…Access

I came to the United Kingdom to ask a somewhat general but complex question: What are the similarities and differences that journalists of color here and in the United States are experiencing in a time of digital disruption and phenomenal fiscal accountability? On this journey of exploration, I spoke recently with two minority members of the U.K.’s 38,000-member National Union of Journalists. 

Voices united in hope 

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Kamil Ahmed is a British-Bengali whose father and mother came separately to the United Kingdom at young ages. Connie St. Louis is a Brit born to parents who immigrated from Jamaica. Despite the different backgrounds of the Asian man and black woman, the lives of these two journalist hold several similarities, and their voices cry out with the same hope for a more diverse industry. Beyond their own past and current experiences, they are cautiously optimistic about increasing diversity among the ranks in British journalism. They believe, however, any change will come in the distant future and with little aide from the industry itself or even from an ever-evolving society or empowered minority groups that, like in America, rose up to demand equality even if the demands would not be fully realized.

Background tells story

One of the commonalities between St. Louis and Ahmed is the push from their parents to excel in education. And post-secondary education for both has made the difference in their lives as journalists. Both believe that it gave them the access through doors that might otherwise be shut to those not a part of the upper-middle class families in England. While St. Louis spends most of her time educating tomorrow’s journalists, her lengthy career in radio for the BBC began during a period when few minorities entered the industry. Ahmed’s ambition led him to seek a job at the The Sunday Times without “knowing” anyone, unlike others who seemingly had connections and were hired there.

Despite the U.K.’s seeming disbelief in institutionalized racism in its journalism industry (and the country), Ahmed and St. Louis both say they know of or have experienced forms of workplace prejudice including hiring practices. Along with their own perceptions, they point to recent studies that show how poorly represented minorities are and a lack of recognition of diversity as an issue or a lack of transparency in how they deal with calls for diversity.

Best opportunity for change

Both journalists say the best chances for more representation of minorities inside the newsrooms of the U.K. are in recruitment of trained and mentored minority youth and thoughtful retention efforts toward experienced minority journalists who would stay, move up the ranks, and facilitate the further hiring of qualified minority journalists.

These two journalists have more to say. I look forward to sharing as much as I can once I’ve gathered more data to balance and round out my ongoing research. Stay tuned.

…Growing

Akron Beacon Journal newsroom, 2013

It’s 1a.m., and I’m the only one left in the newsroom. It’ reminds me of the McChesney and Pickard book “Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights.

Looking back

I titled this blog post “Growing” because I wanted to reflect not only on the research I have completed but also look at the arc of my understanding and knowledge about the diversity in newsrooms in this time of great upheaval in journalism. I feel especially close to this topic. It is part and parcel of how I came to journalism: the need to hear and see all voices reflected in one the most influential forms of communication in the world. I am inspired daily by the struggle to push this idea forward within the sphere of my professional and academic environment.

Mark Turner's cup of deadlines.

Deadlines. Schmedlines. One of the things that just don’t change.

The story remains the same

Something else that has inspired me through the research is that the minority journalists — I suspect most journalists — have not lost sight of their primary goals: to tell great stories that inform, engage, provoke, and entertain. Obviously the platforms, the skills, and the resources necessary to tell those stories have changed. So, too, has the concerted push for racial diversity. The journalists I spoke to had all worked for Knight-Ridder newspapers (They are no more). The company was at the forefront of recruiting and hiring diverse staffs. The chain’s exit seemed to coincide with a loss of a push for diversity. Interviewees were quick to say that an awareness still exists around diversity issues but are less important in staffing and more important in content and coverage (I believed and still believe the two have a common cause). The business of journalism was perceived to always be the filter through which any idealogically- or philosophically-based changes must pass.

Surprise!

I have shared what surprised me during my interviews and have been all but laughed at by other researchers. I found that age as a diversity issue raised its head more often than that of racial diversity for journalists. The finding speaks directly to the digital age’s exponential growth. Although I understand the need for more youthful voices, I still believe that an experienced journalist can be taught the new tricks of the trade and that their storytelling abilities match up against the awareness or technological skills of digital natives.

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This is one of the last non-digital clock in the newsroom of the Akron Beacon Journal.

The time is now

England has led the way in journalism in many ways. To paint with a broad brush, London’s often irreverent and push-the-envelope approach to covering the news has affected journalism globally. It also has to deal with diversity like few other countries as members of the former British “colonies” have come home. During my trip in London, I expect to ask similar questions during interviews with journalists and educators as I did with their American counterparts. They are Lionel Morrison along with other members of the members of the National Union of Journalists including Connie St. Louis and Kamil Ahmed. I hope to explore how our countries’ cultures impact minority journalists before and in the midst of our new environment.

London, here I come.

. . . Voices

Akron Beacon Journal photo department

Photography department with Michael Chritton, photographer

Listening to the other experts

I’ve spent my adult life in newsrooms. I know them pretty well. At least I thought I did. They’ve changed since I took my first anxious breaths in one more two decades ago. The changes have come fast and furious, and I have experienced them as a part of a team trying to find how we would continue to be a profitable and relevant news organization.

In the face of these changes, the importance of racial and ethnic diversity seemingly became unimportant; my own value as a minority was subjugated

Continue reading “. . . Voices”

…Diversity

A SEAT AT THE TABLEHow do minorities feel about their place in the news media in the time of a great contraction.

Editor’s office: How do minorities feel about their place in the news media in the time of a great contraction.

Explore with me the changing environment for minorities in media.

Great strides had been made in the growth of minority representation in traditional newsrooms before the Great Recession reversed those gains across all races. The environment that remains has seen considerable change from the days when the industry self-imposed measures to increase diversity.Read what the media watchers at Poynter have to say about staffing in newspaper newsrooms.

Continue reading “…Diversity”

…Welcome

This blog, in a word, is me. It is the tireless search for the right word, the word pregnant with meaning and evocative of thought and action. What would we be without the ability to communicate. And where would we be without the ability to communicate well. That’s where I come in. My name is Mark Anthony Turner. I’m a journalist by education and training and a wordsmith by curiosity, determination, and love. My life revolves around words, their power and usage. I have been a reporter, editor and page designer for more than two decades now. That means I can tell a story in many forms, and I do. And I’d do it for free (Well, if Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Continue reading “…Welcome”