Entering the world of journalism as a BBC trainee …
Jessica Creighton’s career has taken her from reporting on the 2012 and 2016 Olympics to working as a panellist and adviser for the leading equality organisations Kick It Out, Women In Sport, and Women In Football.
This summer Creighton expanded her platform onto YouTube, hosting the series B is for Black which aims to amplify the voices of black and mixed-race women by discussing everything from fetishes to racism to Black Lives Matter. We spoke to Creighton to find out more.
Please introduce yourself …
I’m Jessica Creighton, a broadcaster and journalist with over 10 years experience in the media industry. I’m currently a presenter for Sky Sports News, previously presenting for BBC Sport.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes where you’re at in life right now …
Unapologetic. I am at a stage in life where I am living my truth, no longer willing to dull my shine or appease others. I am finally being unapologetically myself.
How have you found the last couple of months in lockdown?
A rollercoaster of emotions. The biggest lesson I learned is that I’m a loner and that is ok. It’s ok to be comfortable in my own company. The need to busy myself socially was taken away during lockdown and I think for most of it I preferred to be by myself, with my thoughts, to work out where I was headed in life.
Tell us about B is for Black – what’s it all about?
B is for Black was born out of frustration. I’ve worked in the media industry for over a decade and, like so many other British industries, it does not value the voices and contributions of black and mixed-race women. I was tired of being dismissed and overlooked by the mainstream. After the social and racial uprisings this summer I felt compelled to do something, anything, to give black and mixed-race women the platform they need and deserve. So I started B is for Black, a safe space for black and mixed-race women to vent, debate, celebrate, and support each other through the unique challenges we face in life. A platform that truly amplifies the voices of black and mixed-race women. Unapologetically. No topic is off limits.
Why now and how did you go about setting up the channel – and why did you choose YouTube as the platform?
YouTube seemed like the platform where I could reach the most people. It’s also on IGTV too. This summer’s social and racial uprisings really put things in sharp focus for me. I could no longer overlook the inequalities that black and mixed-race people must contend with on a daily basis. It’s just too much. I refuse to remain silent whilst my community suffers so I wanted to use whatever platform I had to bring attention to these issues, but also create a space for collective healing. Each episode of B is for Black felt like a much-needed therapy session for me and my guests.
You’ve worked as a journalist for BBC and Sky for over 10 years – what was the first news story or article that triggered your interest in becoming a journalist?
I was only 15 years old when I was incensed by an article that I read in a national newspaper that, in my mind, was just outright lying about the subject matter. The article was provocative and inflammatory and annoyed the hell out of me (I would come to learn this was exactly what this particular newspaper does on a daily to rile up its readers KMT). I just had to write a response – a more fair and balanced argument than the original article. I sent it into the newspaper and funnily enough never got a reply. But I sent it to The Voice too. They read it, loved it, and invited me in to meet some of their staff. That experience really whet my appetite.
What are the key skills required to be a journalist?
It depends on what kind of journalist you want to be. For me, unfairness is what drives me. I can’t stand it. It was this summer during the social and racial uprisings when I really acknowledged my ‘why?‘ I realised that any kind of injustice infuriates me. It’s that simple. And that is what drives me day in day out. As a result, I’ve had to be hella resilient. When you’re constantly challenging the status quo people will be telling you no or trying to stop you the majority of the time so you’ve got to continue in the face of adversity. Drive. Trying to change the norm is exhausting and often isolating so do you have what it takes to keep going when you’re seemingly fighting the fight alone? But despite how intense it can be I’ve also become better at sometimes just shrugging my shoulders, turning my back and walking away with a smile. I can’t fight every battle, nor do I want to. Saying no is sometimes my biggest achievement.
There has been a big push to diversify sports journalism, have you experienced any resistance to being a Black woman reporting on sports?
Hell yes. Whether that be outright racism or more covert microaggressions I’ve had it all. The media is majority male, 94% white, and only 11% working class (despite 60% of the UK population being working class) which means I stand out. A lot. I’ve got better at handling the shady comments and side eyes as I’ve progressed in my career, and will continue to be really bloody visible and vocal to ensure those coming up underneath me do not have to experience the nonsense I have had to go through!
You were featured on the 2015 Football Black List which was founded to address the fact that, even though more than 25% of professional players in the UK are Black, there’s a lack of Black people making key decisions away from the pitch. Is this a problem you also notice in broadcast journalism? – and where are all the black women journalists in the UK? Is there a secret society, a club, or is it a lonely few of you?
Good question where are we? I’ve been looking for them for like 10 years now. Nah we are here, but as you’d expect very few of us are supported enough to make it into prominent positions. But many of us are in contact and have WhatsApp groups that go off. When I need to vent about something or someone I know my fellow black female journos will understand. I just love that sisterhood. I doubt I would have got this far without it.
Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Keep your eyes peeled cos I’m tryna come like Issa Rae and build an empire for us, by us. I don’t even want a seat at the table anymore, I’m building my own damn table.
Getting to know you …
- A book you have to have in your collection – no matter where you are – Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. I’ve never felt so connected to characters in a book. How is Bernardine Evaristo so able to authentically portray such a wide array of characters with such depth?
- A song / album that your friends associate with you – Garage music. Ms Dynamite, So Solid, Kele Le Roc, DJ Luck & MC Neat … find me bouncing to any of their tunes on any day at any time.
- Something on-screen that reminds you why you’re in this business… Every time I engage with mainstream media I’m reminded of how unrepresentative it is of the audience it serves and why I need to continue trying to break down barriers.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Sad: George Floyd was murdered on 25 May, which sparked global protests. 5 months on and I’m struggling to point at what tangible change has come as a result. Mad: Big companies, in 2020, asking me to work for free during Black History Month. Yeah, let me just go and cash in my “exposure” cheque at the bank KMT. Glad: The love for my latest project Coming In From The Cold a radio documentary on trailblazing black footballers. It’s a groundbreaking documentary that covers 3 centuries over 6 episodes. I’m the narrator and interviewer for the project and the feedback has been incredible. It’s playing out on national radio station Talksport and is available as a podcast on Spotify, Apple, etc.
Episodes of B is for Black are now available to view via Jessica Creighton’s YouTube Channel. Find out more here.