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Guest Blog: Are you an aspiring BAME journalist?

  • 26/06/2020
  • Author:bridgetmccall

This article is over a year old

Frances Rafferty explains how the National Union of Journalists' (NUJ’s) diversity fund opens doors for BAME journalists

George Viner Memorial Fund scholars holding their certificates

The lack of diversity in the UK’s newsroom has recently been highlighted in a letter from 50 black, Asian and minority ethnic journalists (BAME) to the Society of Editors.

That is why the National Union of Journalist’s George Viner Memorial Fund (GVMF), which offers bursaries towards journalism courses for BAME students, is so important. More than 200 students to date have been given the opportunity to study for a recognised journalism qualification and enter the industry, thanks to the fund. Many have gone on to distinguished careers in journalism and broadcasting.

The letter was signed by Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera, Mirror football writer Darren Lewis, Sky News correspondent Ashish Joshi and former BBC sports editor Mihir Bose, among others.

It  said:  “A diverse editorial team helps reflect a wider cross section of opinion and cover stories that are not just race-related in an expansive and balanced way, giving the views of BAME communities on a range of matters that have traditionally not been aired; from Brexit to education to the state of the economy, we too are affected by the same issues that impact our fellow Britons. There is more to our communities than just ‘race matters’ and we believe that by having a greater cross section of journalists from across the UK’s diverse communities will only help to enrich coverage, provide more eclectic views and deliver more insight into those that make up the Britain of today.”

Last year, the George Viner Memorial Fund celebrated its 30th birthday when the Observer’s chief leader writer Sonia Sodha praised the union’s scholarship scheme and awarded that year’s George Viner scholars their certificates. She said: "Huge thanks to the union...but we mustn’t lose sight of how much there is still to do."

Award recipients

Sharon Thiruchelvam, one of the award recipients, said: "Journalism can seem like a closed shop, but we need black and minority ethnic journalists not just reporting the news, but also shaping the news agenda." Without the aid of the fund, she would not have been able to embark on her MA in financial journalism, she said, and promised to be an active supporter of GVMF as her career advanced.

Shajan Miah, who was a scholar in 2009/10 also spoke to express his gratitude to GVMF for propelling his life onto a fresh trajectory. Today he works as a sports journalist for the BBC. 

Natasha Onwuemezi, feature writer at The Bookseller, says, "I am completely indebted to George Viner fund and the NUJ. I wouldn’t have been able to undertake my journalism studies without the grant and my progression in my career would’ve been severely hindered as a result. Now, after completing my course, I am already reaping the rewards through the new skills I have learnt and with increased career prospects. I am very very grateful for the support of the George Viner Fund.

How does the George Viner Memorial Fund help aspiring BAME journalists?

The Fund helps with tuition fees, the cost of travel and accommodation and course books as well as with mentoring and career guidance. But it is much more than financial assistance. The scholars will be invited to open days, conferences and meetings and have the support of the trustees throughout your course. They will be encouraged to join as student members which will allow them to network with more experienced members and take part in events and professional training workshops.

Who is eligible for help?

The George Viner Memorial Fund is open to Black and Asian students who meet the following criteria:

  • Are in receipt of a formal offer of a place on a course within the fields of print, broadcasting, photographic or online journalism. But not having already commenced the course.

  • The course is an industry-recognised media course, based in the UK or Ireland

  • Be a citizen of the UK or Ireland and from a minority ethnic background

  • Be resident and planning to continue in education or start a professional career within the UK or Ireland, within the media industry

  • Not be receiving a student loan or other sponsorship to cover the costs of the course applied for

  • Not have been a recipient of funding from the George Viner Memorial Fund in any previous year.

How to Apply

Applications are now open. More information and the bursary applications form can be found on the National Union of Journalists  (NUJ) website. The closing date is 17 July 2020.

Read the George Viner Memorial Fund profile on the Turn2us Grants Search

Sources and Acknowledgements

Frances Rafferty is Senior Editorial & Communications Officer at the NUJ.  With thanks to Lorna James for her help with this article.

Society of Editors: 50 BAME journalists sign open letter to Society of Editors

Photo Credit

Copyright: NUJ used with permission Photograph: Pierre Alozie

Photo shows the scholars who received their certificates at the George Viner Memorial Fund 30th Anniversary last year.
From left to right: Precious Adesina 2017/18, Natasha Onwuemezi 2017/18, Sharon Thiruchelvam 2018/19 and Yinka Oyetade 2017/18.

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