Jeremy Fernandez is an Australian journalist and television news presenter with the ABC. Here, he talks to DCA about diversity and inclusion in media.
From the outside, Australian media's diversity doesn't seem to represent wider society. What's the view from the inside?
For business, politics, and the media as a whole, it’s definitely a work in progress! So many of our powerful national institutions and companies have trouble with defining and fostering diversity – and making inclusion work cohesively. At the ABC, we’re making headway with opening-up a greater conversation and effort to make sure we reach thinkers, newsmakers, and leaders who might otherwise be overlooked. Small, simple actions can go a long way to facilitating change. For example ABC News recently invited female subject experts – across any discipline – to share their CV’s and register their interest in appearing on our network. We received thousands of responses. This is a simple initiative that will help to improve gender representation across our news programming.
How did you become so established and what advice do you have for others who'd like to emulate your success?
Firstly – don’t aim to emulate me, or anyone else. It’s a waste of time trying to pretend you’re someone else on the hope that it’ll lead you down the same path. It most likely won’t. I’ve been a journalist/producer/presenter for nearly two decades, and I didn’t take a direct route to my current role. I established myself by trying to hone particular skills: producing radio, then doing the odd voicer here and there, writing a few features, and scripting for others, before moving into TV. I truly have no secrets to success. But I do encourage aspiring journalists to be honest with themselves about where their skills and talents lie. Don’t be afraid of shiftwork. Be curious and empathetic. Take pride in your craft. Accept feedback graciously, but be selective with how you apply it.
What steps can be taken so the industry can better serve the country's culturally diverse community?
The media is a fairly daunting, fragmented beast for anyone who is approached by it. I know a lot of people in culturally diverse communities are reluctant to engage with large media organisations because they’re afraid of being shamed, misrepresented, or misunderstood. Those concerns are not entirely misplaced. I think it’s up to journalists, producers, and editors to build trust with these communities – engage with them, and be honest about why we’re approaching them, and how we intend to offer them a platform that connects to the stories within their communities, offering Australian audiences a broad range of human perspectives.
What would it mean to have a media more reflective of wider Australia?
We would all be richer for a media landscape that more accurately reflects our community. The aim is not to produce a rainbow spectrum of skin colours on our screens, but to ensure that everyone has their views and concerns represented fairly, proportionally, and democratically. This is especially important for the national broadcaster. It’s also important to note that diversity isn’t just about what you see: for example: skin colour, or gender – but equally importantly, the stuff you can’t see: diversity of thoughts, experiences, health and socio-economic factors that explain why life can turn out so differently for some people.
Media is often cited as one of the worst sectors for sexual harassment. What is being done to address this that you have observed?
I, for one, am grateful for the attention that sexual harassment is attracting in the industry. We’ve all heard stories about how things used to be. It seems to me that more and more women and men are becoming comfortable with calling it out, identifying unacceptable conduct, and standing by people who’ve been harassed or assaulted. Many leaders in the industry now see unacceptable conduct as deeply problematic for so many reasons, so it’s becoming more difficult for predators to hide in plain sight. Thank goodness.