Three aspiring Scottish journalists are getting a significant helping hand in their bid to access a full-time career in the media, thanks to a fellowship award scheme run by the industry access organisation, Journo Resources. Just 12 youngsters were chosen from close on 400 applicants and the successful Scottish trio are Heather Graham from Dumbarton, who is additionally being sponsored by the Society of Editors; Marco Marcelline from Glasgow, who is being supported by The Printing Charity; and Grant Allan Nicol from Edinburgh, who has sponsorship from the Journalists' Charity.
This is Journo Resources' first fellowship award scheme in which it is supported by its partners – the Society of Editors, the Journalists' Charity, the Printing Charity and the Solutions Journalism Network – and it is specifically geared towards helping those youngsters taking their first tentative steps towards a media career in the midst of all the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus crisis. The two-month scheme offers one-to-one mentoring, workshops, CV reviews, and paid writing opportunities. The fellows also receive in-depth training on pitching, solutions journalism, social media, and job hunting skills – as well as the chance to produce at least one paid piece for the soon-to-be relaunched Journo Resources' advice section.
Jem Collins, the founding director and editor-in-chief of Journo Resources, explained to me: 'Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've heard from hundreds of young people, career changers, and freelance journalists – all of them worried about the impact the crisis will have on their future careers. During the past six months our team has tried our best to help as many people as we can – providing one-to-one advice, events and online resources. However, we wanted to do something more to help those who were taking their first steps into the journalism industry – hence the fellowship awards'.
Heather Graham, 21, who graduated with a first-class honours degree in journalism studies from Stirling University in June, says: 'I was so excited to join the fellowship award scheme. Breaking into this industry is hard enough – let alone in a pandemic. You know you're a graduate when you get more rejection emails than student discount emails. I have been reading the Journo Resources website for a few years now, so writing for them is the ideal starting point for my career. For my one paid piece as part of the fellowship scheme, I plan to write a feature on established journalists and how they got their first big break in the business. If this is you, please get in touch!
'I am additionally being sponsored by the Society of Editors and I have already found the society to be a great help in promoting myself and helping me network with journalists I wouldn't have met otherwise. At the moment, I have a few part-time jobs outwith journalism to keep the finances in check, as well as the odd freelance article now and again. I also launched my own website in June – www.notwhatyouthought.com
– where I interview people about their out-of-the-ordinary relationships. The aim is to challenge perspectives by showcasing different relationships. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I will get a solid job in a newsroom but right now I am concentrating on the fellowship award scheme and developing my freelancing skills'.
Problems posed by the coronavirus crisis have also been highlighted by Sky News anchorman, Mark Austin, who told the Daily Mail
about the difficulties being encountered by his daughter, Beatrice, who is 21. Explained Mark: 'Beatrice has done a masters in TV journalism at City University, London, and is looking at a jobs landscape that is unremittingly bleak. She is really struggling to get a job in journalism. This pandemic has made things really difficult for young people and my heart goes out them'.
BBC One Scotland has done a volte-face in just a matter of days on its decision to halt, or at least cut back on, live coverage of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's daily COVID-19 briefings. Instead, her briefings have been absorbed into a wider new 'briefing' programme from 12.15-1.00pm each weekday.
In view of the deepening coronavirus crisis, BBC Scotland would have now been broadcasting the FM's briefings regardless under its new policy of assessing their importance on a 'news value' criteria. It just so happened that new initiatives to tackle the deepening COVID-19 crisis, at both Scottish and UK Government levels, co-incided with the launch of the new BBC One Scotland programme format on 21 September.
The initial new format entailed cutting short live coverage of the First Minister answering media questions after her briefing sessions, and switching to the studio where political correspondent, Andrew Kerr, presented what he termed 'this briefing programme' segment in which he interviewed Professor Linda Bauld, of Edinburgh University, and Douglas Ross, MP, leader of the Scottish Conservatives. However, the BBC Scotland channel continued live coverage of the First Minister answering media questions.
The new format followed what was, on the face of it, a revised policy statement from BBC Scotland's director, Donalda MacKinnon, on 17 September. In an email to staff, she said there had never been any intention to stop coverage, declaring that 'other voices and perspectives' would now feature alongside the First Minister's daily briefings. Curiously, the email's content was carried within a news story on the BBC Scotland website. 'We've said now that we'll look at the briefings in the round,' explained Donalda MacKinnon, 'meaning we'll broadcast them live on TV when we are in a period of the pandemic when there is significant public information being shared, such as new measures being introduced and implemented; rising rates of cases; a three-weekly review update; or other public information'.
This announcement followed an awkward stand-off developing between the Scottish Government and BBC Scotland, when Nicola Sturgeon had appeared to reproach the corporation on its earlier decision, pointing out: 'What is broadcast on the BBC is a matter for the BBC but we are in unique circumstances and the ability for me and my colleagues to communicate directly with the public has never been more important than it is right now'. She emphasised that older people without internet access, and people with disabilities, found the briefings 'particularly important', adding: 'All I would ask is that they [the BBC] take all of that into account in the decisions that they make'.
There has been growing opposition to the TV coverage of the daily broadcasts from the SNP's political opponents who claim that the coverage is excessive and often strays into party politics. The Scottish Conservatives specifically allege that that at times the First Minister is using the briefings as a platform to criticise the UK Government.
A BBC Scotland spokesman has subsequently added to Donalda MacKinnon's announcement, saying: 'Our coverage of coronavirus and public health issues in Scotland will continue to incorporate a range of voices and perspectives, and this will be further enhanced as part of our ongoing coverage of the Scottish Government briefings. This will allow us to bring news and views from around Scotland and beyond, involving politicians from across the political spectrum, as well as commentators, analysts and other experts'.
New research by Women in Journalism (WiJ) highlights a lack of media diversity when it comes to both the journalists and experts featured in the UK's newspapers and on TV and radio prime time news and current affairs programmes. It also found that when black, Asian and minority ethnic expert guests were asked to appear on prime-time TV and radio news, it was very often only to support coverage related to race.
WiJ chair, Eleanor Mills, a former Sunday Times
editorial director, said that the findings showed a 'shocking' lack of media diversity. She stated: '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'.
The research report is based on a first-of-its-kind dataset comprising a week-long tally, from 13-19 July this year, of the gender and ethnicity of reporters, presenters, expert guests and anyone quoted on the front page of the UK's 11 biggest national newspapers and a variety of prime time news and current affairs programmes on TV and radio.
Key findings in relation to the print media found that the 11 newspaper titles failed to feature a single bylined black journalist during the week and just six of 174 bylines were a journalist of a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background – these were on the Daily Express
, Daily Star
, The Guardian
and the 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 a woman. (Daily and Sunday sister titles were counted together for the study). Out of 111 people quoted on the front pages, just 16% were women and only one was a black woman. The research also found that seven of the 11 newspapers did not feature a single BAME reporter on its front page during the entire week.
In broadcasting coverage, while prime time TV presenters tend to be relatively diverse, at around 30% from BAME backgrounds, only 12% of reporters are from BAME backgrounds. The research report can be read here