Sunny Hundal, Editor, Asians In Media

Black and ethnic minority journalists looking to break into the media may see in the example offered by British entrepreneur Sunny Hundal, a possible route to success.

The economics graduate's interest in the media began after he was invited by a friend from the Guardian newspaper to attend a ‘Meet the Comissioners' event.

This contact with media decision-makers interested in ethnic minority projects encouraged Hundal to abandon the Asian community message boards he had been running in favour of a new ‘Asians in the Media' website.

The site launched in April 2003 with high profile endorsements from then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and Trevor Philipps, now chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

''This is not an industry I ever envisaged being part of,'' Hundal admitted. ''I felt more confident about the media industry because I saw how it worked and saw the opportunity to bring people together

''You've got to understand how the industry works, the nuances and the culture. I know where these people are coming from. There is a significant psychological barrier between minorities and mainstream media which I overcame by setting up my own blog and online magazine.''

With hindsight, Hundal's move into online publishing was perfect timing. It coincided with a period in British society when the country's most important institutions were increasingly receptive to the need for greater diversity.

The Asians In Media website soon became a news and community hub, connecting media professionals with those on the outside desperate to get in. It gained popularity thanks to Hundal's prodigious capacity for networking and his access to a small but influential community which in news terms, had been neglected. Regular scoops followed.

Hundal's great inspiration was to establish 'meet and greet' events for his on-line community. ''Things snowballed quite quickly,'' he said, recalling the momentum behind the AIM events which soon brought Hundal and his website to the attention of London 's media community.

Unlike other ethnic minority online magazines and 'old media' titles, Hundal made the decision not to focus the site's attentions solely on issues of discrimination and diversity.

''You can't do it as a worthy cause,'' he revealed. ''You have to make it interesting. I wanted people to come back to the website on a regular basis and for it to be a successful website, so I couldn't just say I wanted to push for more diversity.''

However, the challenges of the era were rarely far from his thoughts. ''There are many forms of discrimination,'' Hundal admitted. ''I have always been aware of the industry as monolithic but the industry is not as discriminatory as a lot of people think.''

Hundal claims change is required on both sides of the stand-off between media conservatives and reformers. He acknowledges that the media must become more inclusive but suggests that minorities also have a responsibility to show more realism where editorial priorities are concerned.

''There is a cultural change that needs to happen on both sides,'' said Hundal. ''Saying the media industry needs to be more diverse doesn't have much impact because those saying it are not from the industry. It's difficult for mainstream broadcasters to engage with these people because they don't speak the same language.''

For Hundal, progressive change is an inevitable process, given the media's need to win over and retain new audiences in an age of proliferating news and information sources.

He added: ''You see an industry collapsing because of the internet and new media. The industry is trying to change because it realises that unless it reaches out to a broader segment of the population it will fall apart.

''You have a narrow-minded form of journalism which makes people distrust the media and feel that there is nothing in it for them.

''It's not just a problem with ethnic minorities. This is a problem of an industry which has become insular and set in is ways and is not serving its audience. There is a complete lack of faith and a lack of trust within the sector. Papers will be forced to change their views.

''The only way to see change happening is by showing that there is a better way and forcing the media to listen through good journalism.''


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