By Nadine White

08 July 2019 - 16:34

Nadine White
'Before I was paid for that interview with Agent Sasco, I'd spent six years attending free writing workshops and taking unpaid commissions for publications.' Photo ©

Nadine White

We asked Amnesty UK Media Award finalist Nadine White about getting paid and recognised as a journalist, and how a lack of diversity in the profession affects the quality of news.

How did you get your first paid assignment as a journalist?

I had been writing articles for publications for free for a long time while juggling university, and jobs in takeaways and supermarkets.

I have a friend who works in music public relations. She arranged a media junket, or promotion event, with Agent Sasco, a Grammy award-winning dance hall artist.

I went to the junket and interviewed Agent Sasco, with the intention of selling the interview. 

The entertainment editor at The Voice, Britain’s oldest black publication, was interested in publishing the article. She paid me for my work.

I’d worked with The Voice before, and had built a good reputation in that organisation for being diligent and reliable.

How much work preceded that first paid assignment?

Lots of work. 

Before I was paid for that interview with Agent Sasco, I'd spent six years attending free writing workshops and taking unpaid commissions for publications.

However, I felt that this was all valuable experience that was likely to help me break into the industry one day. There were times where I felt uninspired, and thought that day would never come. But a genuine love for the craft and interest in people helped to move me through those difficult times. 

How important is your social media following for your work?

Very important.

I often share my articles on social media and this helps to give my work visibility. It means that people from all over the world can read it, not just in London, where I live. The wonderful thing about the internet is its global accessibility.

These platforms also show me what people are discussing, and interesting causes. This inspires my reporting and keeps me informed. 

Does a recognition like the Amnesty Media Award make a difference to your career?

It is always nice to be recognised. On that basis alone, the Amnesty Media Award shortlisting makes a difference to my career.

For this to happen within a year of becoming a journalist was an indication of my work’s impact and inspires me to continue going. 

To be recognised this year by a panel of industry heavyweights has helped my reputation in a competitive landscape.

How can other new journalists get noticed by awards bodies?

Make the most of opportunities and work hard. The acknowledgement will almost certainly come.

However, although accolades are nice, that should never be the reason for your work. They are meaningless without a purpose. 

Black women are under-represented in journalism and newsrooms: how does that affect your day-to-day work?

Black people make up just 0.2 per cent of newsrooms in the UK, according to 2015 research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The shortage of staff from this community, women included, means that news is too-often unrepresentative of different perspectives and lived experiences.

In the absence of black women in journalism to help influence the news agenda, I feel motivated, as a black woman, to pitch stories that speak to this underrepresented demographic.

Not every single article I write has to do with race, but I do see showing the perspectives of the black community, which includes women, as an important responsibility. 

The solution is to hire more people from diverse backgrounds.

Do you think other black women self-select out of a career in the media?

It depends on the black woman in question.

I think that a career in the media is less attractive to some black women because of distrust and dissatisfaction with how the black community is often reported on.

However, there is a glass ceiling. Black women are often overlooked when it comes to roles in news, particularly in senior roles. 

Most of the black women journalists that I know work on a freelance or self-employed basis, through lack of opportunities for full time work.

Should new journalists seek a mentor?

It's always useful to have guidance from more experienced people in the industry.

However, it's not as valuable as hard work, commitment and a nose for a good story.

Watch Nadine's talk Breaking the industry: where do you start? on Facebook Live from Future News Worldwide 2019 on 17 July at 10.00 (UK time). 

Follow @Nadine_Writes on Twitter. 

You might also be interested in