It’s Not About What You Know, It’s About Who You Know
So far in my career in journalism, I’ve not encountered any major problems. Everyone that I’ve spoken to has been lovely and enthusiastic and welcoming me with incredible opportunities (shout-out to LeftLion!). I’ve loved every bit of it.
I’ve always been aware that there is unfairness in the industry. BAME journalists have a completely different set of issues that absolutely need stamping out, and we need more of them writing the important stories and appearing on shows. But this is about class discrimination, and it’s a hurdle I’ve been wrestling with in my head the past couple of days. I’ve really been struggling to get my head around it emotionally, and I often find the best remedy for that is writing.
According to a study from 2014, over half the UK’s leading news journalists come from private schools. Under half also attended Oxbridge universities. According to the same study, one in four tabloid columnists attended Oxbridge and 49 per cent went to a Russell Group university. I remember reading this a little while back and being a bit shocked, but I guessed it made sense. In journalism a lot of is not about what you know, it’s about who you know. Or who you are.
Just to recap, I’m a student at Nottingham Trent University, studying Journalism. I’m also the Editor-in-Chief of the student magazine Platform, for which I’ve won a Student Publication Awards for Outstanding Commitment for, as well as being shortlisted for Best News Story. I’ve also done a heck of a lot of work experience because I’m a big believer in working hard, and I just love learning about the industry and being immersed in it.
Recently I entered a student journalism competition, and I wasn’t shortlisted for it. Which is okay, as someone is always going to be better than me. Not in a degrading way, but that’s just life. I looked at who had been shortlisted, and all of them attended Russell Group universities, two of them from Oxford. Just to clarify, I’m not saying they were chosen because of their universities. But naturally, as a journalist and a generally nosey person, I looked into the people more. I’m going to disregard the fact that two of those were editors of The Tab, because you can make of that what you will.
What I was more frustrated about was the two Oxford students. They both had done a lot of work experience. More news stories than me, which explains why they were shortlisted. But the places that they’d done the experience at… The Guardian, The Times, Reuters, Vice… As a student journalist, I know how hard it is to get work experience anywhere, let alone at national publications that won’t touch just any random person. It is about who you know, and I do feel like their connections from having that kind of education enabled them to secure those placements.
Most people can’t compete with that upper-class hand. It’s upset me quite a bit that I can be doing everything that I’m doing, and yet in the real world, there will be people like that that will be deemed better because of what they’ve done with their connections, and not what they’ve done working from scratch. It is disappointing it’s still so prevalent in the journalism industry when you have so many diverse people striving to make their voices heard and other people’s voices heard.
I am so pleased to be proof that you can work hard in the journalism industry and you can gain success. I’m really grateful for everything that I’ve been given on my plate, not my silver plate. It makes it taste a lot sweeter when I’m given opportunities because of me.