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City’s media ‘denied opportunities’ to local people, journalist claims

Neil MaggsA 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.”

9 comments

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  • May 14, 2018 at 9:02 am
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    Without sounding too much like a Trot at the barricades…
    My first job on a local earned me under £15k whereas my tradesman pals were taking home a lot more (especially as some of their wages were cash in hand!).
    They thought I was mad to stick at a job with such low wages and long hours.
    To be fair they are probably right but working in a factory bored me to tears and I do love journalism!
    However, if papers are serious about getting more working class people on board they should start by paying reporters a fair wage and stop piling on unpaid responsibilities (subbing, taking photos, page design, shooting videos, etc…) .
    Just look at what sales staff get paid compared to hacks and look at the benefits – for example most get a company car.
    The remuneration offered by papers means it is almost always a career for middle class graduates or idealists – who usually leave for PR after slumming it for a few years.
    If the large companies that actually run the industry want to pay more than just lip service to inclusion they need to get their houses in order.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 9:40 am
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    Hackattack is correct. However to make this happen news media also have to invest in training, a responsibility they have dodged for many years.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 9:48 am
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    Journalism has become a middle-class career, quite often for people who do not know what else to do when leaving University. It is pretty near impossible for others who have a genuine passion for the job but no degree to get into it. I am with Neil on this.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 1:57 pm
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    I agree with all of the above in relation to the traditional bigger regional publishing groups only, however there are tremendous opportunities with the new breed of independent publishers flourishing across the uk where common sense, local knowledge,contacts as well as journalistic skills are real currency.
    Certainly a role in one of the bigger groups doesn’t stand anyone in good stead for a career once the suits decide to make further cutbacks and more trained staff are let go.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 2:23 pm
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    My own particular generation was probably one of the last, it not the last, to have a high proportion of non-graduates in its ranks. I had the choice of going to university, or going straight on to a paper. My first editor told me that if I started at 19, after NCTJ pre-entry college, I would be on a news desk telling graduates of my age what to do when they eventually arrived a few years later, to say nothing of earning more than them. That is exactly what happened: I always knew what I wanted to do, and the chance to get on to a newspaper was too good to pass up. Our newsrooms better reflected the communities we served. Mind you, they were considerably larger than their modern day equivalents.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 4:16 pm
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    I got my first job on a local weekly fresh out of school in 1969. My main qualification was that I could “start on Monday”. My “old school” editor back then was even wary of employing graduates from NCTJ pre-entry courses.

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  • May 14, 2018 at 5:22 pm
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    Like Hackattack I was bored to tears with a job at £1.30s a week when I left school at 15 so I jumped at the chance at becoming a copy boy at a princely sum of £1.2s. What is missing today is a vocation and the drive to become a journalist. When in later years I owned a little local bugle and someone turned up at the office and asked for a job my answer was: “Sure if you can swim you have one foot on the ladder…” I don’t recall anyone who was thrown into the deep end like this failed to go on to make a journalist. Given a little flair, good training on the job, the opportunity to start and a burning desire to be a journalist they will make the grade whether they have a working-class background or not. I agree however increasingly the pathetic pay I see offered in journalism is now ruling out all but those with independent means or access to funds. Sadly it is more profitable to stack shelves in a supermarket in order to survive even at a basic level than work for penny-pinching publishers.

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  • May 15, 2018 at 9:27 am
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    You need genuine passion for the job to do it at your best. Once that goes you might as well get a much better paid job outside the industry.

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  • May 17, 2018 at 12:21 am
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    I got a job as a trainee reporter in 1989 fresh straight from college. I could have gone on to university if I had wanted, but so desperate to see my “dream job” become a reality, I ditched thoughts of university in preference of starting from the bottom of the ladder as a trainee reporter. Move forward 30 years and I find the vast majority of the current crop of “trainees” I come across fresh out of university (rather than college) are doing their jobs out of what they have learned from a text book and can only talk about the job as long as they can mention every bit of newspaper jargon they can muster. They have very little respect for the more senior journalists (those that have experience) because they see those over the age of 40 may not be up-to-speed on the latest mobile phone or app or know exactly how the likes of Twitter and Instagram work. I looked up to my more elder colleagues and learnt a lot from them when I was a trainee. I don’t think that really applies to the trainees of today. I still cover local town/parish council meetings (bread and butter for a local newspaper) and was amazed when a trainee reporter, who was also at a meeting, did not write a single word in his notepad during the 90-minute meeting – they probably thought it was below their university-educated background to have to sit through such proceedings. Sad days.

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