Guest Post – Channel 5 Editor Cait FitzSimons tells Lis Howell why C5 News has a consistently higher ratio of female to male experts than other programmes……. and staved off the male politicians during the Covid-19 crisis…..

Cait says “I’ve been working in news for more than 20 years. In that time, TV journalism has become more fast-paced and more demanding. Multi-skilling is now the norm. Teams are smaller and often produce content for multiple platforms. There are more women in positions of power and diversity is at the centre of editorial and managerial agendas. 

Much has changed, but there still isn’t equality for women and other under-represented groups. Why are we talking about progress and targets when the people who aren’t getting on air – either as reporters, editors, producers or contributors – are right there. It is clear organisations need to try harder. 

So, as a newsroom that’s found some measure of success, what is 5 News trying? 

1: A broader agenda 

As Editor, I need to make sure that my viewers are kept informed about the most important stories of the day but there’s always space for stories which won’t make it onto other programmes. At 5, we make it a priority to look for stories are sourced from under-represented communities or groups – so on-screen diversity is woven into the story-telling. It isn’t forced or a quota, it flows from an editorial decision. 

2: The 5 News’ team 

I work with a young and diverse team. There’s no argument to be won with them about why diversity matters – they pitch stories and seek out contributors from across society and respond positively to efforts to do more of this. The end result of more diversity isn’t simply a newsroom or programme that looks different – it will change the way we work, the stories we tell and the viewers who watch. 

3: Challenging editorial expectations 

I’ve been around newsrooms for a long time, so there’s nothing better than being surprised by a pitch. I want to encourage my team to go after stories they aren’t sure about and speak to people who are outside of the traditional editorial agenda. TV news is still dominated by the same types of stories from 10, 20, 30 years ago – 5 News is a place to try something different and give fresh perspectives a chance to be heard. “

Lis Howell

Emeritus Professor Lis Howell is a major award-winning journalist and broadcasting executive who has worked for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Sky News, and is the director of the Expert Women Project.

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