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UK and US journalists warn that newsrooms will never shift away from the “white male gaze”

Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard Institute which is dedicated to improving the diversity of news media in the US, declared that without effective and concretely in place measures to promote equity and inclusion “whatever diversity you have is just window dressing”.

Image credit Bank Phrom/Unsplash/The Conversation

Reynolds added at the Bureau Local’s that journalists of colour will not feel they belong in newsrooms until they can shift away from the “white male gaze” on stories.

He pointed out: “The reality is you can be included but people don’t really want you there… but when you belong some place you can tell by the stories that you’re able to pick, you can tell by the equitable pay that you receive, you can tell by the sourcing that you are able to utilise, you can tell in the language that you can use…

“When you belong, you can feel it in your bones, you can feel it when you look around and you see you have the ability to influence change [and] to help make decisions.”

Reynolds also stated that some publications “are never going to change” and interrogated: “so how can we in our belief and care of these individuals continue to funnel journalists into institutions that continue to be inhospitable places for them in so many ways?”

He said: “Why should we continue to have to squish ourselves and to conform in these legacy institutions that do not want to switch from a white gaze to a kaleidoscope of gazes that are truly reflective of our society?”

Reynolds pressed chiefs and executives to have more diverse people at higher levels who could potentially reach C-suite positions because that is where a change can genuinely emerge.

Martin Reynolds Co-executive Director of Maynard Institute. Image credit Online News Association

Bringing in only young diverse hires equals a perception that “‘we’ve achieved diversity, look at all these people of colour around this room’, and none of them are in any kind of leadership role, they are temporary, they are seen as the ‘diversity hire'”,” Reynolds explained.

“So, it’s basically performative diversity. Not to say that it’s not helpful, not good, not vital, but it is the least one can do, and I would argue that’s not where one should start.”

He also complained and denounced the fact that diversity internships are too often underpaid and without anyone dedicated to overseeing the young person’s progress and career growth.

Also Marverine Duffy joined the debate. She is a famous news anchor for world-renowned international rolling news channel, Sky News, as she handled countless major breaking news stories, broadcasting to an audience of millions worldwide, presenting its nightly 5-hour 'World News and Business Report' programme, and now Director of four BA (Hons) Journalism courses at the School of Media, head of undergraduate journalism at Birmingham City University. She agreed that journalists are forced to think about “every story from a white gaze perspective” but also made clear that, miserably, some newsrooms will never move away from this.

Marverine Duffy, who leads four undergraduate degree courses at Birmingham City University. Image credit Birmingham City University

“For me being anti-racist in a newsroom is about a commitment not just from the top, not just from the editor, but from the owners, the publishers and also the staff,” she said.

“But also we’ve got to acknowledge that there are publications out there for whom it will never change. They will pay lip service to it [diversity] but they will never, ever change. They will never, ever be anti-racist because it’s not in their interests.

“They’re speaking to a specific audience, we all know who those organisations are, very clearly right-wing, there’s going to be very little change there but for those newsrooms that do want to change and are changing and are taking action brilliant, just keep it coming and do more.”

Duffy, who has opened up at Press Gazette about her own newsroom experiences relating to racism, admitted: “I do think it comes down to a will of whoever’s at the top at the end of the day, because if there’s no willingness for those who are managing people’s careers who are allowing them to go up to the next space… then whenever a mid-career journalist decides to leave there’s going to be no change.”


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