22nd March 2023
By Wendy Collinson

Press Release: EJN to publish report on structural racism in UK newsrooms


Press Release – 22nd March 2023


The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) will publish its report, “Structural racism in UK newsrooms”, on 28th March 2023, as part of a project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust to identify and begin to address structural racism in UK journalism. 

The report, written by Dr Aida Al-Kaisy and based on 27 in-depth interviews with Black journalists and stakeholders who have or are currently working in national mainstream media newsrooms across print, online and broadcast media, provides an overview of the challenges that Black journalists are facing in the British news media. 

Although the proportion of Black African and Caribbean journalists has increased in recent years, and there has been a heightened sense of the possibility for change since 2020 with the increased momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, Black journalists interviewed confirmed that newsroom processes continued to be exclusionary and racism was commonplace.

The study combined a number of methods for data collection. A piece of discourse analysis with support from City University Department of Journalism was undertaken to examine the coverage of race and racism in the UK news. The initial objective of the discourse analysis was to provide data which could help to inform the interviews conducted for the research report. The EJN established a relationship with the Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) which has produced a comprehensive research report which examines the British media’s reporting of Islam and Muslims. The EJN partnered with the CfMM to reproduce their methodology of monitoring and analysis of the British media using key words, and metrics such as association with negative aspects or behaviour, misrepresentation, generalisations, lack of due prominence to voice or identity, and issues with imagery or headlines.

Interviews were then conducted with Black African and Caribbean journalists from across print, online and broadcast media. Interviews were chosen to reflect gender, age, class, and geographical diversity. In total, the EJN were able to conduct semi-structured interviews with 21 people. The focus was on assessing the key challenges that they faced based on their recall of their experiences in the newsroom. In addition, interviews were also conducted with 6 additional Black media experts, academics and journalists.

The report’s findings include: 

  • Traditional approaches to “diversity and inclusion” are not working in UK news media because they ignore the wider environment where institutional racism is becoming so deeply embedded that it is often unseen and unheard.
If they don’t see us as people, how can they tell our stories?
  • Racial stereotypes of Black people are informing shared newsroom attitudes towards Black journalists. Black journalists report feeling, at best, pigeonholed into covering certain topics solely on the basis of their visual identity. At worst, there is a shared experience of trauma associated with racist attitudes which is perpetuating a culture of fear amongst many Black journalists. 
When you walk into a newsroom it is like apartheid. You are instantly categorised by the colour of your skin.
  • The report argues that further news reporting on racism and structural racism is one way to draw public attention to the problem. Reporting on the lack of official responses to the situation as well as the culture of impunity that exists will encourage greater accountability from those in positions of power.
Once you have more people and more people who are just out there being good journalists, the less likely people are going to just assume that you were there to tick some box or as part of a scheme.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Senior leadership needs to change its racial make-up in order to reflect the improvements in diversity at entry level and better reflect the ethnic make-up of the wider UK society. 
  • Further work at an organisational level to incentivise media managers to recruit and promote Black journalists to management positions and also report on a wider range of topics is essential to complement existing diversity programmes. 
  • The positions of community affairs and race correspondents need to be more widespread and sustained throughout the journalism profession.
  • Greater transparency in decision-making in all aspects of the news-making process is required. 

Marcus Ryder MBE, Head of External Consultancies at the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University, said:

News organisations across the UK cannot report accurately, impartially and objectively on the world untril racism in their own newsrooms is addressed. While this in-depth report should concern everyone working in the news industry, the findings have repercussions on how democracy in our society works, which stories are heard, and most importantly who holds power to account. Dr Al-Kaisy’s research once again demonstrates the need for the news industry at all levels to review their working practices as a matter of priority, address the scourge of institutional racism and establish better representation.

Joseph Harker, Senior Editor (Diversity and Development) at The Guardian, in his foreword to the report wrote:

This report should be about hope, achievement, opportunities, success. Instead, this analysis of the experiences of Black people in journalism has heard mostly of exclusion, marginalisation and stagnation. It’s a shocking expose ont he lack of progress on diversity in the media profession – despite the fact we’ve known about institutional racism for over 20 years, and that all organisations claim to be against discrimination.

Aida Al-Kaisy, the author of “Structural racism in UK newsrooms”, said:

It is my hope that with the report, senior media managers and newsrooms will begin to fully realise the significance of structural racism and its impact on both the working lives of journalists as well as the content of the news they produce.

The EJN’s Chair of Trustees, Christopher Hird said:

The Ethical Journalism Network is pleased to publish this important report. The EJN exists to promote high standards in journalism and to support journalists in achieving these. This report is a stark reminder that the British news media is not generally providing the environment and support which Black journalists need to be able to be themselves and do their job. the report is a sobering read and as Joseph Harker, Senior Editor (Diversity and Development) at the Guardian says in his forward to the report, “we must learn the lessons and act.”.

The report will be officially launched next Monday with a panel discussion hosted by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity and the Film and TV Charity. Chaired by Marcus Ryder, the panelists will include Keme Nzerem (News anchor/presenter at Channel 4 News and EJN trustee), Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (Managing Editor, Skin Deep), Rozina Breen (CEO of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism) and Dr Aida Al-Kaisy (author of the report).

About the Ethical Journalism Network

The Ethical Journalism Network is founded on the underlying belief that ethics and respect for human rights, particularly freedom of expression, are core elements of democracy. The EJN aims to strengthen the craft of journalism and to promote for the public benefit high ethical standards in media through education, training and the publication of useful research. We are a registered UK charity and are supervised by a Board of Trustees and an international network of advisors. 

Please contact [email protected] with all press enquiries.


Publication design by Mary Schrider, cover image © by RyanJLane/iStock