The NUJ, which turned 100 in 2007, is the largest journalists union, representing 38,000 members across a broad range of sectors, from broadcasters and print journalists to freelancers. Its main focus is on campaigning to improve pay and working conditions for its members and to protect press freedom and promote professional and ethical standards in the journalism industry.
The Black Members Council (BMC) represents around 300 black members within the NUJ. In addition to campaigning for race equality within the union and the workplace it has also focused on tackling racism in the media, drawing up a set of guidelines for reporting on race issues.
The theme of this year’s conference is: Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Is There a Way Through for Black Journalists? Sunny Hundal, who is a contributor for The Guardian and who writes for Asians in the Media Magazine will also be speaking at the event. Deborah Gabriel has been editor at Colourful since 2004 and runs her own journalism training company, Imani Media Ltd. She has international experience gained in Africa and the Caribbean and has worked across print, online, radio, and in video production.
She is due to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education in April and has been busy adding lecturing in media and journalism to her professional activities. Commenting on the conference she said: “Whilst there has been some positive steps taken to encourage black individuals into journalism such as bursaries for undergraduate and postgraduate study, the truth of the matter is that the mainstream media is still largely a white-dominated institution.
“I believe that the root of the problem lies in the mindset of the editors and owners of mainstream publications who have been educated in a system that is largely Eurocentric and that have been trained on journalism courses that exclude the role and contribution of black people to modern journalism. That is why we have heard the type of racist comments in the past which have suggested that black journalists are simply not good enough to work in the mainstream.”
In addition to running journalism workshops, Imani Media develops and delivers guest lectures for higher education institutions. One of the lectures: An African Perspective on the History of Journalism, examines the oral tradition of storytelling that dates back to ancient African Egypt and looks at the link between journalism and activism and the role of journalists such as Marcus Garvey and Kwame Nkrumah in the campaign for African Independence .
Deborah Gabriel said: “In every industry black and Asian workers seem to hit a glass ceiling but in the journalism industry it is more like a brick wall. Rather than trying to break through from the outside, we need make changes from within.”