CJET teamed up with the multi award-winning Guardian newspaper to launch a Young Black Minority Ethnic Columnist of the Year competition in April 2014. It was open to people aged 18-24. No previous journalistic experience or qualification was needed.
“We decided to help CJET do this to support the long-overdue campaign to get more Black people into the media. News rooms have never been more full of white middle-class male graduates and British journalism is the poorer as a result. We have gone backwards since the 1980s and now is the time to do something about it,” said Marc Wadsworth, editor of the-latest.com, which put its weight behind the initiative.
He added: “You only have to look at the biased “us and them” coverage of the riots in 2011, after young Black man Mark Duggan was shot dead by the police. Some of the reporting demonised the young people involved as ‘the enemy within’.”
“We tackled this bad journalism head on by organising a conference in 2011 that brought together young people from riot affected areas, journalists, scholars and members of the public.”
Conference organisers CJET and The-Latest produced a report titled Media and the riots – A call for Action, which was written by leading social scientist Dr Leah Bassel that resulted from the frank, robust and extremely useful exchange of views. One of its several practical recommendations was that a writing competition should be held to aid the much-needed process of making journalism in Britain more racially diverse.
The subject tackled by competition entrants was an issue that was important in their locality or a topic about which they felt strongly. They were told their opinion or editorial piece should be between 450 and 500 words in length, use at least two sources and could be illustrated with photographs or a short video clip.
They were able to find useful advice on sources and writing style in the Journalism Tips section at the foot of the home page of the-latest.com.
A cash prize of £250, donated by CJET chair Martin Shaw on behalf of the trust, will be awarded to the winner who will also get a final interview at The Guardian for a place on the exciting positive action internship programme run by the national publication that has been voted newspaper of the year and won the prestigious Pulitzer prize. The runner up will win £150 and third placed entrant, £100, both sums donated by The Guardian. The winning columns will be published on The-Latest.Com and other news outlets.
Entries were submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Friday, May 9 2014.
The judges are Dr Leah Bassel, University of Leicester, Dr Margaret Busby OBE, a CJET trustee, writer and former book publisher, Hugh Muir, diary editor of The Guardian, Yasir Mirza, head of diversity and inclusion at The Guardian, and journalist Samia Rahman, deputy director of the Muslim Institute.