The new Executive Director of the Society of Editors has told journalists of colour who complained about earlier statements on diversity that the society is “determined to lead from the front” to make UK newsrooms more diverse.
Dawn Alford took up the role of executive director in July and said it has since been her “priority to listen and understand” what is being done around industry diversity and what more there is to do.
The full statement sent to a group representing journalists of colours and also to representatives for the Guardian/GNM is here:
Statement from Dawn Alford, Executive Director, Society of Editors, in reply to the open letter from the journalists of colour dated July 20
Firstly, I would like to thank everyone from your group who has taken the time to meet and talk with me either in person, via zoom or by phone. I’m also looking forward to the further meetings I have with some of you in the coming weeks and months.
The Society of Editors is a campaigning group run by journalists and editors, with our core purpose that of protecting freedom of speech and expression, and to promote, and support, high journalistic standards within our industry. We also recognise success in these areas relies on a properly diverse and inclusive media.
I became the Executive Director in July, and it has been my priority to listen and understand more about what is currently being done to improve diversity and inclusion within the UK press, and to learn what more needs to be done.
I have met with Haroon Siddique, editor of an open letter on behalf of journalists of colour, and Joseph Harker and Brendan O’Grady who shared with me the views of the Guardian. I have heard their complaints regarding their groups’ experiences of racism.
Our Society is determined to lead from the front to help ensure our newsrooms are more diverse, and I’ve had open and very constructive conversations with our members, journalists, editors, and experts in diversity.
As you are aware, our previous Executive Director resigned following a statement he issued in which he said the press was not racist or bigoted.
That statement didn’t accurately reflect the complex, challenging and changing processes that all society – including the media – is experiencing. It also did not reflect the continuing actions of the Society of Editors to support publishers in improving diversity and inclusion within our industry.
We have taken down this initial statement from our website and consider this to be a formal withdrawal of it. We also acknowledge the concerns of journalists of colour who have discussed with us issues they have experienced, whether those problems are due to a lack of diversity in their workplace, career progression to senior levels, or facing hurdles in reporting stories and shaping the news agenda.
I would like to again affirm that the UK media has a proud record of calling out racism and we also acknowledge that the UK media has never shied away from holding a spotlight up to those in positions of power, celebrity, or influence.
We are not a watchdog for the industry, but we can ensure that, as a membership organisation, we ignite conversations and offer support to everyone working to improve diversity and inclusion in the newsroom. I would also like to make it totally clear – the Society of Editors is 100% against all forms of racism.
Indeed, the Board of the Society of Editors, agrees with Guardian editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, who said: “Every institution in the United Kingdom is currently examining its own position on vital issues of race and the treatment of people of colour. The media must do the same. It must be much more representative and more self-aware.”
And we echo the views of Roula Khalaf, editor of the Financial Times, who stated: “There is work to be done across all sectors in the UK to call out and challenge racism. The media has a critical role to play, and editors must ensure that our newsrooms and coverage reflect the societies we live in.”
The Society of Editors has, prior to my arrival, facilitated some important projects. In 2019 The Society of Editors formed a D&I subcommittee led by board members and includes Kamal Ahmed from The News Movement, our President Alison Gow from Reach, Vic Motune from The Voice, Ceri Gould from Reach, Victoria Watson from News UK, and Emeritus Telegraph Editor Ian MacGregor.
Their task was to consider how best the Society of Editors can promote and support initiatives. Panel discussions were held at our virtual conference in 2020 on how to improve representation at the top of the industry and the Society made a grant to the Journalism Diversity Fund. The Society also committed, in 2020, to the production of a D&I resource hub, designed to share experiences and enterprises across the industry, and act as a valuable resource tool.
This hub will launch in the autumn, and I hope the content will continue to grow and evolve over time – reflecting what I hope will be the progression made in our industry, at every level, on diversity and inclusion.