SIGN-UP: AJE Winter Conference – Diversity, disability and wellbeing in journalism practice and education


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

AJE online event

Time: 13.30 – 16.30

To register for the event click here.

Recent statistics from the Diversity in Journalism NCTJ Report (2021) show that around 14% of British journalists are disabled and 16% claim they have a “work-limiting health condition”.

More than a third of the participants stated that their workplace was not sensitive to mental health and neurodiversity. The environment in which disabled journalists work, including many with hidden disabilities, is often dismissive of their conditions or does not make sufficient adjustments to accommodate their needs.

The Media Diversity Institute notes instances of blind journalists who did not get any resources for shorthand in their journalism courses; and a journalist with Cerebral Palsy who was told they could not get their NCTJ qualification if they did not pass their shorthand exam (al-Najar, 2022). In other examples, wheelchair-dependent young journalists were using their student loans to pay for accessible hotels during placements.

The research shows that the challenges that disabled newcomers to the field of journalism encounter emerged while they were studying at University. While universities have become more inclusive spaces and journalism educators can provide support, many do not fully understand the challenges or have the capacity and resources to support disabled students and to ensure they thrive in a fast-paced and often stressful environment.

Conference schedule

13.30 – 14.30 Panel Discussion

Does diversity in journalism and education matter? How can we support disabled journalists and students? Is journalism education and training diverse?
Chair: Lada Price
Panel participants:

  • Emily Nagy, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Reach Plc;
  • Rachel Charlton-Dailey, freelance journalist and disability activist; Founding Editor – The Unwritten; Disabled Britain guest editor and columnist – The Daily Mirror
  • Joanne Butcher, NCTJ;
  • Gurvinder Aujla-Sidhu, University of Derby;
  • Barnie Choudhury from University of East Anglia
  • Miranda Holt from the 50:50 BBC Equality Project, part of the BBC’s Creative Diversity Team

14.30-16.30 Academic papers and discussion

Chairs: Margaret Hughes and David Baines

Naheed Akhtar, PhD scholar at University of West Scotland
Status of trauma and self-care in journalism education in volatile regions: case study of Pakistan
Abstract: In a country which became main stage of Global War on Terror after 9/11, facing war on its North-Eastern border since its inception, share its longest border with Afghanistan, doing journalism is daunting more than any other areas of the world. According to data published by Committee of Protection of Journalists (CPJ) 96 journalists are killed in Pakistan between 1992 to 2012 in crossfire combats, dangerous assignments or because of investigative journalism attempts. Media freedom in Pakistan which is also a relative term and questionable, is new and has business oriented. Job security is also one of the major issues Pakistani journalists are going through because of media owners’ business-oriented focus. Universities are offering mass communication and journalism degrees at a good level though. This research will explore the current situation of journalists and media workers, the extent to which they are coped to handle trauma and self-care issues. Studies and surveys conducted on Pakistani journalists and media workers indicate they never received any such education.

Dr. Bárbara Emanuel
Graduação em Jornalismo
Departamento de Comunicação Social
Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brasil

Professional skills from personal topics: addressing emotional issues

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected students and teachers in many ways, including emotional wellbeing and mental health issues. Embracing the fact that we have been facing fear, loneliness, and sadness, it is important for educators to consider such issues when planning learning practices. In two of my disciplines, Visualization Techniques and Digital Publishing Workshop, undergraduate students of Journalism had practical activities in which they developed professional skills and could also address emotional issues through self-expression and a sense of accomplishment. While proposed activities demanded goals related to specific skills, students were free to choose themes and express their own preferences and experiences. Working in competences such as visualization of data, processes, instruction, and narratives, along with cartographical rhetoric and the importance of context in photography, students created pieces that not only displayed their acquired skills, but also served as an opportunity to express themselves and work within a safe space.

Polly Sharpe FHEA (Senior lecturer, Journalism, LJMU)
Frances Yeoman MA, FHEA (Programme leader, Journalism, LJMU)

Teaching a broader journalism: developing the resources to embed inclusivity and diversity in the journalism curriculum

This paper will explore outcomes from a recent piece of collaborative lecturer/ student research within the LJMU Journalism department designed to embed inclusivity and diversity in both our teaching and our students’ journalism. Three (funded) MA students worked with academics to develop a set of practical resources including a Diversity Reporting Guide, designed to promote inclusive reporting by giving students knowledge and confidence around issues such as terminology and ethical representation of minority groups. The second strand of this work drew on research and student focus groups to
develop a bank of academic teaching resources for use across the curriculum, collating examples of best journalistic practice drawn from a more diverse range of outlets and journalists than the ‘traditional’ options often relied upon by our lecturing team. At its heart, this project aimed to create research-informed teaching that demonstrates the importance of diverse voices within our industry by using those voices as exemplars of good journalism across the curriculum, rather than treating EDI concepts as standalone issues to be discussed in isolation.

Lily Canter and Emma Wilkinson, Sheffield Hallam University

Widening remote participation: A new model for student work experience

The pandemic brought with it a new way of working and made employers understand the value of enabling staff to work from home. Although many journalists have now returned to the physical newsroom there has been an increase in hybrid working with publishers like Hearst enabling writers to work remotely three days a week. This has also opened the door to remote work experience places with companies more willing to mentor aspiring journalists from afar. This has enabled students unable to travel due to financial or accessibility constraints, the opportunity to gain valuable experience in newsrooms. This paper will examine the success of a remote work experience scheme launched in 2020. To date it has provided remote work experience to 486 individuals, mostly university students and graduates, across the UK, USA, Australia, India and Kenya. The scheme continues to thrive post pandemic and has widened participation to those traditionally unable to take up work experience due to class, disability or geography. The authors argue that remote opportunities should be viewed as having equal weight to in-person work experience and should be recommended by journalism educators.

Lindsay Eastwood
Senior Lecturer in TV Production
Leeds Trinity University

On the bench: If television is a visual medium, how can a blind student have a role in the TV studio?

Mohammed Owais Majid is a blind final year Sports Journalism student involved in a module producing coverage of the 2022 Qatar World Cup. I was tasked with organising sessions in the TV Studio to enable students to record preview videos for the website with presenters and guests discussing the various football teams.
It would be easy to keep Owais “on the bench” and give him the role of researcher; and assume with visual impairment he cannot perform any of the gallery roles of or any of the studio floor roles. Instead, we explored the things he can do – and he was given the opportunity of being the main presenter, using his specialist software the Braille Note Touch Plus to read the script. He was the lynchpin of eight shows, memorising a variety of stats and ad-libs, later describing the experience.

Abstracts were invited on a range of themes but not limited to:

  • Innovative practices in teaching and supporting disabled students
  • Disability and work placements/internships
  • Mental health in journalism education
  • Teaching trauma literacy and self-care
  • Accessibility issues in journalism education and training
  • Diversity in the media industry
  • Widening participation, apprenticeships
  • Covid-19 and wellbeing (e.g. supporting students with long Covid)
  • Embedding equality, diversity and inclusivity into learning & teaching journalism

Abstract deadline was by November 30,  2022 to Dr. Lada Price, Department of Journalism Studies; University of Sheffield:

Sign-up to attend the conference here.