We are surrounded by news every day. When we wake up and log on to twitter, when we get on the bus and we receive a free copy of the metro, even when we walk around the City, with big bold headlines on a story about a recent crime or the government’s plans for us.
But when we consume the news do we ever wonder who produced it? How old are they? What ethnic background do they come from? If these are the questions that you ask yourself every time you interact with the news, then you know it’s time to decolonise the newsroom in the UK.
You may be wondering what I’m on about when I say decolonise the newsroom. I mean we need to restructure the newsrooms and we need to fight for more Black and Asian journalists to be hired. It is time we are represented in a better light. It is time for our voices to be heard. We are used to turning on the 6’clock news and being graced by a white presenter. We have become immune to the way we have been represented with headlines such as ‘Britain’s 40% surge in ethnic numbers’; causing public fear with hateful stories and false narratives.
We all witnessed the dreadful way that the Black Lives Matter movement was represented by mainstream news outlets: the false narrative of ‘angry black youth’s’ was dragged out throughout the movement. Moreover, the reason behind the movement was blurred out and replaced with newspaper headlines blaming the black community for the rise in coronavirus cases. Our voices didn’t even matter to them. There was also outrage at the fact that news outlets sent white photographers and camera men to cover the movement. These images and videos did not show the peaceful protest, they only showed the violence that occurred by a small group of people.
The news outlets have for years played a major role in the way the public treats ethnic minorities in the UK. They inject fear into the public with their interpretation of a story, continuing stereotypes that paint Muslims as terrorists and Black men as criminals.
We have seen various diversity schemes promising to train young ethnic journalist and include them in news making decisions. However, the press gazette has reported that there are a lot of black journalist trainees that don’t last in the industry due to racism and bullying in the newsroom. Most of them say that their editors don’t like their hairstyles or believe that they should sit in the back jobs such as producers since audience members won’t like that they are on the front of the camera. This shows that the diversity schemes in some newsrooms are just silence noise from the people who believe that the newsrooms do not represent the diversity we have in the UK.
The newsroom needs to be decolonised from the top. There is no point of news organisations hiring a bunch of black and Asian journalist just to tick a box so we can say they are trying their best to be 'diverse'. They need to work on their senior leadership team, as we want and need to see more black editors across all news platforms. That way we can have a diverse range of stories that are produced and shared with us.
Newsrooms need to have training for all journalists on covering sensitives stories on race and immigration, this may prevent us from having another case like the one on the reporter from the BBC who was called out for saying the N word on lives news. This way ethnic communities may feel comfortable sitting and talking to reporters on a daily basis. However, it can only happen if the newsroom owners are ready to get rid of their old ways of telling the news, and willing to diversify their team and stories.
We need change! Measures and boundaries have to be put in place. It's time to unpack the old foundation of colonialism used to create the newsrooms we know of today. News organisations need to listen to the cries of the public because we have had enough of our stories being misinterpreted and we are ready to break the stereotypes. When I turn on the 6’oclock news I want to see a Black or Asian presenter, Saying ‘good evening welcome to news at 6……’
It’s time to decolonise the news rooms!
Written by Chrissie Okorie