Freelancers are often the answer to talent gaps. Now they could be helping diversify the media industry and the stories we read
“Bringing in more people underrepresented in the media is not easy,” writes Priyanka Raval, a reporter for community newspaper The Bristol Cable, a free print and digital investigative newspaper, owned by thousands of local people thanks to crowdfunding.
Raval is among the rare reporters of colour in Britain’s media industry. “There are occasions where I can feel conspicuously brown,” she admits. “The Newspaper Awards in London on 28 March, where the Cable was nominated for Independent Community Newspaper of the Year, was one.”
“I felt like the proverbial fish out of water, a bumpkin among bigwigs,” she writes.
I get the feeling of intimidation when you look at an organisation and no one looks like you.Priyanka Raval, The Bristol Cable
The Bristol Cable was runner-up in The Independent Community Newspaper of the Year category at the 2023 Newspaper Awards.
Raval, despite her success and which she shares alongside her colleagues at the newspaper, says she still gets “imposter syndrome and feels underqualified.”
“I get the feeling of intimidation when you look at an organisation and no one looks like you,” she says.
However, she is working towards eliminating those negative feelings by turning to the advice of her mentor, author Nikesh Shukla, whose book Your Story Matters acts as an inspiration. In her article, she highlights one of his inspiring passages in his book: “You don’t need any experience,” he writes. “All you need to be is someone with a compulsion to tell a story and a willingness to show up for the act of telling it.”
Freelancers bring more than just talent to any organisation
Raval and her colleagues are hoping to change the dynamic of the newspaper’s contributors by diversifying its freelancer base. It’s a sensible way for the newspaper to attract talent from different backgrounds and skill sets without worrying about costly salary overheads.
“We’re a small team in a cash-strapped, time-poor organisation that’s constantly fighting for funding to survive,” she says.
“In lieu of being able to offer 10 more jobs, we can diversify our freelancer base, which will be a key part of the Cable’s strategy going forward,” says Raval.
The thing is, there is a talent gap when it comes to people of non-white heritage studying journalism and wanting to work in the British media. Perhaps young people see the British media as an industry that runs on the opinions and agendas of those that may not think, look or face daily struggles like them. It’s already cutthroat in the mainstream press as it is. Many people of colour already in the industry have expressed they are often pitching stories on deaf ears.
The British Cable is on a mission to change that.
“It warned the UK news media landscape is dominated by white editors, and this is ‘impacting on the representation of Black people in the media industry and in content'”.
Not surprisingly then, the report revealed that “newsroom processes [continue] to be exclusionary” and racism is “commonplace”.
However, diversity hires in the media must be strategic and not just part of a numbers game. Otherwise, it is counterproductive to the end goal which is to bring more interesting stories to readers.
Joseph Harker, a Senior Editor with The Guardian wrote in a guest post for InPublishing: “Even if an institution has a representative number of minorities on its payroll, it depends where these people are; how much stake in the organisation they have; how valued they feel; and how much they are listened to. These are issues of inclusion, not diversity.”
The recruitment drive will encourage those with transferable skills
Recruitment therefore can be yet another challenge. To approach this in an effective manner, Raval says they will carry out recruitment in consultation with a diversity recruitment company, with “adverts worded to encourage people with transferable skills who are willing to learn – even if they don’t have extensive experience – and advertised on platforms specific to diverse recruitment.”
Here’s what the newspaper is committing to do:
- “Regularise and raise” their freelance rates as part of an updated policy, taking into account what staff are paid
- Raval will be holding bookable meeting slots for people to discuss their ideas
- The newspaper will create a new freelancer directory on the Cable website to help people build their portfolios
- Raval is forging partnerships with organisations “fighting the good fight” to increase representation in the media
- The newspaper will be looking to run skills workshops and mentor aspiring journalists
Those freelancers looking to pitch story ideas to The Bristol Cable can get in touch here:
To book schedule a meeting to discuss becoming a freelancer at The Bristol Cable go here.