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Improving diversity in journalism through recruitment processes

Recruitment practices

The following piece features in the ResponseSource Diversity in Journalism white paper, which can be downloaded here, and comes from Leon Mann, the founder of Black Collective of Media in Sport.

‘We don’t get the applications’ is not an excuse – the media needs to represent the industry it reports on. African and Caribbean people are significantly underrepresented in the sports media despite these communities’ disproportionate interest and achievement on the field of play. It’s estimated that up to 30% of professional footballers in the English professional leagues are black, while professional boxing and athletics boast a high percentage of black athletes. Many other communities are under-represented – sports media is largely middle class, women are too often pigeonholed into certain roles, while the British Asian community is almost non-existent in sports media. There is coverage of disability sport, but too often disabled talent is restricted to working on Paralympic sport only. It’s up to the industry to invest in new ways of finding the talent that undoubtably exists in a wide range of communities.

Bring your recruitment process to the candidates

Use social media to advertise jobs and allow candidates to be more creative in an electronic application form – attaching YouTube clips or online links; students and aspiring journalists are reading different content to your 50-year-old media executives. The traditional long application form can marginalise people who don’t already have connections and experience in the media industry, significantly impacting your pool of potential recruits.

Reach out more effectively

Build partnerships with the huge range of community media outlets that already exist, and with universities and training colleges known for a diverse student base. If you need to, employ an HR expert who understands diversity to advise on how to target underrepresented groups, and make sure your recruitment panel is diverse in itself in order to identify the strongest candidates. Blind CVs (blanking out names and demographics) can remove unconscious bias and is proven to increase diversity in interview opportunities and employment.

Provide networking opportunities

Get your industry’s recruiters out networking by working with other organisations. Face to face contact helps candidates to build relationships and challenges stereotypes on both sides. Think ahead by connecting with schools and other younger age groups by showcasing career paths available in sports media, and, within your organisation, look for opportunities for effective mentorship. Minority employees may face additional challenges and you need to constantly nurture and develop the talent you get through the door.

Think twice about internal recruitment

Challenge the way things have always been done, even if it means standing up to unions and internal directives – a policy of recruitment and promotion from within risks perpetuating a non-diverse pool of candidates. Shout about the schemes and opportunities you offer to make sure minority candidates know that positions are not just open to them but that you are actively looking for them to apply.

Look hard at who are in your top positions

When you’re head-hunting for top positions think about the message your leaders give to potential employees. Is there a way you can reach a wider and more diverse pool of candidates for senior roles? Again, this is where external HR expertise can help. Greater diversity among key decision makers will provide your organisation with better understanding, inform all areas from recruitment to storylines and benefit the business as a whole.

Demonstrate that diversity is an investment

A more inclusive workforce is money well spent. Monocultural workforces stifle debate and discussion, and can perpetuate stereotypes. As media outlets need to discover and improve on new revenue streams and reach a global audience, diverse voices and expertise help allow you to provide credible expert reporting on the sportsmen and sportswomen you cover.

BCOMS (Black Collective of Media in Sport) is a networking, support and campaigning organisation for Africans & Caribbeans in the UK sports media. Founded by film maker, consultant and former broadcast journalist Leon Mann, it is volunteer run and not funded. Its members and supporters are committed to helping the sports industry evolve and activities include providing expertise and consultancy, organising masterclasses and networking events, bringing aspiring journalists and mentors together, and connecting media organisations diversity expertise. Its biannual conference, The D Word, provides a forum for debate but also collates the discussions in to practical positive solutions, advice and recommendations to help the sports media to take bold steps towards becoming a more diverse industry. News outlets, broadcasters and publishers are encouraged to get in touch with for a confidential chat about how they could work together. See for more information about opportunities, research and future events or connect with them on Twitter @bcomstweet.

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