The Northern women breaking into journalism

Reading was my first love, thanks in most part to my older sister who would pass on books to me. I read everywhere and anywhere, always fully immersing myself in those worlds. This passion for reading led me to writing, resulting in notebooks filled to the brim with short stories and in-depth interviews with family members. Since then, I have always said that I wanted to write and be a journalist, and have explored all the options open to me. 

Truthfully, I didn’t know what a journalist was. I didn’t see anyone on the TV who sounded like me. There was very little Northern representation and even less information about how to break into the industry. When you don’t know anyone within the media, getting in is incredibly different.

As was the case for many people last year, my plans somewhat changed. The gap year I had planned disappeared so I needed to find something else to focus on. That’s where writing came back into the picture. Lockdown meant more organisations were offering free online workshops, giving everyone across the country the opportunity to network. From that I connected with a group of incredible women, who, like me, wanted a space for women to write about anything they wanted to and not worry about stress or deadlines. So Empoword Journalism was born. 

Throughout the past year, I never felt like my Northern roots were holding me back. The question I always asked in any workshops was “do you think it’s possible to get a job in the industry without moving to London?” and I always got a resounding yes. However, I am still seeing so many journalist jobs that are based down south with no option of remote working. 

I spoke to some of the women I have met through Empoword Journalism about how they broke into the industry and what they think needs to happen to make it easier for people in the North to break into the journalism industry. 

Mads Raine is a journalist from Hartlepool, and her love of journalism began whilst working on her student newspaper. “The North is definitely represented, but it is not well-represented,” she says. “Most of the action happens in London and if you decide to stay in the North you are cutting off a lot of opportunities.”

Adding: “Neither my school nor my college had their own paper. I didn’t have these creative outlets at my fingertips that so many of my friends had. Throughout my education –  until university that is – I was lacking in creativity and I don’t think being at a state-run school in a high-poverty area is a coincidence.”

“Most of the action happens in London and if you decide to stay in the North you are cutting off a lot of opportunities.”

Mads Raine

Mads wants people to realise that the North has so much more to offer and wants to see “more jobs and more internships brought to the North of England”.

Beth Kirkbride founded The Indiependent in 2014 as a way to give journalists from across the county the opportunity to get their work published and get constructive feedback from editors. Beth, like me, has wanted to write for as long as she could remember. She believes that even though the pandemic has shown that working remotely is possible the media is still very London-centric. 

“When it comes to applying for journalism work experience or graduate schemes being from the North has been a disadvantage,” notes Beth. “These opportunities mean uprooting my life and moving to London, which has a much higher cost of living than the North of England. This is definitely an access and diversity problem in the media industry.”

“These opportunities mean uprooting my life and moving to London, which had a much higher living cost than the North of England.”

Beth Kirkbride

Beth also wants to see more paid work experience opportunities that allow Northern journalists to gain experience without having to foot their travel and accommodation costs themselves.

Lauren Mcgaun is a student with a passion for current affairs and the world around her. She echoes both Beth and Mads belief that there needs to be better work experience for people in the North. 

“I would also welcome more work experience applications that are CV based, which consider your journalistic skills and ability (similar to the current spectator scheme), so that your location and education doesn’t act as a barrier,” she says.

Shahed Ezaydi, is a freelance journalist and Deputy Editor for Aurelia Magazine. Although Shahed has always been fascinated by writing she never saw it as the career for her because she “never really saw someone like me in that world”.  

For Shahed, being from the North has given her a “unique voice in journalism”, as she explains: “Being a Northern woman means I can offer different perspectives or add more nuance and depth to a range of discussions, from race, religion, to local issues.” She continues: “You can always tell when an article or report that’s covering a Northern issue has been written by a journalist who isn’t Northern or who hasn’t lived in the North. I find it lacks the depth and substance.”

“You can always tell when an article or report that’s covering a Northern issue has been written by a journalist who isn’t Northern or who hasn’t lives in the North. I find it lacks the depth and substance.”

Shahed Ezaydi

However, she warns that she doesn’t want to get “boxed into just writing about identity or race and religion”, because “we as journalists (and people) are more than that”.

In terms of improving Northern representation, Shahed wants to see more roles moved up North, but recognises that that isn’t always possible. “Not every company can just move, so publications should also offer their roles on a remote working basis to recognise that not everyone is in a financial position that would allow them to move to London and live there long-term.”

