Our thoughts on the 2021 NCTJ report

The National Council for Training Journalists (NCTJ) is a nationwide standard many UK based journalists must obtain a qualification from. The Council recently published a report on findings regarding diversity in the journalism profession. 

The published report disclosed 92% of journalists come from white ethnic groups, a higher proportion than across all UK workers. This is only a slight decrease from a City University London survey that found the industry to be 94% white in 2016. Moreover, with only 8% of the industry coming from a non-white background - it effectively leaves a huge burden on a majority of that 8% to tell the stories from ethnic backgrounds. With such little ethnic diversity in a majorly diverse country - people are likely to switch off from the news if they cannot relate or see relevant representation.

Another shocking figure that came from the report was that only 16 percent of journalists report having a work-limiting health problem or disability. This highlights how journalism  is  an increasingly inaccessible industry; a topic covered heavily over the pandemic (as mentioned in the Emory Wheel).

Gender diversity in journalism has greatly improved though; figures now show that women make up 53% of the industry. The report doesn’t however give a breakdown of the type of contract women are employed under, nor the background of these women (from the rest of the data, we can safely assume they are white, middle-class and non disabled). Furthermore, access to journalism remains unfair and the field retains its label as a notoriously classist industry. The report found 75% of journalists had a parent in one of the three highest occupational groups, compared to 45% of all UK workers. This figure shows the people coming from the top social classes - and it has risen from 55% in 2018 to where it stands today. The NCTJ have alluded to the fact that the 2018 figure could be a “rogue” result. Class diversity is very important to the survival of the industry - people from an array of backgrounds have different lived experiences - all of which are beneficial to storytelling and good journalism. 

The 75% figure in particular can be reinforced by the fact that only four per cent of journalists have low level qualifications. Qualifications can be expensive and difficult to obtain - especially without bursaries and sponsorships. Four percent is a shockingly low figure and shows how money is still integral to success in the industry unfortunately. 

Achieving diversity in journalism is a long road and  progress is happening far too slowly. We need a fairer and more equal route into journalism. The report concludes that “there do not appear to be underlying changes in the proportions of journalists coming from BAME groups or from lower social groups” - a worrying trend for the industry. The level of qualifications that seems to now be the norm to “get in” is also harming the current (timid) efforts to bring more diversity in the newsrooms: Universities are not as diverse as our society is because of the selection process.

The report ends on a sombre note: "To the extent that journalism continues to increasingly recruit from a pool which is itself underrepresentative of BAME and lower social groups, it is likely that under-representation will continue."

It seems this statement is indicative of the industry today - slow progress can be sped up by implementing real change. 

Employers must change how they recruit their journalists to make this field fairer. They must look outside their usual recruitment pools and allow for backgrounds that are deemed less traditional to get a foot in the door. They must also support their staff and freelance workers, especially when they bring up issues they face in the workplace.

A lot to do then. We are here at PressPad.