BBC journalist Johny Cassidy has recently been highlighting the importance of disability in the workplace with the Disability Works season. Visually impaired Johny is a Business Journalist and Producer at the BBC and hopes to get rid of the stigma attached to disability and the workplace.
Why do you think it’s important to have disabled people in the journalism world?
Diversity is something that we all hear being talked about a lot. The need for different voices leading the narrative of today’s society is as important now as it has ever been. For far too long the stories that have been told and, perhaps more importantly, how they’ve been told have come from too narrow a field.
There’s been a realisation that the need for more variety in these voices is what’s going to give a more colourful and fuller representation of today’s society. Hearing from disabled people is as important as any other under represented demographic and something we need to push.
Only by ensuring that disabled people are encouraged to pursue journalism as a career can we ensure that this diversity feeds through into how the news is told. I think media organisations have a responsibility now to recruit from all parts of our society. By doing this I’d hope that we get a variety of future journalists and decision makers who can tell the news through the lense of their experiences.
Do you find any hardships with your job? How did you overcome them?
Most disabled people will understand the difficulties that every day brings. The constant challenges put in the way and the solutions to these challenges are what I’d see as a reason to get more disabled people into journalism. Creative thinking and innovative problem solving are things that recruiters are looking for, and things that many disabled people do without even thinking about every single day. Having said all that though, the biggest problem is always going to be other people’s attitudes. I’d argue that the negative attitude to disability is an unconscious bias that’s been brought about by not having enough portrayals of disability within the media. Get more disabled people into visible and influential editorial roles within journalism and hopefully this will change.
What are your career and life aims?
First and foremost I’m a journalist. The fact that I’ve got a disability isn’t important. I’ve always been a story teller and it’s stories that I want to tell.
What would you say to anyone wanting to get into journalism industry yet are scared to because of their disability?
Journalism isn’t an easy profession, and you’re certainly not going to become a millionaire by doing it. The benefits though for anyone, disabled or not, is the chance to document what’s going on right now. If it’s something that you want to pursue and you’re determined to do it then there’s a huge number of ways in. The BBC is a great champion of disabled people and have currently got a number of apprenticeship and trainee schemes open for disabled people. Check the BBC website and apply for the roles you think might suit you. The bottom line is that if you want it bad enough you’ll get it. Disability isn’t a barrier to it.
What has been your proudest achievement?
I’ve recently been the architect behind the BBC Disability Works season. This was a week across BBC News that I conceived and saw through. It was great to see how positive it was received. It seemed to happen at exactly the right time and certainly made a splash across the BBC and beyond. It was during that week that the million pound fund for disabled journalists was announced, which is a huge step forward for the recruitment of disabled staff. The idea of the week was to show just what disabled people can do. It’s up to people now who want to become journalists to go and do it.