Bethan McConnell is originally from Newcastle but relocated to London for University. “There always seems to be jobs central to London, in both music and journalism, so I figured that I would experience more opportunities and work if I lived in London,” she explains. 

Bethan is now a music journalist and photographer and runs Safe and Sound, a music and culture publication curated by creative women.  “For me, the most important thing is stepping up arts and culture funding in low-income areas, as those classes could inspire our next generation of journalists, musicians, and authors,” she says.

“There always seems to be jobs central to London, in both music and journalism, so I figured I would experience more opportunities and work if I lived in London.”

Bethan McConnell

Adding: “From my own experience the music education I received from school was the thing that motivated me to pursue this career path and without it, I’m not sure what sort of job I would be doing now.”

Evie Muir is a  domestic abuse specialist and freelance journalist. Evie began pursuing a career as a journalist because she felt there was a gap in reporting on gender-based violence. “From a survivor’s perspective, often stories telling our experiences of abuse, exploitation or assault are anonymised,” she says.

“As both a domestic abuse practitioner and survivor, it felt like “if not me, who?” I had stories to tell – my own included – I was angry, tired, passionate and, most importantly, informed.”

Evie became a freelance journalist through an unconventional route. “I studied Sociology and Gender Studies at undergrad level and International Development and Gender Based Violence at univeristy, and have worked in the Domestic Abuse Sector and Charity Sector more broadly for over seven years. So, I entered journalism as an expert in my field and used that to my advantage.”

When writing about topics that can be potentially triggering for you, Evie advises “putting coping mechanisms in place. If this means taking sick leave then do it”. 

Evie’s advice for women entering the industry is to find a support group. “I’d like to mention too that there is such a great network of Northern journos up here who I feel a deeper connection with than I do in more nation-wide networking groups – despite having not met many of them in person!”

“See the value in Northern stories and we will tell you them. Give us a platform to share the stage and we will speak with you.”

Evie Muir

She continues: “It feels like a very nurtured community with shared values of intersectionality, inclusion and the celebration of northern women voices.”

Evie wants to see an increase in remote working opportunities and she wants publications to take a closer look at the experiences of women in the North. “See the value in Northern stories and we will tell you them. Give us a platform to share the stage and we will speak with you.”

Speaking to these women is the best reminder of why I want to be a journalist. For the North to be represented we need people to start breaking down those barriers because where you are from should never negatively impact your future.

Extra Resources: 

The Northern Natter Podcast and Newsletter 

The Peak District Newsletter, filled with job opportunities up North!

The Indiependent 

Empoword Journalism

Journo Resources – a newsletter and website filled with paid job opportunities and career advice 

Words by Orla McAndrew. Orla is a writer and journalist from Leeds and the co-founder of Empoword Journalism, a woman-led project that looks to unite and empower journalists.


The Edit: In Conversation with L’Oréal Blackett, Journalist and Broadcaster

What does it mean to be influential in today’s digital world? Is success only measured by how you’re perceived online? And if you have influence, how do you use it for good?

In the midst of lockdown and eager to find out the answers to these questions, journalist and broadcaster L’Oréal Blackett, created her own podcast, The Edit, which delves into the world of influencer culture. Unpacking the truth behind the likes, shares and hashtags, L’Oréal is using her voice to find out what it’s really like to have a personal brand, exploring the impact of having a popular presence online and how this has affected the individuals and brands dominating our social media feeds. 

Having worked for the likes of the BBC, Bustle and Body Confidential, in a variety of reporting and broadcasting roles, alongside a number of gigs as an ambassador and presenter for businesses including Bumble, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, L’Oréal is by some people’s definition an “influencer”.  However, like many women in journalism, she sometimes struggles with the idea of curating her own brand. Hence the creation of The Edit, a way to better understand the realities and expectations of influencer culture and the role that we all play in this shifting digital narrative. 

Born and bred in Manchester, L’Oréal knew from a young age that she wanted to work in the media, “I was just set on it, it was either that or be a dancer”, she tells me over zoom, seemingly the most popular medium for conducting interviews, podcasts and webinars under lockdown. Taking a traditional route into the industry, she studied Broadcast Journalism at the University of Leeds before landing a placement aged 21 at MediaCity, the BBC’s Salfordian home, and as they say, the rest is history.

