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80 per cent of journalists now come from higher class backgrounds

The NCTJ has found that journalists are almost twice as likely as the general population to come from advantaged backgrounds

A new report from the National Council for the Training of Journalism (NCTJ) has found that some 80 per cent of journalists come from professional and upper-class backgrounds, an increase up from 72 per cent in 2016. According to the data, 84 per cent of reporters and 73 per cent of editors come from a higher class background.

The survey determined social class by asking participants the job of the highest earner in their household when they were aged 14, and dividing these jobs into different categories indicative of social class. ‘Upper class’ job titles included managers and directors, while ‘lower and middle class’ positions included service jobs and factory workers. According to UK Government statistics, only 42 per cent of the general workforce come from a higher class background, meaning that working-class people are heavily underrepresented in the news industry and that journalists were almost twice as likely as the general population to come from advantaged backgrounds.

Social class was the only factor surveyed where the journalism industry is getting increasingly unequal over time – thankfully, other areas such as diversity among race and gender have improved in recent years.

Speaking at a launch event for the report, Mike Hill, director of the MA News programme at Cardiff University, explained why it’s become increasingly difficult for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into journalism. “My local library is shut, my old school is in special measures, there isn’t the funding from employers to send people on training courses, people are spooked by the £10,000 figure to pay for postgraduate journalism training,” he said. “Then there’s the lack of cash, there being no network – I didn’t know anyone who went to university, let alone who was a journalist – and then there’s the imposter syndrome.”

Unfortunately, journalism is not the only industry where this is an issue and it’s been historically difficult for people from working-class backgrounds to get into the creative industries. According to the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, people from privileged backgrounds are twice as likely to be employed in the creative industries as those from working-class backgrounds and only 28 per cent of those working in film, TV, video and photography are from working-class backgrounds.

Thankfully, there are some organisations which are seeking to change this. Creative Access is a leading diversity, equity and inclusion organisation which provides support and opportunities to talent from communities underrepresented in the creative industries in the UK; Creative Future organisation aims to nurture the talent of underrepresented artists and writers in the UK arts sector; and Ideas Foundation seeks to help diversify the creative, tech, and communications industries.