Media, Trust and Diversity – A Lot More to Do

After a year of everything from fake news to equal pay and #MeToo, is it too late to restore trust in the media? That was the topic up for discussion at the Media Trust panel event, a communications charity championing the power of the media to change lives for the better, held to mark International Women’s Day.

The debate looked at how the media can reclaim the role of being the trusted representative of the readers it serves, and was debated by an impressive list of panellists including: Munroe Bergdorf, Model and Activist; Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO, Mumsnet and Gransnet; Ayesha Hazarika, Former Political Adviser turned Columnist, Broadcaster and Comedian; Alison Lomax, Head of Brand Solutions, Google and; Shelina Janmohamed, Vice President, Ogilvy Noor.

The discussion began by acknowledging that every generation has a moment when it hates the press, and that propaganda and so-called ‘fake news’ is nothing new. But what is new is that this social upheaval has collided with the explosion of social media, resulting in a readership that is becoming increasingly hyper-partisan and the likelihood that there will soon be a generation who will have never bought a newspaper.

The media’s current dilemma appears to be one of diversity, and for a medium that is meant to reflect the society it serves, it is currently falling short. The panel clamoured for a greater breadth of opinion and the need for a different world view other than that of the male, pale and stale.

The same applies to brands, who are no strangers to issues around equality. As Lomax noted, Google’s release of its equality stats illustrated the scale of the problem and the pressing need for more work to be done. But the same is true in how they talk to those they’re selling to – despite most day-to-day spending being done by the over- 50s, advertising is overly skewed towards those in their 20s and 30s.

For brands to get it right, they need to have people behind them who genuinely understand and want to bring about change and they need to apply their professional skills to truly understanding the complexities of the audience they’re targeting.

The discussion couldn’t avoid reference to the #MeToo campaign, which although praised for getting the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace onto the public radar, does promote the idea that to get something trending and by liking a hashtag change will automatically come as a result.

Instead it takes women getting into the boardroom, better childcare and reducing the gender pay gap to make a real impact and a social media campaign won’t make a difference on its own. A simple test is to ask, who is in the room when the important decisions are being made? When those rooms accurately reflect the wider world then we will have true equal representation.

So, given that it was International Women’s Day, what can women do to push against the current lack of diversity norms and get ahead in the workplace? Well for starters, if in a meeting with mainly men don’t pour the tea! But on a more serious note, the resounding piece of advice was not to fear standing your ground and make your opinion known. Often women feel obliged to be the ‘nice girl’, and the group urged don’t feel that you always need to be a crowd pleaser. As one panellist put it – sometimes a row is as good as a rest.

Written by Newgate account director, Charlotte Coulson

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