Well not quite, because to gloss over L’Oréal’s various career achievements, which include an editorship at Body Confidential, would diminish the hard work and determination that she, and many other women working in journalism – an industry dominated by white males – have put in over the years.

According to a report written for Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism by Suzanne Franks, a professor of Journalism at City University London, women substantially outnumber men in media training but very few secure senior jobs and the pay gap between female and male journalists remains considerable. In another study by Reuters, released in 2016, it was reported that journalists were 94% white. Whilst publications such as gal-dem, Black Ballad, FEM Zine and Yellowzine have sought to make media and its reporting more diverse, recent events show just how much work still needs to be done in order to create a more representative media landscape. 

For L’Oréal, a regular contributor to online platform Bustle, the roadblocks to success were apparent very early on. “It took me a while to really understand that media is a business before anything else,” she says. “From the SEO, to the clicks and links and everything like that, as much as some media organisations want to show themselves as quite radical, or tell the kind of taboo stories, you know the reality is they’re quite scared – scared of offending their core audience.”

Just a few weeks earlier, L’Oréal had written a piece for Bustle, who she credits as one of a number of platforms giving writers such as herself, a space to write about her own experiences and those of other women of colour, about the lack of mental health provision for black women and why it is imperative that this is put on the agenda. Exploring the narrative that Black women are stronger than others, L’Oréal sought to show that this doesn’t tell the whole story and that provision, access and representation with regards to mental health services is simply not where it needs to be to positively help and support women of colour. 

 L’Oréal explains that she feels now is the time to delve deeper into these subjects, which, in the past, she didn’t feel she could because the conversation wasn’t yet open enough. “Obviously the industry has changed. I would still write about mental health but in a broad way, but as a  journalist it now feels like the right time to talk about something that does resonate with me but also with a lot of people,” she explains. “It’s great when I’m working with Bustle or other womens’ magazines, they’re open to sharing a wealth of stories, so I feel empowered by that. I feel comfortable writing about those things.  I’m pleased to be able to speak about something that can be quite difficult in the black community.”

Part of the reason L’Oréal remains hopeful – in spite of both the racism and sexism she has faced in the industry – is because of her strong relationship with her family, who have always supported her dream to be journalist or fashion editor. “Maybe it’s a weird naivety in me but sometimes I feel I will always succeed, it’s been drummed into my head from my parents,” she says with a smile. “I never thought I couldn’t do something, but I did realize soon enough that it might be slightly more difficult. I wouldn’t say I’m thick skinned but I am so determined.” This dedication to her craft is supported wholeheartedly by her family who she credits for always inspiring and uplifting her, especially during the earlier phases of lockdown – a time that gave her the chance to press pause and consider her next steps.

Despite her year not getting off to the start that she had planned, the arrival of lockdown set off something inside of L’Oréal, who after taking some time out to focus on her health and wellbeing, through running and outdoor workouts, began to consider new ways to channel her media skills, which eventually resulted in the creation of The Edit podcast. 

“Not to diminish what the virus is at all, but lockdown has grounded me and made me think about what I do. I think of ideas all the time and I don’t know where to put it sometimes,” she says taking a sip of her freshly brewed coffee. “You like talking so just do the podcast. I started there and just focused on one project. I centered in on the things I want to do and the podcast has been a natural fit and also a great distraction; what a time to explore another facet of yourself that you’ve never had time to do.”

Applying what she had learnt from her time in broadcasting, L’Oréal began to ask, what does it mean to have an influence in today’s digital world, speaking to guests such as Haçienda legend DJ Paulette, designer of positive vibes Zara Khalique and tech entrepreneur Melissa Snover about their experiences of influence, the sacrifices they have taken to keep up appearances and what it means to have a voice in today’s society. The podcast has also led the esteemed journalist to examine her own online presence and the side effects of time spent online.

“Instagram is a minefield, especially when it’s so image-led. I struggle with that. I love fashion, music, all of it, but I love to write and read, but I don’t always know how to marry it,” explains L’Oréal. “With the podcast, that’s me being me, you have to be yourself. That’s what a personal brand should be.”

Having seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of social media it seems like L’Oréal is already understanding what it means to have a significant degree of influence and has made sure to use it to challenge stereotypes and ask the difficult questions that need to be answered in these particularly polarized times. Meanwhile, she advises those looking to pursue a career in media to use Instagram and other platforms on their own terms. “There’s so many more opportunities for journalists now thanks to social media. Go get more than you ever could, whether it’s talking on panels, speaking, doing courses – you can supplement your income using it,” she concludes. “So don’t be afraid, don’t be controlled by how everyone else is using it, don’t let it be a negative thing, because it doesn’t have to be.”

