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Shelley Bishton | London, UK

I have worked in the media industry for 20 years, and in April 2018 I joined News UK to head up the partnerships for The Times. However, in October of 2019, my journey took a very different turn. After raising some concerns about the lack of activity to celebrate Black History Month and the portrayal of Black people in our media, I decided I could no longer sit by and embarked on a journey to create News UK’s first network for Black and brown employees. This was my gateway into addressing the lack of diversity at News UK.
When George Floyd was tragically killed in May 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests started, the network was called upon more than ever. We began to implement the educational processes required to reorientate the business towards a more inclusive approach. In addition, we advised on communications, provided a support system for employees and generally became a valued resource during very turbulent times. It was so fortunate that we had the network set up to support the business. Since then, I have been heavily involved in supporting the business initiatives around diversity and was appointed as Head of Creative Diversity in October 2020. Then in March 2023, I was promoted to Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for all of News UK. I work as an advocate for diversity in the media, sharing up-to-date advice and learnings across News UK, which is home to brands including The Sun, The Times, and talkSPORT.
News UK’s DEI team works to support the business in its aim to create a pathway to a 50/50 gender split across the company’s workforce, with a 20 per cent target of representation of ethnic minorities. We are focused on three key priorities: Attracting, developing and retaining young talent from a much broader pool; Driving gender and ethnic diversity in our wider leadership; Ensuring diversity and inclusivity in our workforce as well as the journalism and content we produce. Today, across our whole organisation, we are 43% female, a promising 7% increase since our first report 4 years ago. And we currently stand at 11% for our ethnic minority population, and are seeing a steady improvement in the proportion of ethnic minority employees in higher paid roles.
Since 2020, we have created 49 six-month paid internships to help talent from disadvantaged backgrounds. Most of this talent were in Job Centres as News UK was the first media organisation to partner on the Government’s Kickstart scheme; Have created 85 two-year apprenticeships since 2021. Of these apprentices, just under half are from ethnic minority backgrounds, 66% are female, 15% are LGBTQ+ and 10% are disabled. Currently, 75% of our apprentices have moved into permanent roles at News UK, compared to a 53% apprentice retention rate nationally; We have delivered more than 2,000 work experience placements and more than 20,000 hours of outreach with a focus on people from socio-economic, ethnicity, disability and female backgrounds; And have developed partnerships with more than 30 community groups, charities and DE&I experts. Our outreach work is highly commended and has become integral to the storytelling of our work in DE&I. We now have a News Academy website detailing all the work and opportunities to work with us.
When it came to recruitment of journalists with disabilities there were no groups in existence to support organisations like ours – so we created one. The first-ever conference highlighting the impact people with disabilities make on the journalism industry was launched in March 2021, supported entirely by News UK. The accessible event saw leading disabled journalists and experts come together to discuss a variety of topics from how to better attract and retain talent to how neurodiversity can benefit newsrooms. A second conference was held in September 2023 at the BBC Broadcasting House with News UK again a headline sponsor. More than 400 people attended and a third conference is planned for March 2025.
We focus a lot of our efforts on addressing the underrepresentation of Black people in the UK. To support this we have; hosted Reporting on Race workshops for all newsroom staff; We’ve stopped using the outdated term BAME and developed a media first Common Sense Guide to Inclusive Terminology; sponsored The Black pound Report; supported research into the Black Diaspora with OMD; sponsored The Black Business Week for 4 years; and hired two Black apprentice journalists on The Sun focused on Music and Culture of Black origin – a media first.
Many ask why I work in the space I do, and for me, it is so simple – Media has always and still holds tremendous power and influence in this country. And ensuring we are all represented in these spaces and at these tables has become my raison d’etre. I am incredibly proud of the work me and the team are doing. It isn’t easy but we are dedicated and committed to the cause no matter what. This award would be for us all, as it takes a village!