Recruitment initiatives which aim to increase newsroom diversity must not become a “box ticking exercise”, editors have been warned.
Industry chiefs were discussing the issue of how to make newsrooms more representative of their communities at an industry conference held in Leicester yesterday.
While there was a broad consensus that more diverse newsrooms would help generate a wider range of stories, speakers warned against “positive discrimination” and “quotas.”
The discussion centred on the ongoing recruitment of 82 new community journalists as part of a Facebook-funded scheme to help increase coverage in under-reported communities.
In a panel discussion, award-winning journalist Aasma Day, pictured, who left the regional press after 20 years to become HuffPost UK’s North of England correspondent in 2018, was quizzed on what could be done to get people from more diverse backgrounds applying for the roles.
Aasma told the conference, hosted by website Behind Local News: “Any scheme that can be launched to encourage people from diverse backgrounds should be positively encouraged, but it’s important it doesn’t turn into a box ticking exercise.
“I would hate to think I’d only got a job because somebody had a quota. I’d hate to feel I only got a job because I was the only brown person that applied.
“People should be given the job on merit and the best person should get the job, otherwise it undermines people’s talent. It’s about being more open-minded in what we want, but still getting the best person for the job.”
Aasma also touched on whether “barriers” needed breaking down within some communities to encourage careers in journalism.
She said: “It’s a shame if there are people out there who express an interest in that and get rejected.”
Chris Page, who works with JPIMedia apprentices in Yorkshire and has around 40 years of experience in the industry, added: “In that time I’ve worked with two people from different races and religions.
“They’re both very proud to represent their communities, but it’s very key that this scheme is pro-active, and not positive discrimination or a box ticking exercise.”