A regional editor has backed a call for more to be done to help working-class people in his hometown get into journalism after claims that local people were denied job opportunities.
Freelance journalist Neil Maggs says that, for too long, media organisations in Bristol have favoured bringing in journalists from further afield.
Bristol Post editor Mike Norton, who says he agrees with Neil, admitted in a column last year that the Post has “too few” ethnic minority journalists, adding the paper had historically contributed to a “cultural divide” on its patch.
But, in a piece for the Post’s sister website Bristol Live, Neil urged those campaigning for greater diversity in the city’s media to “reach out beyond race” – referencing both St Paul’s, an area of Bristol which has a large Afro-Caribbean population, and Hartcliffe, a council estate in the city.
Wrote Neil: “The city, and its media needs systemic change, not a shuffling of the deck chairs. We need change across the board, black journalists from St Paul’s and white journalists from Hartcliffe at all levels.
“This will take time of course, but if we set off with the intention to have stories told by a greater range of people who live and are from this city, it’s a start.
“For too long we have brought in journalists from further afield and denied opportunities to local people. So the starting point needs to be entry levels, and how and where we recruit.
“Why? Not just because it’s the just right thing to do, but it will simply make better journalism. We will find people who can relate and engage more directly, have real access to their communities, and create more rounded and nuanced stories.
Neil added recent coverage of the Grenfell Tower fire, Brexit, Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn had shown how “out of tune many journalists are and emphasises the importance of widening recruitment more than ever.”
He added: “Confirmation bias is the biggest challenge that journalism faces, and one it’s only recently started to own, and a broader range of voices and faces can radically change that.”
His comments come during a campaign called the ‘Year of Change’, which is supported by the Post and is aimed at tackling the under-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the city.
As part of the ‘Year of Change’, the Post is involved in hosting a series of panel debates aimed at improving equality and diversity in Bristol.
Mike, himself a Bristolian, told HTFP: “I agree with Neil. The Post is an integral part of the Year of Change in Bristol and, as one element of that, I am working to attract more BAME voices into our coverage.
“Ultimately, the Post is one of the city institutions which have either alienated or ignored sections of Bristol’s community.
“A Runnymede Trust report last year concluded that Bristol was the worst UK city outside of London for racial integration.
“The Year of Change is about trying to undo those divisions and I am proud that the Post is involved.”