Newsroom bosses have been told to address issues related to the social class backgrounds of their workforces as a “priority”.
Research consultant Mark Spilsbury issued the warning in its annual report for the National Council for Journalism Education on Diversity in the Industry.
In the report, Mark predicted it was ‘likely’ the under-representation of lower social groups in journalism would continue – echoing the same prediction he made last year.
However, he found some improvements to newsroom diversity – including a decrease in the proportion of journalists from white ethnic groups and a “good gender balance” with 49% of senior positions held by women.
In the foreword to the report, NCTJ Managing Director Joanne Butcher wrote, “It is encouraging to see that there is good progress in gender balance, including at senior editorial levels. where it was feared that there was a gender disparity.
“Progress has also been made with the employment of journalists with disabilities and health problems.
“To some extent there has been an improvement in ethnic representation, although there is still work to be done.
“What is worrying is that there are clearly problems associated with the promotion of people from non-white ethnic groups to more senior editorial positions.
“There are also lingering issues with social class that need to be addressed as a priority. This is linked to the fact that journalism is a “college-level” profession, with most new entrants being selected from a pool of highly qualified graduates.
“As those in tertiary education are not representative of the wider population, so (without specific targeting) those recruited into journalism from college will not be either.”
Mark’s research found that the proportion of writers from non-white ethnic backgrounds is only 10% compared to 14% in junior roles.
It also revealed that 80% of journalists had a parent in one of the three highest occupational groups, compared to 42% of all UK workers, while only 2% had a parent in the two lowest occupational groups, compared to 20% of all workers.
Addressing these issues, Mark added: “The maintenance of very high levels of qualification of journalists may be the cause. Journalism employers recruit (mainly) graduates as new entrants, but higher education entrants are not themselves representative of the wider population.
“To the extent that journalism continues to recruit primarily from a pool that is itself under-representative of individuals from lower social groups, under-representation is likely to continue.”
Explaining NCTJ’s role in addressing these issues, Joanne highlighted the organization’s “diversity and inclusion action plan.”
Elements of the plan include working with universities to increase the proportion of their students from non-upper social class backgrounds and encouraging employers to examine their recruitment and career development practices.
She also noted plans to expand programs, including the Journalism Diversity Fund, the Community News Project and the Journalism Skills Academy, as well as helping to increase the number of learning available across the sector.
Joanne wrote, “We know we need to do more and that is what we are currently debating at NCTJ and with our partners. Expect to see larger investments and the introduction of more interventions designed to make a difference.