*Interview with www.madamenoire.com
UK award-winning broadcast journalist Marverine Cole grew tired of seeing the Black voice omitted in mainstream media so she decided to launch the UK’s first podcast dedicated to women of color: “Quintessential Voices.”
The veteran broadcaster whose media career spans almost 25 years, worked at such renowned UK outlets as Sky News and the BBC (WM and 5Live), and has also been a radio documentary producer. Born and bred in Birmingham, Cole calls her “Quintessential Voices” podcast Britain’s biggest conversation celebrating women of color. She covers such topics as coping with anxiety and depression, being LGBTQ, tackling homelessness, and exploring the beauty market for women with darker hues.
Marverine Cole gave us the inside scoop on “Quintessential Voices” and what it’s like being a Black journalist in the UK.
MadameNoire (MN): What prompted you to start this podcast?
Marverine Cole (MC): I was just tired of seeing Black women being overlooked in mainstream media. We are rarely allowed a “seat at the table” to share our views about politics, news and current affairs, to tell our stories in a wider forum, to be unapologetically Black. If we’re talking about sport, music, we get a pass. If you’re a Black American woman, you get a pass. But this doesn’t go far enough. What about the academics, the scientists, the GPs, the entrepreneurial Mums who are Black? They can contribute to mainstream conversations as much as anyone else, but they — we — are excluded. There’s a huge swathe of smart, funny women of color who are experts in their field or who are making an impact in their local communities, but whose stories very rarely get a platform. So for me, not only is Quintessential Voices a podcast for anyone and everyone interested in enjoying the aural experience of hearing fascinating female voices, I consider it my personal love letter to British women of color.
MN: How are you marketing the podcast?
MC: It’s a completely self-funded passion project of mine so I’m pushing awareness via social media. It’s available on all popular platforms: iTunes, through the Stitcher Radio app (for Android users), Soundcloud and you can also pick up my RSS feed, all via my website.
MN: What is the environment like for Black journalists in the UK?
MC: It’s tough. But journalism as a profession is as hard as nails. Broadcast Journalism is even more competitive than that, because most people join the profession to achieve the status of appearing “live, on-air” at some point in their career. There are few roles in those upper echelons and the air is rarefied. Then when you see how few Black or minority ethnic reporters or newsreaders there are on our screens in primetime on the big news bulletins, you realize the picture isn’t that good. Behind the scenes, it’s worse. The results of a survey conducted by City University in London among 700 news professionals (which was released in March 2016) showed that only 0.4 percent of British journalists are Muslim and only 0.2 percent are Black. Nearly 5 percent of the UK population is Muslim and 3 percent is Black. Overall 94 percent were white, 86 percent university-educated and 55 percent were male
My media career spans 24 years, 13 of those for me have been as a journalist in TV & Radio news producing, reporting and anchoring for some of Britain’s most listened to and watched broadcasters–BBC, ITV, and Sky News. Speaking from personal experience, I found people around me had an inexplicably low expectation of what I could achieve –for whatever reason– but I defied those expectations,to become the Host of the “World News and Business Report” program for Sky News, to produce BBC radio documentaries, and so on.
MN: Is the “Black” voice heard in mainstream media there?
MC: I genuinely think it’s a combination of ignorance and apathy on the part of broadcasters. There’s a rallying cry for everyone to be more diverse. However when it comes to the crunch, researchers, guest bookers, and development teams default to the same voices and faces: and they’re mainly old white men. That means those decision-makers are not bothered to dig deeper, research further and select voices from communities they might not personally know or have ever dealt with. Ergo, we have a very bland media, with everything viewed via “white gaze.”
I’m taking the opportunity to build on the extensive mentoring and media training I’ve carried out in the past to keep nurturing new voices and views and interviewing Black and minority ethnic women from all walks of life –not all of them famous ones. And I hope that many of them will become the TV and radio experts of the future on British television. But then again, the internet is the biggest global broadcasting platform there is, so the sky’s the limit for these ladies. On the other hand, I don’t see myself as some kind of self-styled talent agent. That’s not what my podcast is about.
MN: What void do you feel your podcast fills?
MC: I’m a 40-something Black woman. My parents came to Birmingham in England from Jamaica in the 1950s, responding to the Queen’s request to help make Britain “GREAT” again after the devastation of World War II. My dad was a builder, my mum a nurse. I grew up watching TV, listening to radio, reading magazines where very few women looked like me. Women of my generation are rarely featured in the modern discourse. We’re rarely asked our views on the subjects that matter, that affect our daily lives. Period. I want to contribute to making sure that bland landscape doesn’t persist in future generations.
MN: What are your goals with the podcast?
MC: I’d like to see Quintessential grow way beyond just me conducting all of the interviews. I’d like to be able to train up and enable aspiring female journalists to produce with me eventually. Of course, being a live TV broadcaster, I’d like to see the format morph into a television version, a talk-show someday.
MN: What do you want people to take away from the podcast?
MC: I want as many people as possible–men, women, Black, white, yellow, or brown–to listen and enjoy this podcast. It’s a podcast that celebrates women of color. I hope my listeners, wherever they are in the world, will be able to appreciate the stories and journeys that these women living in Britain have taken and learned from. We’re not aliens, we’re not to be feared, we’re not always “sassy,” “strong,” or “independent.” We’re multi-faceted; we’re chameleons. But you just might not realize that until you listen to those stories, especially when they aren’t coming through from the mainstream.