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“Queer is not a buzzword”: LGBTQ journalists say media risks being tokenistic in efforts to increase diversity

(Left to right: Zoya Ahmed, Maddie Brown, Rachel Sarah, Helena Webb )

By George Arkley

Journalists from minority groups discussed the issue of tokenism in the industry at Leeds University’s media event.

Leeds University’s three main media societies, The Gryphon, Leeds Society Radio (LSR) and Leeds Society Television (LSTV) organised the event, called Making the Media on your Own Terms.

The event was organised by LSR station manager, Vicky Wright; editor-in-chief of The Gryphon, Ed Barnes; and LSTV producer, David Oloko.

Vicky said: “This year we have a completely white committee, which just doesn’t sit right with me.

“We want to encourage people to get involved without being tokenistic and only hiring them to fill quotas.”

Ed added: “You can pledge to make your organisation diverse but unless you actually put the effort in, it is never going to happen.”

Tokenism is when an organisation hires individuals from minority groups only to improve equality quotas within the workplace.

In the gender panel, DJ Zoya Ahmed said: “Putting ‘female’ before a job role makes it feel like we are being hired for our gender; not our work.”

Helena Webb, a producer at BBC, encouraged female journalists to be confident in their work and speak up when they were being exploited.

Helena said every part of a show should reflect a diverse sample of your audience; not just white straight men.



However, Rachel Sarah, a freelance photographer, revealed the reality of imposter syndrome for women in media.

She said: “Every single day I have to remind myself to combat my inner misogyny, which does not come naturally to me.

“Misogyny makes women think they can only compete with other women.

“I consciously remind myself not to be jealous of women and to raise them up instead.”

The subsequent panels continued the discussion of tokenism being an issue for racial and sexual diversity in the media industry.

Okocha Obasi, editor of Race Zine, said: “I don’t want queer to be a buzzword.

“You can’t chuck a rainbow on it and pretend homophobia does not still exist.”

Danielle Mustarde, senior writer at DIVA magazine, encouraged journalists, who are not from minority backgrounds, to listen and elevate the voices of those who are.



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