Immie Rhodes, participant on RECLAIM's Power at the Periphery's Programme, explores the barriers that working class young people face when attempting to forge a career in journalism.

According to a report published by the Sutton trust, a staggering 51% of the country’s top journalists were privately educated, compared to 7% of the population, and less than one in five attended a comprehensive and half were educated at Oxford and Cambridge.

When I told my mum that I wanted to be a journalist, her first response was “its not what you know, it’s who you know”, followed by “there’s no money in journalism”. It’s not that she was trying to discourage me, but she wanted me to know the truth. A career in journalism has been a lifetime aspiration of mine, but quite frankly it’s also a career that feels light years away from me. I recall meeting my careers officer in sixth form and apologetically telling her that I wanted to be a journalist. I quickly felt the need to justify my ambition by saying “I know it’s a really difficult career to get into, but…” I’ve always loved telling stories, and my growing interest in current affairs has propelled my passion for a career in journalism. But for working class young people like me, a career in the media feels totally unattainable. Although I say I want to be a journalist, I’m aware of the barriers in my way and I often fear it won’t really be possible.

For many working class aspiring journalists, it’s the lack of networks that puts them at a disadvantage. Benjamin Zand, journalist for the BBC explains “to think of working for the BBC was such an in-achievable thing, I’m from quit a rough area in Liverpool, none of my family members or my friend’s family members had a career in broadcasting or the media or journalism, I knew nobody”.  Accessible networking events should be introduced by newspapers specifically for working class journalists to build their contacts.

There is extensive coverage of the need for diversity in the press. Media outlets champion social mobility and often acknowledge the lack of class diversity in the press, yet fail to enact change in their own publications. Even many of the top journalists who frequently advocate for these issues aren’t working class. Owen Jones, for example, is one of the most prominent public figures talking explicitly about class in this country, and he’s a middle-class Oxbridge graduate.

In addition to networks, experience and training are essential to pursue a career in journalism. Courses at prestigious journalist institutions are often exclusive to London, and they don’t come cheap, with the Frontline club charging £150 for a day course. Most training opportunities in national papers are also exclusive to London, and internships are mostly unpaid. I, like many others, could not afford to do one of these internships. With train fares, food expenses, and needing to be in paid work (which I have been since I was 16 to contribute to the running of the household), make unpaid work in return for experience impossible.

Training and experience within journalism is essential, and introducing a range of accessible entry routes creates a diverse and democratic press. A lot of newspapers run excellent schemes specifically for BAME candidates and disabled candidates to create diversity in their newsrooms, and it would be great to see similar schemes available for working class people.

Without these changes, we risk the media becoming a closed off echo chamber, which excludes the most unprivileged in society. There are many talented working class people that could thrive in a newsroom and offer a valuable and unique perspective.  We deserve to narrate our own experiences.