1. The mainstream media is 94% white
There is a lot wrong with the mainstream media, from the vast influence of moguls like Rupert Murdoch, to the pressure that journalists are under to avoid upsetting advertising clients. A lesser-known fact is that 94% of British journalists are white and almost all are graduates, with 54% of leading print journalists having been to Oxford or Cambridge.
This presents an obvious problem for a democratic society, where the media as the ‘fourth estate’ is expected to alert and mobilize public opinion to injustices; set the political agenda, and allow political pluralism to express itself. Despite the best efforts of individual journalists, being part of a fairly homogenous group means they will have blind spots. A privileged elite are unlikely to pursue major changes to the status quo and if they do, they’re unlikely to feel the same sense of urgency as a person who has first-hand experience of oppression.
2. Alternative media is too white
Calls to ‘be the media’ and ‘have your say’ are more readily picked up by people who have both the confidence to speak out and the time away from work to craft their words. At Red Pepper magazine we welcome all enquiries but we can’t help noticing that most people who get in touch are graduates, sometimes with multiple degrees, looking for voluntary work experience in the media. We aim to be a platform for the marginalised and oppressed who are often busy surviving and fighting on the front lines, so we recognise that we need to offer support and encouragement to particular groups if we’re to encompass a diverse range of viewpoints.
That is why we’re fundraising for a black journalism fund, so we can recruit a section editor with first-hand experience of the struggle for black liberation. We hope this will help set a trend across the alternative and mainstream press in the UK, as Guardian journalist Gary Younge says: “It is remarkable that for all the column inches written about race that there is not a single print journalist with the specific responsibility of reporting and researching it. Funding one is not just a good idea in itself – it will raise the standards elsewhere”.
3. Talk is cheap
If you’re part of a project seeking social justice then simply stating that you value diversity doesn’t compare to actively considering barriers to entry and breaking them down. Listening to others is the first step. The black journalism fund was inspired by the work of groups such as the Black Dissidents and Media Diversified. For instance the social media campaign #AllWhiteFrontPages shows that frequently every image featured on the front pages of the national newspapers is of a white person – when the media does cover stories of people from diverse backgrounds the stories are often negative, reinforcing stereotypes. At Red Pepper we’re making it a priority support black and minority activist writers to cover the Black Lives Matter movement, black feminism, detention centres, borders, the impacts of climate change, the sharp edge of austerity and more.
4. Radical media matters
Strong and successful social movements need sympathetic media to raise debates, strategise, call for support and bear witness. Although classroom history books will simplify great victories so only moments or charismatic individuals of movements are remembered, the reality of success involves a hell of a lot of organising. Red Pepper exists as a resource for activists and aims to react to the most pressing needs of the day, as well as being a space to imagine what a better world could look like.
If you can afford to, please consider donating to the blackjournalism fund. We operate on a shoestring budget so the smallest of contributions will have an impact.
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