The media doesn’t take enough chances on people straight out of school or from disadvantaged backgrounds, the editor of The Sun newspaper has said.
Tony Gallagher also said too many doors into the media were shut to those who hadn’t taken a degree in journalism.
The tabloid boss made the comments in a speech at PR firm MHP’s 30 to Watch: Young Journalists Awards last night.
Speaking about his “very optimistic” view of the media industry, Gallagher said: “Our reach is greater than ever. We’re being read and watched by more people than ever.
“However I do fear we might not thrive if our newsrooms don’t start looking more like our readers.
“There are still too many doors in the media shut to people who haven’t taken the tried and tested route of a degree with a post-graduate diploma or a masters degree.”
He recognised that several of those nominated for the MHP Awards would have taken that route and said his comments were “no criticism” of them.
But he added: “We as an industry still don’t take enough chances on people straight out of school or people from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t have the luxury of taking unpaid internships and seeing if they can cope in a newsroom.
“That’s not just a simple box-ticking exercise. A diverse newsroom with people from myriad backgrounds makes all of us better journalists.”
Gallagher went on to praise the Windrush scandal story unveiled by Guardian journalist Amelia Gentleman before saying he wondered if newsrooms might have spotted it sooner were they staffed by the children of Windrush immigrants.
In his speech, a video of which was obtained by Press Gazette, Gallagher also asked: “Can we really claim we’re in the business of public interest journalism if we don’t look more like the public that we write for?”
His push for greater newsroom diversity comes six months after Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright called for “greater ethnic and social diversity” in newsrooms at the Society of Editors conference.
A Sutton Trust study from 2016 found that 51 per cent of the UK’s top 100 journalists went to private school – more than seven times the country’s average.
It also found that 54 per cent of them had attended Oxford or Cambridge University compared to less than 1 per cent of the general population.
Picture: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth