Is social homogeneity ruining journalism?

By Daniel Khalili-Tari

Could a lack of diversity be hindering the quality of British journalism? Is an absence of racial and social multiplicity inhibiting the credibility of newsrooms? And are young audiences becoming less engaged as a consequence?

It’s been known for years, newspaper sales are declining. The emergence of the internet and other digital forms of media are greatly responsible, as well as a change in consumer habits. However, is a de facto lack of diversity also to blame? As other platforms are experiencing an increase in usage, such as online forms of media, which generally allow for more ethnically and socially diverse users to create and upload content.

The recent calamitous General Election results highlight the declining influence of national newspapers. The Daily Mail, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and other traditionally right-wing publications beleaguered the opposition. However, the results were not as expected.

A poll last year, commissioned by Impress and completed by YouGov, found on average only 22.5 per cent of the public trust journalists working at newspapers. Politicians however, are the least trusted profession within the UK, with only 19 per cent of the public believing they were telling the truth during the EU referendum. Interestingly, both professions lack diversity. So, is a lack of social representation ruining journalism?

The major UK news outlets are dominated by the privileged. The BBC, Channel 4, ITN and Sky News, as well as the quality newspapers. Of course, many of the UK’s leading privately educated journalists are talented. However, those from more diverse backgrounds are too. But, they don’t have the necessary resources at their disposal, which has led to a precipitous drop in media diversity.

Young people are switching to other forms of media to get their news. While it appears the homogeneity of the industry is beginning to signal its own decline. The straits of British journalism are clear among the underrepresented. Those who work in the media are from privileged backgrounds, so the events affecting the subjugated aren’t reported on.

Psychologists argue we learn from each other and our self-understanding is derived from what we are exposed to. If this stipulation is true, it implies ethnic minorities will become less inclined to pursue careers as journalists, as not many are from BAME backgrounds.

While the number of ethnic minority journalists reporting on topics such as sports appears to of increased on the surface, mainstream media is yet to deploy underrepresented journalists in more serious fields such as politics. This too could have consequences.

The issue of diversity is usually abrogated. In Britain, young people are led to believe hard work will eventually lead to success. However, racial, ethnic, class and gender barriers do influence the contours of a young person’s career, while the costs of pursuing education continue to increase.

Social conditioning maybe?

People tend to be ignorant of or not understand the political arrangements from which they profit. Black culture is popular. But, some in positions of power conveniently ignore the struggles which bore it. People demand a more egalitarian society. But, concurrently want the luxuries of Western living. Designer clothes, mobile phones, cars and so on.

The media helps people make sense of the world. It sets social norms, it influences culture and it encourages day-to-day debate. For a truly democratic society to emerge, a truly democratic media must too. The shibboleths of all cultures should be celebrated and endorsed. Not just the dominant ideals.

The pertinence of a diverse media is clear, especially, when considering the multitude of problems London has recently experienced. A diverse media could instil confidence in the public. And inculcate a sense of self-worth into ethnic minorities.

The world is global. Britain is global. So should its media be too.

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