The Guardian’s Weekend editor has praised diverse London-based online magazine Gal-dem as “the agents of change we need” ahead of the team’s takeover of the magazine on Saturday.
Gal-dem, staffed by people of colour, is working on getting more diversity into the mainstream media and in UK newsrooms.
According to figures from a Reuters Institute survey carried out in 2016, there is still some way to go before newsrooms more aptly reflect the make-up of the wider UK population.
It found the journalism industry to be 94 per cent white, compared with 87 per cent of the UK population (2011 census figures), and 55 per cent male dominated.
Polling 700 UK journalists, the research found that 2.5 per cent of British journalists are Asian, versus 6.9 per cent of the UK population, and 0.2 per cent are black, compared with 3 per cent of the population.
Only 0.4 per cent of British journalists identify as Muslim, compared to 4.8 per cent in the UK.
“It’s appalling,” Gal-dem deputy editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff told Press Gazette. “There really needs to be more diversity and not just white, British people in UK newsrooms.”
Gal-dem is the brainchild of 23-year-old Bristol University student Liv Little (pictured second from left). It launched online in 2015 with a team of 60 university students – all women.
“We come from different backgrounds, we wanted a name that represented that,” says Brinkhurst-Cuff (pictured third from left).
“We did get a lot of people saying to us ‘you won’t get far with a name like that’ and ‘people won’t take you seriously’, but we’ve clearly done well.
“Since we launched, we’ve only really received positive feedback, but you do get a couple of people who say the odd things, but it’s mostly been good.”
Gal-dem now has a team of 17 people and earlier this year moved into an office in Peckham, south London, which is funded on a supported business scheme.
In September 2016 it launched a magazine that is published once a year.
Says Brinkhurst-Cuff: “Gal-dem might be a magazine written and produced by women of colour and non-binary people of colour – but it’s not just aimed at one group of people, it’s for everyone.”
The magazine has featured a host of famous faces, from US TV superstar Oprah Winfrey, actress Lupita Nyong’o and musicians Corinne Bailey Rae and Ray BLK.
Discussing the future of Gal-dem, Brinkhurt-Cuff says: “Our mission going forward is to push for more intersectionality when and where we can, continue to raise the voices of women of colour and non-binary people of colour and develop our business plan.”
With the hope of tackling diversity at some of the UK’s national newspapers, Gal-dem has joined forces with The Guardian and will take over Saturday’s Weekend magazine with work exclusively by women and non-binary people of colour.
Every page of Weekend, out 11 August, will include articles that reveal Gal-dem’s mission to bring the work of underrepresented individuals into the mainstream media.
It will feature content from Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott on her work-life balance, a dedicated Q&A column by Humans actress Gemma Chan, and author and vlogger Dina Torkia on her life in beauty, with artwork by Rosaline Shahnavaz and Michelle Marshall.
Guardian Weekend editor Melissa Denes (pictured second from right) said: “This has been such a fun and inspiring issue to work on, with a team of truly impressive young editors, writers and creatives.
“On Weekend, we value diversity when it comes to the people we interview, who write and work for us, who are voices in our features, and who appear in our photoshoots.
“But Gal-dem’s takeover has moved the dial in a really interesting way and proved we have further to go when it comes to our bylines.
“I am white, but my daughters are not, and in a media (and political) landscape which features too few girls and women who look like them, Gal-dem are the agents of change we need.”
Liv Little, Gal-dem founder and editor-in-chief, said: “If someone had told us when we started Gal-dem, almost three years ago, that we’d have the opportunity to take over the Guardian Weekend we would have laughed.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for both our teams to learn from each other.
“The journalistic integrity of The Guardian has been something we’ve been massively inspired by, and having the chance to commission an entire team of women and non-binary people of colour to produce this issue has been overwhelming.”
Women of colour are also dominating the covers of the September editions, out this month, of many American magazines including Vogue, Porter, and Elle.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Brinkhurt-Cuff tells Press Gazette.
“It’s so nice to see all the covers and it’s that sort of representation that is something I would have wanted to see as a little girl growing up, so it’s a positive move forward.”