We need more working-class, women journalists

The class divide in journalism is profound, and it needs to stop.

When I was a child, I would urge my mother to buy me one of the beautiful women’s magazines. On the precious occasion that she would treat me to one, I was totally infatuated.

Until recently, I believed this was what brought me towards journalism. The dream of living like Carrie Bradshaw, writing about Chanel boots and living a lifestyle so unfamiliar to me.

However, I’ve realised now that I was reading them like a short fiction book. The middle-class articles, stories, fashion, and lifestyles were a total fantasy to me. Everything about them was totally unrecognisable in my life — including their target audience.

I rarely pick up a women’s magazine now, my mindset has changed from that of a child. Thankfully.

The things I once believed to be a total dream, I now understand are problematically unattainable. From the airbrushed models all the way to the middle-class stories told — these publications are not made for me, or by women like me.

Slowly, I’ve realised that this is the case for the majority of publications and broadcasts. They are run by the upper classes, for the upper classes.

Whether this is from The Economist publishing an article on the pandemic placing strain on private schools under a “class struggle” headline, or broadcasters allowing their reporters to follow desperate refugees like it’s a spectator sport.

Whether it’s intentional or not, people like me are looked down upon in journalism. I’m a working-class woman, with a northern accent, and no desire to turn my back on my roots. From a young age, I have been taught that I will always come second.

Journalism, in particular, has not served my demographic well. From being told that I “have the face but not the voice” for broadcast, and being offered lessons into how to get a posher accent. Any working-class, northern woman who manages to make their way onto a University course, from their own hard work and grit, is still unfairly treated during and after studies.

Unpaid internships, classism, and sexism work overtime to keep many working-class women locked out from journalism. The result is classist, sexist newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts. This has to change.

Over the last few years, journalism has changed drastically. Technological advancement has made way for new techniques which have never been seen before. Why, then, has the classist, sexist aspect of journalism not changed at all.

NCTJ found that only 3% of new journalists derived from a background of parents with “unskilled” jobs, (which have conveniently been called “key workers” during a pandemic.) Likewise, only one-third of newsrooms are female — a number which decreases when you consider women of colour. When, despite all the odds, working-class women enter into the industry, they are often seen as “less able” as their richer, male counterparts.

In an industry which is supposed to be more democratic than ever, how can we expect impartial reporting from such a large divide?

Bluntly put, a degree is expensive — not only for the actual course and accommodation but student-life is notoriously hard, especially for those with no financial safety net.

Student journalists are expected to fork out thousands for unpaid internships, too. Something which is completely incomprehensible for the majority of those without support.

Ironically, NCTJ (an accreditation which all aspiring journalists must have), parade an inclusive opportunity message across their platforms. However, the cost of their courses can amount over £700. These very costs easily price out lower class people.

Many working-class women have an insight into the world, that others do not. They show a desirable journalistic potential — one to better the world and bring attention to important issues. However, they have socio-economic hurdles to keep jumping over, which drowns their voices out in a sea of upper-class unpaid interns. It’s exhausting.

These people are the ones that would speak up about the injustice of harassing refugees in a dinghy. They would explain how you cannot call an article focusing on private schools, a “class struggle”. Ultimately, they would offer a unique insight into what people would see as out-of-touch, or offensive. They just aren’t given a chance.

In an industry which is ironically supposed to report on these kinds of injustices, this blatant issue remains unheard.

With more working-class women in newsrooms, there will be a more diverse range of voices and experiences — inevitability leading to a more democratic industry, inclusive to the people — for the people.

Feminist, anti-capitalist columnist and journalist. katieanderton.com

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