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September 16, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:35am

New research finds dearth of women and BAME voices on front pages and in prime time news coverage

By Charlotte Tobitt

The UK’s 11 biggest newspapers failed to feature a single bylined black journalist on their front pages across one week in July, according to new research.

Women in Journalism also discovered that just six of 174 bylines were for a journalist of BAME (black, Asian or minority ethnic) background – these were on the Daily Express, Daily Star, Guardian and Financial Times.

Meanwhile only one in four front-page bylines across the 11 papers went to women, despite the fact more than a third of UK national newspapers are now edited by women. (Daily and Sunday sister titles were counted together for this study).

The Daily Mail, Metro and Daily Star had no bylined female journalists between 13 and 19 July on the front page, according to the report, although the Mail uniquely among the three has featured a female front page byline every day so far this week.

Of 111 experts quoted across the front pages, just one was a black woman and 16% were women overall.

Women in Journalism chair Eleanor Mills, former Sunday Times editorial director, said: “The media becomes a distorting lens not a reflective mirror when the media teams who cover stories do not reflect the diverse make-up of our society. It is time for decisive change.”

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The week surveyed featured stories like the erection of a Black Lives Matter statue in Bristol to replace the one of slave trader Edward Colston that had been pulled down and a ruling that would allow ISIS bride Shamima Begum to return to the UK to appeal over her citizenship being revoked.

The Women in Journalism research also looked at on-air representation for prime time radio and TV news and current affairs programmes.

It found that BBC Two’s Newsnight failed to feature any non-white expert guests while Sky News’ 6pm bulletin did the worst for gender diversity with 81% male guests.

Although about 30% of primetime TV news presenters came from a BAME background, only 12% of reporters did so.

Women in Journalism graph showing diversity of TV news programming between 13-19 July 2020. Picture: Women in Journalism

Across primetime programming on BBC radio, LBC and Times Radio the report claimed that 68% of 816 expert guests featured were men.

And of 723 primetime radio reporter appearances across the radio news monitored, just four (0.6%) were black women.

Of the subject matter BAME expert guests on radio and TV were asked to talk about, the report said more than half were in the context of coverage either directly related to race or during coverage of black and BAME communities.

Amal Warsame, a 22-year-old journalist who helped lead the research, said she was “really shocked” by the scale of the lack of diversity despite already believing “the media was white”.

A previous study by Women in Journalism found that 25% of stories on national newspaper front pages between 5 June and 22 July 2017 were written by women.

And journalist Monisha Rajesh, for the New Statesman, took a look at front pages in 2014 and concluded there were “few ethnic minority writers covering broad topics”.

Women in Journalism reported hearing from a senior BAME writer who said: “Newspapers have shown no desire to change in the 20 years I have been in them because they don’t have to. No one holds them to account.”

None of the media organisations quizzed by Women in Journalism for the report shared any figures on their BAME staffing and contributor levels.

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