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Spotlight on JJ Anisiøbi, Deputy Digital Content Director at OK! online

‘In my 16 years in the industry I have gone from intern to Deputy Director, but my mates who work in sales and recruitment have been earning four times my salary for a while. I became a journalist because I wanted to write about my interests – now I want to use my position to help more people like me get into this industry,’ says JJ Anisiøbi, who has recently taken on the Deputy Digital Content Director role at OK! online.

Read on for JJ’s long-route into journalism, why it’s really worth it if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and the need to keep shaking up the makeup of newsrooms.  

Congratulations on the new role! What are you most looking forward to getting stuck into?  

I am most looking forward to growing our team and our audience with our exclusive content and specialist writers. We have a great core team of passionate writers and journalists who love giving our readers what they want – celebrity news first and insider information.

What do you love most about working at OK! online?

The thing I love most is the diversity of my team. Having worked at a number of other nationals I’ve seen the lack of diversity first-hand in many newsrooms, but OK! online is different. And on top of that, the whole team feels more like a family than a bunch of co-workers. I also love the opportunities and experiences I have because of OK! online. I’ve been on amazing press trips, I’ve had dinners with my childhood idols and rubbed shoulders with stars at the Oscar, BAFTA and BRIT Award parties.

What led you to choose a career in journalism?

I had always wanted to be a journalist, but it was a difficult career to get into. I definitely was not one of those people who could afford to do endless work experience schemes and not get paid, so I would work as much as possible to get cash and then do work experience every so often for a couple weeks at a time. I started in music journalism and then moved into fashion and did styling for a while until I got my NCTJ and then trained properly. After doing local news I got into showbiz and stayed mainly in that field, with the odd bit of lifestyle, too.

You’ve had experience consulting for PR companies – what piece of advice do you wish all PRs would take on for dealing with the media?

Know who you’re pitching to. There’s no point sending our showbiz journos press releases about ‘influencers’ when we don’t write about influencers. Know your publications and know when you’re flogging a dead horse.

How has your work changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Since the outbreak we have been working remotely and, to be honest, I prefer it. Working from home means I can spend more time with my family and, of course, not have to commute. All our meetings are done via Zoom and we changed our workflow to accommodate working from home. I feel like our communication has gotten better because we need to speak more than ever before. 

Are there any lessons you’ve learned from those changes that you’ll be taking forward?

I think the thing I’ve learned the most is to be as clear as possible with people so things aren’t missed or confused. I’ll certainly be making sure I’m clear when we eventually go back to the office.

The media has a reputation for being overwhelmingly middle-class, white and privileged what needs to be done in the industry to ensure editorial teams reflect their readerships?

The media is overwhelmingly middle-class, white and privileged, but I’m not sure it’s a case of editorial teams having to reflect their readership. I’m a 35-year-old straight Black male who has been writing for mainly white female audiences aged 21-40 for the last 15 years – so I’m not reflective of the audiences I write for. However, the industry, as a whole, is overwhelmingly white and full of privileged white people – and that needs to change. I have friends who are from working class backgrounds and are Black or Asian and are in management roles, like Claire Rutter at and Lucy Buckland at Mirror Online. Then I have my own line-manager, Kelby McNally, who like me is from a working-class background and is Digital Content Director at OK!

We are slowly changing the makeup of the newsrooms but we need a lot more change than we currently have. Hopefully the more Black people, the more working class people and the more people of colour we get in management roles will help us hire more people from those backgrounds instead of the same pool of talent we’ve been mining from in the past. Generally, the managers hire the same freelancers again and again and aren’t looking for diverse talent, so we’ve had the same gatekeepers letting in the same people. This has to change.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given during your career?

Best advice I got was from Tom Bryant and Chris Bucktin at the Daily Mirror when they told me as an intern to go and study for my NCTJ. When I was interning for them it became apparent that my writing wasn’t good enough and I needed to learn more. After doing that qualification, I improved ten times over as a journalist. You can generally tell from someone’s writing and their understanding of law who has or hasn’t done the NCTJ. In showbiz journalism it’s a qualification you really need to have because there are often so many risks of defamation.

Favourite stories OK! Online have covered this year?

OK! have covered lots of stories, but something that I’m proud of is our inclusion and support of Black Lives Matter and Pride. I saw one journalist, Jasmine Martin-Lord, on Instagram explaining how she’d pitched an article to a well-known weekly magazine about women of colour not being represented in the workplace and they rejected it with a really rubbish email reply. This was like three weeks before George Floyd ignited the world to take notice finally. Then two weeks after George Floyd’s death the same publication was on social media saying they support BLM and Black women and how important it is, which to me is just fraudulent. They don’t care about Black people and they made that clear when they told Jasmine that her work wasn’t for them. And so many publications are the same; virtue signalling. They care more about captions on the ‘Gram than they do about taking action to level the playing field. So OK! online commissioned Jasmine to write her piece for us because we actually do care and it’s not just about saying it – we do it. That is my favourite article ever for OK! online. 

My other fave is one we commissioned Steph and Julie from Afro Leads to write about Black businesses to support on Black Pound Day. Steph Amor and Julia Duodu are sisters who dedicate their time to shouting out and promoting Black culture and people as a means to provide positive reflection and representation of Black British culture. I don’t know how they find the time to do it all but I’m so happy we met and that OK! online can support them.

Journalism can be a difficult industry to break into, and stay in, in 2020 – would you recommend a career in the media to people graduating now?

I would recommend journalism if they have a passion for it, not if they’re doing it for recognition and a secure career. In my 16 years in the industry I have gone from intern to Deputy Director, but my mates who work in sales and recruitment have been earning four times my salary for a while. I became a journalist because I wanted to write about my interests – fashion and music – and now I want to use my position to help more people like me get into this industry. Print journalism is on the decline and digital journalism is hard to monetise. So graduates need to think long and hard about what they really want.

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