Asian Media Group: How Asian Media Group draws on the legacy of its founder to shape its diversity and inclusion practices

Asian Media Group encourages difference in thought, values distinctive experiences, and challenges stereotypes through campaigning, training, and fostering diverse talent.

Asian Media Group was founded in the 1960s by Ramniklal Solanki, at a time when UK news and broadcast media paid little attention to the growing south Asian communities settling in Britain; the few stories published or broadcast were often negative, full of stereotypes, and through the lens of indigenous white editors. Solanki set out to change that from the first issue of his first publication, Garavi Gujarat. His efforts in the 1960s provide the backdrop to AMG’s commitment to diversity and inclusion today. AMG now hosts an annual diversity conference and the GG2 Awards, which are attended by politicians, business leaders and influencers.

‘Ramniklal Solanki’s pioneering of diversity, before it became fashionable, runs through every pore of the company.’

Barnie Choudhury, editor at large, Eastern Eye

Theoretical diversity

Those who do not understand the need for diversity often ask: why is it essential? The simple answer, from a professional viewpoint, is more readers, surfers, viewers and listeners. That is the business case for diversity. But more than that, it yields different opinions, experiences and stories, which ultimately are the lifeblood of journalism. There are 65 million-plus stories in the UK. Only by having a diverse newsroom that encompasses age, gender, race, religion, social class, sexual orientation and disability, both visible and invisible, will the public get a fraction of these stories. Every newsroom wants that exclusive story, and recognising that, Ramniklal Solanki drilled into his team the need to ‘engage, embrace, enrich’.

Realistic diversity

Asian Media Group employs talented people with the prerequisite qualifications from all walks of life. One thing it does not do is mould employees into a corporate image. Anyone who writes for AMG must have an open mind. Staff are allowed creative freedom and difference in thought is encouraged. AMG values distinctive experiences, which educate its writing. The group challenges stereotypes by campaigning against bullying, racism, sexism and hate crimes. It seeks talent from all areas, and strategically pairs new talents with experienced journalists who mentor and champion their work. AMG trains and guides new staff, hoping they will be snapped up because others recognise their talent. Good leaders can spot true talent, nurturing and furthering it.

Teaching diversity

Asian Media Group’s annual GG2 Diversity Conference brings together thought leaders from all professions. These leaders share their personal journeys, which open eyes and drop jaws. They then create good practice toolkits and share these among staff through masterclasses and group meetings. Every news planning meeting asks for, seeks and celebrates diverse ideas. That is why AMG is often ahead of the news curve, and other publications follow its stories. AMG shares good practice externally through its stories. Diversity is not a catchphrase; it is the mission of AMG. Teams are taught to be good leaders and embody diversity in every aspect of business, by doing rather than promising.

Future diversity

It is not enough to have a mission statement. Staff at Asian Media Group must embody it in their actions.

AMG states: ‘It is not enough to say we do not know enough diverse people. We must find the people who know them. It is not enough to say we value diversity, we must prove it – time and again. It is not enough to tick boxes. We must ask why we rely on them and whether they are the right boxes. It is not enough for us to create policies, we must take ownership to enact them. It is not enough to mentor and develop. We must champion as well.
‘That last sentence is what many organisations fail to understand. We take Harvey Coleman’s PIE model seriously. We can perform 100%, 100% of the time, but it only accounts for 10% of our success. We can create the right image and enhance our personal brand, but that is just 30% of our success. The rest, 60%, is exposure, word-of-mouth, the pushing across the line, the championing, which ensures recruitment, retention, and promotion within our organisation.
‘It is not enough to make excuses for shortcomings. We must find the solutions. It is something our founder believed in and remains AMG’s ethos. Business, creativity, and progress rely on true diversity.’

Data diversity

AMG believes in collecting data and actively looking for ways to improve. As one of its stories has said, no data means no resources. It interrogates its data, look for the gaps, and then takes action to plug them. It is open to help, advice and solutions from others who have been there and written their success stories.

‘The phrase diversity of perspectives is important in newsrooms. We do that by allowing all voices to flourish by creating a true sense of belonging in the working environment. This is about the culture of an organisation and being inclusive in every sense of the word. Having a cultural understanding of your readers is essential. How else can you reflect on their lived experiences unless you have a diverse newsroom and where those in positions of power in media organisations are people of colour?’

Shailesh Solanki, executive editor, Asian Media Group