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February 7, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:54am

Senior editor at Daily Mail admits ‘we need to do more’ to improve newsroom diversity

By Charlotte Tobitt

A Daily Mail executive editor has said fewer than one in ten editorial staff at the title are from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

Ben Taylor has said the newsroom is “not as diverse as we’d like it to be” but is improving amid an industry push for greater representation.

The Mail runs a scholarship for aspiring journalists from a BAME background named after Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager who was stabbed to death in a racially-motivated attack in 1993.

The newspaper’s relationship with Stephen’s mother, Baroness Lawrence (pictured, second left), began when it campaigned to bring the 18-year-old’s killers to justice.

Asked how diverse the Mail newsroom is at the moment, Taylor told the Today programme: “Not as diverse as we’d like it to be, to be blunt. It’s pretty low. I’d say lower than ten per cent, but it’s improving.

“We need to do more, as does the entire media industry.

“It is wrong, it is unfair, but also it is just simply ridiculous that there aren’t enough people being represented in the media when we are writing about those communities every single day of the week.”

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The National Council for the Training of Journalists’ latest Diversity in Journalism report from 2017 found that around 94 per cent of journalists are white compared to 91 per cent of the UK workforce.

But it said the “lack of diversity in journalism is less positive than even this would suggest” as the fact many titles are based in London, the south east or other urban centres where there are more BAME communities “suggests that they are significantly under-represented in the media”.

The 2011 census suggested that 60 per cent of the London population was white, 19 per cent was Asian/Asian British and 13 per cent was black.

The Mail’s Stephen Lawrence Scholarship has been running since 2015 and has now taken on seven scholars, including a son of Somalian refugees, Kamal Sultan (pictured far left), and Kumail Jaffer, a Muslim man who decided to become a journalist to provide a voice for his community.

One of its most successful participants so far is Courtney Bartlett (pictured, far right), who was recently promoted to night news editor at the Mail.

The publisher pays for the trainees to attend either News Associates or City University before they join the paper on a trainee programme that includes four months on regional daily titles or the Scottish or Irish Daily Mail.

Asked why the scheme is necessary, Taylor said: “We’ve had problems with recruiting all young journalists over the last ten years.

“One of the reasons is the astonishing cost of living in London and the other is the decline of local newspapers which used to act as a conveyor belt for all the national titles.

“But we had a particular problem with black and ethnic minority representation. It’s completely true to say.

“They were in a tiny number in the newsroom and the editor at the time [Paul Dacre] and the other people on the board and senior journalists decided that enough was enough.

“We have a historical link obviously with the Stephen Lawrence case which is well documented and it seemed an excellent idea to link a scholarship programme for young aspiring BAME students with Stephen’s name.”

Taylor also admitted some of the Daily Mail’s past coverage, such as the 2015 front page “Migrants: How many more can we take?” and another with a picture of inhabitants of the Calais “jungle” saying “Next stop UK”, could have played a part in putting BAME journalists off working for it.

Daily Mail front page: “Migrants: How many more can we take?”

“That’s a fair point,” he said. “We’ve had to learn from some of the criticism we’ve received over the years.

“We’re always pleased to receive constructive criticsm, we’re learning all the time and evolving as a newspaper. I as a senior editor there am always willing to take on board what people say.”

He added that journalists and production staff from different backgrounds are encouraged to point out issues they spot with headlines or other coverage.

“I think it’s been a very good evolution over the past three or four years.”

The Daily Mail also works with the NCTJ’s Journalism Diversity Fund to provide financial support and mentorship from its journalists. Its sports desk has four BAME reporters, which it claims is more than any other UK paper.

The Sun has recently launched its own trainee scheme for aspiring journalists “from all walks of life” after Tony Gallagher, its outgoing editor, called for increased diversity in newsrooms to reflect the UK population.

Picture: News Associates

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