More than 100 journalists call for racial diversity on Melbourne Press Club’s all-white board

More than 100 journalists have signed an open letter calling on the Melbourne Press Club to achieve greater diversity on its 20-seat board, which currently does not feature a person of colour.

The letter, addressed to newly-installed chief executive Cathy Bryson and the chair, notes that two people of colour were approached to run for the board at the last board meeting, but neither were elected.

“There are many models the board could adopt in order to allow for more diversity, including targets or quotas, two things we hope will one day not be required,” reads the letter, signed by the likes of Stan Grant, Jamila Rizvi, The Saturday Paper’s Erik Jensen and ABC Life editor Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, and endorsed by Media Diversity Australia.

“This is an exclusivity that is unacceptable in 2020, where the composition of the board dismally fails to reflect both Australia as a community as well as our industry. Census data clearly demonstrates how very multicultural Australian society is.

“It translates in a real way, with people of colour – especially First Nations Peoples – who feel less included and encouraged to apply for fellowships and awards or attend events such as the Quills, all of which are administered by the MPC.”

The open letter continued: “As the new leaders at Melbourne Press Club, we call on you to remedy this oversight, and while we applaud the changes to gender parity, this should extend to people of colour and other diverse groups including those with a disability, geographic diversity and sexual diversity.”

A screenshot of part of the letter

At the 2020 AGM, four new board members were elected: Ashley Argoon from the Herald Sun, Matilda Marozzi and Richard Willingham, both from the ABC, and Seven News’ Lynne Scrivens. Gomeroi woman and former NITV journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber was one of the people of colour who nominated for the board and was not elected.

She signed the letter, but said “this conversation isn’t about me. In discussions I’ve had with other media professionals who were outraged on my behalf, the lack of diversity at MPC was brought to my attention”.

Last week, Nine investigative journalist and two-time Gold Quill winner Nick McKenzie was appointed president, and said: “There’s also a lot to fight for given the sector’s modern-day challenges and I am confident that the Club is fit to help lead this fight.”

Currently, the website page dedicated to the board is unavailable. But in a statement recognising McKenzie’s appointment, the Melbourne Press Club lists its vice-presidents Ashlynne McGhee and Heidi Murphy, secretary Richard Leder, treasurer Veronica Scott, and committee.

The committee includes, in addition to the four new board members, Mark Baker, Eileen Berry, Patrick Considine, Nicole Denton, Rachael Dexter, Jude Donnelly, Heather Loomes, Kate McGrath, Patrick O’Beirne, Justin Quill, and Tom Salom.

Last year, president Adele Ferguson, vice president Michael Rowland and chief executive Mark Baker resigned following an internal dispute.


Director of Media Diversity Australia, Antoinette Lattouf, said the organisation endorsed the letter because it knows the Melbourne Press Club can do better, signalled by the strides made in gender representation.

“It is just unfortunate that there was such oversight in announcing almost two dozen board members, entirely lacking journalists of colour,” Lattouf said.

“This cultural hole is particularly acute at a time when conversations across the globe are happening in politics, the media and at dinner tables about race, representation and power structures.

“It is also a missed opportunity for the Melbourne press community to better connect with and understand their audience. Melbourne is a growing multicultural community and it is remiss to be out of touch with this audience, especially when so many media organisations are grappling with engagement and the sustainability of their current business model.”

There has been an intense focus recently on local media companies’ lack of racial diversity, and how they are reporting on race.

News Corp was condemned for publishing a column by Peter Gleeson in which he wrote: “the greatest danger to aboriginals and n*groes is themselves”. Nine newspaper The Age issued two apologies for making an unsubstantiated allegation that Black Lives Matter protesters were planning to spit on police, and incorrectly claiming in an editorial that Australia does not have a history of slavery. In response, almost 70 journalists signed a letter sent to Nine executives and the masthead’s editor, Alex Lavelle, exited soon thereafter.

Yesterday, as revealed by The Guardian, SBS journalists wrote to management calling for leadership diversity after a number of former Indigenous staff members revealed they experienced racism at the broadcaster.

And today’s front page of Seven West Media newspaper, The West Australian, features an apology for publishing a racist cartoon written in 1981 but re-printed in Monday’s paper due to a “mistake” with an outside agency.


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