Newsrooms often build their editorial strategies around important dates in the calendar or even months in the year dedicated to a particular subject.
Both events are seen as a celebration of the past and present, exploring the challenges and contributions of these communities in a bid to raise more awareness around diversity.
Many journalists see these months as an opportunity to discuss historical topics the public may not otherwise engage with. On the other hand, you can expect to see a flurry of topical opinion pieces around this time as well.
In a podcast with Journalism.co.uk, Imriel Morgan, CEO of podcast marketing company Content Is Queen and the host of its show Wannabe Podcast, discussed how to sustain the momentum of these monthly events all year round.
The Wannabe Podcast has built an audience for motivational interviews and practical tips from successful individuals in the black and LGBTQ+ communities. At the time of speaking, the show had concluded a mini-series, Black Kings, to coincide with the UK's Black History Month, to celebrate the achievements of black British men in the face of adversity.
"It’s an immensely useful mark in the calendar. I celebrate it, and everyone I know around me celebrates it in some meaningful way," says Morgan.
"We will try to create content and do something to mark the occasion because we know it's one of the only times in the year that we have to put that information out there and to celebrate our heroes and the people who are shifting culture, making change and creating amazing things."
We conclude our #WannaBePodcast Black Kings special collaboration with @SMCommmission for #BlackHistoryMonth talking visionary goals & doing the work with Oladapo ‘Daps’ Fagbenle, Nigerian-born British artist, video director & former NCAA athlete.— Content is Queen (@ContentisQn) October 28, 2020
>>> https://t.co/gqZUMKbp3v pic.twitter.com/YCfKPW7A4c
"However, it is that time of year where every organisation seems to be on the hunt for a black person or black people to speak at events, talk about their experiences, and talk about their work and celebrate us in some way," she adds.
"In many ways that is very nice and is useful. However, I do think it's problematic that it's not consistent and that these inclusive spaces do not continue past [Black History Month].
"Do I think we should get rid of it? Absolutely not. Do I think that the media on balance could do more to incorporate black and brown stories generally throughout the year? Absolutely. How do they do that? It’s about being quite deliberate. Diversity doesn’t happen by accident, inclusion doesn’t happen by accident. It’s very deliberate."
She praised the work of the BBC, as an exception, because of its focus on the topic in months outside of February and October (the video below was published in August 2020, for example).
"Who is missing?"
Sustaining the impact of these months is, at its core, about putting in the hard graft.
Companies like Content Is Queen, whose USP is promoting diverse voices, still face the same barriers to locate and pay their guests. But the resources are out there, from Twitter communities for black specialists to non-white speaker lists, so there is little excuse to not be making the effort.
"You have to seek people out," says Morgan. "What has worked for me, and why I keep getting reasonably paid to do the work I do, is because you just have to think about whose voices aren't in the room.
"When you ask that question you are already in a problem-solving mindset but you also need to understand it is a problem."
This lesson comes from firsthand experience. Content is Queen also organises Women's Podcast Festival, an event that strives to welcome all under-represented communities, including those with disabilities. Despite so much thought being put into inclusivity, one year Morgan realised that she overlooked providing a sign reader on stage to make the event accessible for deaf people.
"There were certain people that could not be there in spite of the space we had created. I always held on to that because I felt shame," she says.
"If you don't feel the shame in disappointing someone, you're not going to make that change. That's a good motivator for me to think 'who is missing?'"
Leave your assumptions at the door
This applies to whatever form of inclusion you are focusing on, disability, LGBTQ, race or religion. Whatever celebratory month it is, Morgan provides two final takeaways to keep the momentum going: observe before you approach and make no assumptions.
If you are not from the group that you are targeting, for example, a white person reporting on the black women entrepreneurs, make sure to go in clued up. Take time to find the relevant communities, understand the important dynamics within, and do not just enter and leave when it is convenient for you.
"Don't take up space, don't be a voice or don't add opinion. Don't do anything, be an ally, be understanding. Listen to fears and concerns, when someone says people are often not paid enough, listen out for that. Then when you have a better understanding, approach them with an informed understanding and cultural intelligence," Morgan says.
"Take away those really asinine assumptions about these audiences. This goes for Muslim identities, gay men and women, anything. Remove your assumptions because the moment you assume, you are losing. You will basically create content which is a parody of those cultures and that's terrible. That's how people get dragged on Twitter."
Want to receive journalism news and job updates straight to your phone? Subscribe to Journalism.co.uk on Telegram on our jobs channel for latest job opportunities and our news channel for a weekly digest every Monday morning.
Free daily newsletter
- Reporting on under-represented voices: five key questions journalists need to ask themselves
- New campaign calls for a genuine commitment to diversify UK newsrooms
- Christmas special: what is your one hope or wish for the media industry in 2021?
- Hostwriter to create a virtual, cross-border newsroom to "unbias the news"
- Should journalists use social media to voice their opinions?