Broadcast journalism is a notoriously difficult profession to get into, and even once you’ve broken down the door, many find it tough to move up the ladder.
This is even worse for those who don’t come from the traditional journalistic bastions of private schools and Oxbridge – yet to better reflect our society, journalism needs to diversify – and I want to do my bit to make that happen.
In a recent blog I wrote how I’m proud to be a journalist; and unlike most journalists I’m also lucky enough to have a very large charity fund. My usual giving strategy focuses on financial issues but I thought it was time to do something within my chosen profession.
So I’ve agreed £24,000 spread over the next three years to fund the John Schofield Trust’s Young Journalist Mentee Scheme (future donations of course are based on it meeting targets).
The latest round of applications for the 2017/18 intake has just opened – apply here.
What does the mentee scheme do?
The idea is to match burgeoning talents from diverse backgrounds, who lack the network and contact book to succeed, with a volunteer roster of senior journalists who can help guide them.
Among those who’ve agreed to mentor this year are BBC economics editor Kamal Ahmed, CNN presenter Nina Dos Santos, Sky News editor (and my mate) Paul Harrison, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, ITV sports editor Steve Scott, Al Jazeera presenter Felicity Barr (another of my mates), Channel 5 health correspondent Catherine Jones, ABC international correspondent Hamish Macdonald and ITV Granada’s head of news Lucy West.
Here’s a quick note from one of last year’s mentors:
“I am a senior news editor, with more than 12 years’ on-air experience. My mentee is from the BBC. She is a producer who was keen to get on air, to report and one day present. We met once a month – a commitment we are keen both parties stick to. Meetings can be in a cafe, a pub, a newsroom, on location or even on Skype.
“The meetings give her the chance to show me scripts, ask for advice, see inside another newsroom, practice reading autocue, discuss story ideas, meet influential people in our business and just have someone to turn to and ask all sorts of questions throughout an important year in her career. The scheme helps newcomers to the business realise the media world isn’t so scary, and that we value young, diverse talent.”
Broadcast journalism does have its own language and etiquette. The ability to speak to someone senior and ask stupid, and not so stupid questions, and to honestly and openly chat about what you want out of your career, should be extremely powerful. I’m really hopefully over the next few years it’ll help build contacts and confidence for those who otherwise may’ve been disadvantaged by the lack of an old boys’ (or girls’) network.
PS: And, no, I’m not going to be a mentor. It’s been 17 years since I worked in a traditional broadcast newsroom, and I had little seniority then. Of course, MSE has its own newsroom, but I don’t think the crossover info would be beneficial, though if any of the mentors think a chat with me for their mentees will be helpful, I’m of course up for it.