You can read more of L’Oréal’s articles here and listen to the latest episode of The Edit here.

Interview: Jenna Campbell

Images: Courtesy of L’Oréal Blackett

Why I’m on a mission to help more working class northerners break into journalism

Originally hailing from Liverpool and having experienced a great deal of classism in her many years of working in journalism in London, six months ago, Jessica Evans set up her own journalism company where she helps people who do not come from privileged backgrounds become journalists. 

All too aware of how difficult it can be to break into the sector and secure work with news outlets, big titles and glossy highbrow magazines, and in such an industry where companies are still offering unpaid internships or ‘all-expenses’ paid, Jess was concerned that these factors, coupled with the ingrained media bias, would make it even more challenging for working class journalists to have their voices and words seen and heard.

Since starting her business in March, her northern clients have seen success in national and global publications, which is such a win for working class northerners in their journalism careers! Through her platorm – The Freelance Sessions – she runs workshops, including the ‘Power Hours’ where she focuses on whatever the client would like to work on (whether it’s pitching, writing, refining ideas to make them more commissionable to editors etc.) and also runs one-on-one masterclasses on both how to become a freelance journalist and how to get more commissions as an established freelance journo. 

Jess has previously written for – Stylist, Marie Claire, The Telegraph, Grazia, Red, The Sunday Times, The Independent, Metro, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, VICE, The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Follow Jess: Twitter @jesshopeevans // Instagram @jessevansjourno

I lost what my dream job at a high fashion global magazine in London because they said I wasn’t “on brand”. Sounds mad doesn’t it? That’s because it is mad. This was in 2016. And since then, not an awful lot has changed in journalism. 

The editor said there was nothing wrong with my work or my ideas, but it was just how I wasn’t a ‘good fit’ for the team. She asked whether I was happy there and if I would feel more comfortable somewhere else. Cringe. I was younger and naive to classism. In this scenario, hindsight is a bittersweet thing. 

But if I’m completely honest with you, as soon as I unpacked my bag and sat on my new desk, I stuck out against my privileged peers like a sore thumb. I may as well have rocked up in hair rollers every day wearing a t-shirt that said, ‘I’m a scary, working class scouser – don’t worry about not inviting me to ‘Champagne Fridays’,  I don’t know champagne is’. 

After experiencing heaps of classism, working in the journalism industry in London as a working class northerner, six months ago I felt compelled to set up my own journalism company where I help people who aren’t in the elite or come from a privileged background, become journalists. 

As a northerner with a working class background, I have lived through just how tough it can be to break into such a field where companies still offer unpaid internships or ‘all-expenses’ paid, meaning the wealthy or those with a London postcode, get the journalism gigs over the working class who can’t afford it. “There’s a certain snobbery with journalism”, my lecturer told me, or should I say, warned me. 

Not to go all This Is Your Life on you (that’s a 90s dad joke if any Gen Z’ers are reading this) but I shall start from the beginning and give you my career in the next 500 words. I did my first two-week work placement at 15-years-old in London at a girls teen magazine, Sugar, that is sadly no more. Between the ages of 18 and 22, I worked two jobs to save up wages from my waitressing and retail jobs to fund myself to try and get my foot in the door. I had no family or friends connected to London, so I slept – mainly in bunkbeds – in different hostels, on and off for three years that I could only just about afford because I was working for next to nothing money. I had my heart set on writing hopeful articles for women and I jumped through rather classist hoops to get there. 

While I had many positive experiences in London which I’m glad for, there was such a prejudice that I wasn’t expecting. Before I left my hometown, Liverpool, to make the move, people warned me about the notorious ‘north vs south divide’, but I shrugged it off. I thought they were exaggerating. “Journalists look down on northerners and think they aren’t as intelligent”, my auntie announced at a family gathering. Surely, that’s just a bit of a generalisation? I thought: My journalism degree is solid, my work ethic is strong, I think I’m pretty easy-going to get on with in an office. What could go wrong? Turns out a lot.

