The following piece features in the ResponseSource Diversity in Journalism white paper, which can be downloaded here, and comes from Jon Holmes, senior home page editor at Sky Sports, and founder of Sports Media LGBT+.
The suggestion that both our work and our workplaces are not
as inclusive as we imagine should be a troubling thought for editors and
Our daily lives bring us into contact with people of all
backgrounds, faiths, experiences and communities. However, the focus of our
reporting and the content we produce do not always reflect this. Representation
often requires a ‘see the difference, be the difference’ mindset – and as we
look around our newsrooms, our colleagues who are LGBT+ don’t fit readily into
a distinct group.
These colleagues are even less likely to be vocal about this
part of who they are. Research by YouGov for the equality charity Stonewall’s
2018 LGBT in Britain: Work Report found more than a third of staff in the
UK who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans have hidden their identity due to fear of
Some might consider the media industry to be further ahead
than other sectors on LGBT+ inclusion but reputation is not enough to deliver
representation. Sky, the company I work for, is one of only three from leisure,
arts and media to feature on Stonewall’s
2020 Top 100 Most Inclusive Employers list. Determining factors include the
commitment of senior leadership to engaging with LGBT+ staff and customers;
network groups and allies programmes; the championing of role models; and
having comprehensive policies, such as to tackle discrimination and for those
transitioning at work.
Taking practical steps to create an LGBT+-inclusive culture
empowers all in the workforce – whatever their sexual orientation or gender
identity – to raise their own voices and amplify those of others. When Sky
Sports signed up to be the media partner on Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign
for LGBT+ inclusion in sport in 2016, I felt personally appreciated and
accepted. Since then, I have co-ordinated a collective effort to produce content that recognises the
challenges faced by LGBT+ athletes, coaches and administrators, from grassroots
to the elite, and celebrates their achievements.
Within a year, I had founded a network called Sports Media LGBT+, with a vision to
help build a stronger sense of community in our own industry and across sport.
We conducted our own
workplace survey, asking LGBT+ people in sports media whether they were out
at work – almost half responded ‘no’ or ‘only to close friends’. A similar
percentage (45.2%) of all those surveyed, whether LGBT+ or not, said they had
witnessed or been subjected to anti-LGBT language or behaviour in the preceding
two years. Our friends at BCOMS, a major inspiration, then gave us the
opportunity to share our findings with the wider industry through their D Word
event and guide.
Coming out is widely considered to be a brave act for LGBT+
people, even more so in certain sports, with all their traditions and
segregations. But standing up us an ally requires courage too: will my motives
be questioned? What if I get some of the terminology wrong? How can I show I’m
not just ‘ticking boxes’ on diversity?
Firstly, don’t worry so much, good intentions are easy to
spot and you’ll be looked upon with ‘kind eyes’. Secondly, there are plenty of
resources out there to show you the way forward. Sports Media LGBT+ has
produced its own called ‘Rainbow
Ready’, written to assist anyone in a media-related role who’s responsible
for communicating inclusion or is producing content about LGBT+ people. Whether
you’re a novice or already past that stage, there’s a suggested strategy to
follow plus practical reporting guidelines, potential pitfalls to avoid, and
the kind of reactions you can expect.
A pathway towards pride is all about confidence, so it’s
understandable to have a degree of trepidation when taking progressive steps.
It’s never too late to start – invite LGBT+ people in and listen to them, show
allies are valued, and encourage reporting that reflects the lived experiences
of those in the community. The further you walk down this road, the greater the
representation you’ll see walking alongside you.
Sports Media LGBT+ is a network group and consultancy that advocates for inclusion in both the sports media and across sport in general. It was launched in November 2017 by Jon Holmes, Senior Home Page Editor at Sky Sports. The group aims to use the power of media and journalism to advocate for ‘athletes, coaches, officials, administrators and all others involved in sport who are LGBT+, by amplifying their voices in order to highlight the benefits of “being yourself” and how that inspires others’. To find out more about the networking, advocacy, consultancy and expertise Sports Media LGBT+ offers see sportsmedialgbt.com or connect on Twitter @SportsMediaLGBT or with Jon Holmes directly on @jonboy79.