How can our newsrooms look more like the communities they serve?

They were bright as buttons, sharp as tacks and bristling with energy, enthusiasm and commitment.

The classroom of students on one of the UK’s very best journalism courses offered great hope that the talent, spark and skill that our industry needs is being nurtured well.

But there was one other thing that shone out on an NCTJ accreditation visit to assess how well the journalists of the future were being prepared for the world of work.

They were all white, and they all appeared to be fairly middle class.

In that, they exactly reflect the make-up of our profession.

The most detailed recent research, three years ago, revealed that 94 per cent of journalists were white.

That research also found that the social demographics of the average newsroom bore little resemblance to those of the community around it, with an increasingly middle class skew.

Columnist Owen Jones has gone as far as to describe journalism as a closed shop for the well-to-do.

On the face of it, this can’t be healthy for all kinds of reasons.

Not least of these is the need for reporters to reflect the people they’re writing for, ensuring they build the right relationships and strike the right tone.

Ten years ago, the industry set up the Journalism Diversity Fund to help people from backgrounds other than very white and very middle class to get onto an NCTJ course.

It’s a great initiative which has helped some talented people into the profession.

At the NCTJ conference last year, I also heard some encouraging examples of educators going out of their way to take their recruitment roadshows into communities, and to try to find journalists from non-traditional sources.

The difficulty with all of this is that among the qualities quite rightly most prized by editors are confidence and determination.

At careers events, I parrot one phrase: “If you’re not 100 per cent certain you want to be a journalist, it’s probably not for you.”

In other words, if people haven’t already sought us out, why should we go looking for them? What sort of journalists are they going to make if they haven’t got the gumption and the get-up-and-go to be knocking on our door?

As with all of the dilemmas facing our industry, there are no easy answers.

But unless our newsrooms look more like the communities they serve, we will never truly get under their skins.

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