I quickly learnt wherever I went in my career; newspapers or magazines there was a lingering, dark cloud of class discrimination there. Whether it was my accent or my Northern tendencies I brought with me, I always felt I was on the back foot, fighting twice as hard as my southern peers for my place in London. My accent, background and class landed me in a position where I wasn’t always been taken seriously in the workplace. This next bit I hate to type out… I’ve probably missed out on certain jobs because I’ve come from a very ordinary background. I resent admitting that, as I don’t want it to be the case, but there’s still masses of discrimination around class out there. 

When I worked at a glossy fashion magazine I was asked to tone down my northern accent when I was on camera interviewing people, because “it wasn’t on brand” for their middle to upper class audience. At another publication, working on the fashion desk, my line manager made comments about how “people who speak like you [me]” don’t really know much about fashion, and how it surprised him that I had “ended up” in the industry. Another time, working as a features writer on a culture desk, my colleague questioned if I could really know that much about culture because I was from the north. I also had a former editor who would always make the noises “dey do doe, don’t dey doe” whenever I would speak in meetings or around the office – and not in a jokey manner either.

I reluctantly found myself changing the way I spoke, just to made sure I kept a low profile and wasn’t stereotyped. I felt like a sell out for doing so, but I was determined to make a job in journalism work. I’d gone into 30 odd grand of debt for my degree, spent the majority of money I’d earned on internships in London and worked my bum off for it to work. I softened my accent in hopes this would make editors, managers and colleagues accept me more in the workplace.

I’m not alone in changing my accent though. It was unsurprising when I learnt that 55% of Brits believe there is a stigma around regional dialects, especially in London, that acts as a barrier to securing corporate jobs. While almost 10% of Brits choose not to reveal the true location they were born and raised as they are worried it is stigmatised, and 22% of professionals believe that in order to be successful in their career, they have had to alter the way they speak and change their dialect. 

Later on in my career in journalism and in particular, high fashion magazines, I was often the only northerner in the offices I worked in. As soon as I opened my mouth, poof, just like that, I was transformed into a less educated, less on-trend and less able, than the southerner sat opposite me. It sounds quite bleak to say, but I became used to the comments, the sniggers and ultimately, the prejudice. 

My classist treatment prompted me to think about my fellow working class northerners who are perhaps just beginning their own struggles in the incredibly elitist world of journalism, or maybe they’re in the thick of it. I wanted to help northern women in particular, get on the journalism ladder when it may seem impossible to do so. I didn’t want these women to be held back by their class, background, upbringing, accent or previous education either. 

After seven years in London of working at various magazines and newspapers, I moved back to Liverpool and set up no bullshit, straight forward ways of how to get both aspiring and established journalists’ articles published in the places they most want to write for. I run one-on-one sessions and masterclasses where we focus on the client’s ideas and turn them into paid articles in their favourite publications. Since starting the business, my northern clients have seen success in national and global news outlets, which has been such a win in working class northerners in their journalism careers. 

These clients have gone onto to experience press trips, experience high profile industry events and write for some of the biggest publications in the UK, without having to do shoddy, unethical ‘all expenses’ internships in London or more importantly perhaps, go through the many rough years of being discriminated against in the office. 

I try my absolute hardest for every person’s work to get out there into the world. It’s such a precious thing to work with people on their ideas and I’m so pleased that 99% of my clients have gone on to get their work paid and published in the publications they love. Encouragingly, some of my clients who weren’t published before, have gone on to have a great freelance journalism career in major UK and worldwide news outlets – some of those commissions were just after their first pitch too!

With my ‘How To Become a Freelance Masterclass’, they are open all year and there are three killer sessions: Intro to pitching, Formatting the perfect pitch and Nailing the article. As it’s one-on-one, I tailor the course to whatever the person wants to get their teeth into – whether that’s concentrating on their ideas of what they’d like to write about, how they can best pitch to editors, how to turn their ideas into super commissionable pitches and just general journalism writing and freelancing advice.

I also run my No Bullshit Saturday Sessions again on Saturday mornings. They are the most informal session where you can stay in your pjs, have cup of tea and we brainstorm over breakfast. We work on how to get your ideas and work published, no fuss or frills, just practical ways of how to can get published in your favourite newspapers, magazines and websites.

Although I work with people of different classes, locations and backgrounds, my mission is to get as many northerners as possible, a successful freelance journalism career.

If you’d like to launch your journalism career or to help your freelance journalism, feel free to get in touch with @thefreelancesessions on Instagram or contact for more information.