‘It’s exceeded my expectations. I’ve found a mentor and a friend for life. I’ve progressed in my career and found a real support network.’ – Mentee
At the end of each mentoring scheme, we invite all our participants to give their feedback on the scheme. This feedback is vital in developing and improving the scheme for future participants. Taken with previous years’ surveys, the results can also throw a light on how the landscape of the news industry is – or isn’t – changing.
This was the eighth year of running our scheme and we had a total of 34 mentoring pairs taking part. Six of our mentees were apprentices from the BBC, ITN and Sky News. The photo above shows this cohort at the welcome briefing we held back in June 2019.
Usually, our scheme runs for a year but because of COVID-19, we extended the 2019-20 scheme for six months so that our mentees would continue to be supported during the pandemic.
The pandemic undoubtedly brought challenges to mentoring. One mentee wrote that: ‘I think Covid-19 has affected the way in which mentors and mentees interact,’ and certainly face to face meetings, which is the bedrock of our scheme, were impossible given the lockdown and social distancing guidelines. The Trust made a pivot turn early on in the pandemic and held online events and these were appreciated by our mentees.
‘The talks/lectures/seminars on specialist subjects were not something I was expecting (particularly after the pandemic struck), and hence [the scheme] surpassed my expectations’ – Mentee
Inevitably there was disappointment as ‘all social events were understandably cancelled and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to take part in the scheme’. Once we come out of the other side of the pandemic, the Trust will resume hosting events for mentees as soon as possible so that they can forge their professional networks in person.
‘Anytime I spoke with my mentor I came away feeling more confident’ – Mentee
One of the most frequent reasons candidates give to applying to the mentoring scheme is to increase confidence. It is heartening that many of our mentees report of growing confidence as a result of our mentoring scheme. One mentee wrote that: ‘I went for new jobs I might not have, pushed for feedback, pitched stories and generally grew in confidence’. Another wrote of gaining courage to speak to their managers:
‘The mentoring relationship that I have due to JST has helped me being quite unapologetic about approaching senior staff &/or managers within the places I work. I struggled with confidence and my mentor has helped me see that I have been able to stay in this industry because I’m good and, with this, I’ve been able to humbly bring this attitude wherever I work’ – Mentee
Another echoed this feeling and the knock-on effect this had on their work:
‘The mentoring has given me the confidence to put aside some of my feelings of intimidation I feel when talking to senior colleagues, and has allowed me to think outside the box in my work more than I think I would’ve done otherwise’ – Mentee
Insight of a mentor
‘…my mentor was… an extremely good external sounding board’ – Mentee
All our mentees valued having access to a senior journalist’s perspective as well as their contacts. In addition to wisdom, mentors provided practical help, with one mentee describing their mentor as going ‘above and beyond! They gave me access to two days’ work experience at their company – which was so appreciated!’. One mentee admitted that their mentoring ‘really encouraged me to pitch pieces to lots of different platforms… That’s helped my stories get much more impact’. Another was able to take stock, allowing them ‘to take a step back and approach what I was doing with a different, often calmer perspective’.
An impressive 94% of our mentees who responded to the survey plan to continue talking to their mentor after the end of the scheme, and a similar proportion of mentors plan to do the same.
‘Overall, I am still blown away that I was given the opportunity to get involved with the Trust, when so many aspiring journalists apply. I’ve built up a great rapport with my mentor’ – Mentee
‘I learned about what preoccupies a young journalist…. How much I know without realising it. How much I enjoy passing that knowledge on’ – Mentor
One-third of our mentors had mentored for the Trust before, some of them many times. A gratifying 86% of our mentors who replied to the survey said they would recommend the scheme to their colleagues.
Some of the comments made by mentors made for difficult reading, summed up starkly by:
‘I’m glad I’m not starting out in this business now’ – Mentor
Discrimination in the workplace
Many of our mentors spoke of the discrimination which their mentees face in the workplace. One mentor wrote that they learned ‘about class discrimination in newsrooms…. Truly shocking and appalling’ and another about ‘how little support there is out there for young BAME journalists’. Despite some progress being made in newsrooms, it was disappointing to read a mentor’s observation that
‘…sexism is still rife – and that it can be lonely when you are one of very few younger people in a newsroom – and one of few socially diverse people’ – Mentor
We have noticed that more and more of our applicants hold freelance contracts rather than staff posts and this in turn has an impact on how they navigate newsrooms. One mentor wrote about ‘how tough a world it is for young freelancers,’ adding, ‘the value of the personal introductions I was able to make,’ was hugely important to their mentee.
The new generation of newsgatherers
Our mentors value the insight that mentoring provides into how journalists starting out today view the news industry and how the younger generation see the news.
‘I always learn new perspectives from people at a different stage in my career…. it’s not just your appointment to view news at ten on the tv model anymore. And watching that change from their perspective at the start of their career is very rewarding’ – Mentor
Taking part on our mentoring scheme it affords mentors an opportunity to develop their own skills: ‘I have learned new things which have better aided me in my role as a manager and mentor’. As with the mentees, the mentoring scheme gives them an opportunity to take stock and:
‘To listen more, to consider how newsrooms, journalists, are viewed from a different perspective. To take time for the daily grind to think about how and why we do things’ – Mentor
So what has the Trust learned?
Our main lesson is that this feedback underscores that our work to promote diversity within news rooms is ever more needed if we are to combat discrimination within the news industry. Mentoring early career journalists from sections of society which are not currently represented in newsrooms is a practical and effective solution to implementing inclusive work practices. There is much still to be done.
We would like to thank all our participants for taking the time to give their feedback on the mentoring scheme.
Kate Riley, Trustee