further barrier is the requirement of many editors for journalists to have their own transport. If someone has been many years out of work, or working in a low wage job, they will not be able to afford a car.
    Why not think outside the box? If the person is otherwise suitable, give them the job and then they will be able to afford a car.
    A further barrier is the reluctance of some editors to do Skype interviews. If someone is on a very low income, travelling from one end of the UK to another for a job interview is a serious cost, again editors should realise many editors are on extremely low incomes.

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