Redressing the balance on ethnic employment

When he was 28, and already well on his way up a career ladder that has now reached the heights of an anchor role presenting Channel 4 News, Krishnan Guru-Murthy was taken to one side by his father.

So concerned was he about the lack of status in the path his son had chosen that he offered to pay for him to retrain as a doctor.

It’s a familiar story for many journalists from ethnic minorities – particularly those with Asian families.

The disapproval from parents of their children going into what they see as a low-status job is an additional barrier to a career already strewn with obstacles.

It’s also one of the many reasons that editors across the media struggle to reflect their communities’ ethnic make-up in their own newsrooms.

A new report for the Society of Editors, Diversity in the Newsroom, contains no great surprises for the regional press: too few non-white faces appear, not because of any discriminatory policy, but because the industry is simply not attracting ethnic people who don’t see it as relevant or attractive as a career. The problem starts in the colleges.

While there are notable advances being made, the report’s author, Peter Cole, says that real progress won’t happen until senior management and editors make ethnic editorial recruitment one of their top priorities and keep it there.

That means a more structured approach to building closer links with ethnic communities, investing in education and training and re-evaluating marketing and recruitment practices to draw more young people in.

As the Birmingham Evening Mail editor Roger Borrell, who has done more than most to redress the balance, says, he acted “not because it was the right business decision, but because it was the right decision, full stop”

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