Amber Haque graduated from our MA/PgDip Journalism programme in 2015. Since leaving, Salford, Amber has gone on to become one of the upcoming stars in the UK media, fronting documentaries for both BBC Three and for BBC Panorama in addition to being named a ‘One To Watch’ by the Edinburgh TV Festival.
For our campaign, Amber sat down with the University’s podcast, Talking Salford, to talk about her career and her thoughts on diversity in the industry. Here are some abridged extracts of that interview which can be watched in full here!
Why did you pick Salford to do your MA/PgDip?
I had been in Leeds doing English Language as my undergraduate. I always knew that I wanted to be a journalist and I think I was pushed from my school to keep things broad at university, like ‘just go and do English in case you change your mind!’
It was always in the back of my mind that I still wanted to pursue this career in journalism. The BBC had just been going for a few years here in MediaCity, ITV had just moved here, so it was still relatively new-ish. Just knowing that the University of Salford had a campus here, in the heart of it, in the thick of it, I was going to be surrounded by all these big broadcasters, as well as looking at the syllabus and the types of people who tutored here, and the opportunities, it just really felt like I was going to get this year of a crash course in ‘Journalism 101!’
Not only that but the opportunities to connect with people in the industry as well made it a no-brainer for me really, that it was the place to be, and obviously, being a Manc, it was really nice to come home for a little bit as well.
What do you think about the number of opportunities in the creative industries for Asian graduates and journalists? Do you think we’ve come some way now since you started in the industry?
Most definitely, we’ve come on leaps and bounds. Particularly in the last five years I’ve felt like I’ve seen a seismic shift in terms of representation. I think we focus a lot on new entrants and kind of like new talent breaking in but I’ve always had a concern at that kind of mid-tier level and leadership roles because that’s how culture filters down. Actual change happens when it is coming down from the top. It’s really difficult to create a culture when we’re only kind of doing it from the new entrants but things have got a lot better.
Its finding those spaces where ideas are going to be embraced like tone is really important because I think sometimes we can get diverse stories out there but the tone isn’t quite right, its not truly representative. There’s a lot of examples when I think about regionality and diversity in terms of telling stories about regions, where they are quite stereotypical with caricatures, like I think of some of the stories that have come out of Newcastle and Liverpool, for example.
But when I found those spaces, like when I worked on the Victoria Derbyshire programme, the reason why I wanted to work there was because you could tell that the tone, the types of reporters that were doing the stories, everything was about truly giving the 360 [view] of the story and I like that they didn’t want to put me in a box.
Things have got a lot better [but] when I first started there was a lot of people wanting to put me in a box where I just did South Asian stories [and maybe] it was because I might have only been one of the first South Asian female journalists coming to certain spaces.
For me, diversity is not just doing stories about where people are from, that’s not true diversity as it kind of feels a bit box ticking. [We need more stories that represent] diversity of thought.
I just don’t know if we are a hundred percent there yet. With everything that’s happened with George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel like black creatives have made leaps and bounds in terms of representation and creating spaces for themselves to thrive and really championing each other.
I hope and wish we can do that a bit more in the South Asian community as well and that’s why the Asian Media Awards are incredible because they create an annual space where South Asian creatives and people in the television industry can get together and it is so much more far-reaching than just the awards themselves. I wish we could do that more.
What can the industry do to make a career in the creative industries more open and friendly to South Asian communities?
It is one of the most challenging times because trust in the media is at an all-time low and there’s a lot of scepticism, some rightfully so, some really not rightfully so. From a journalist perspective as well, there’s a lack of understanding about the importance of impartiality you know in an era and generation where everybody wants to have an opinion.
I feel like this generation coming up now, I think they do have that [greater sense of] consciousness, I think they have that sort of desire for truth and cutting through the noise. They recognise [the untrustworthiness] of messages that are being pushed towards them but we are up against this wave of social media.
I think it’s about empowering people to see that the world around them has relevance and that [they] can really offer something fascinating to this industry. The more I started to lean into that, like I used to see a conversation with a cab driver as a place to find a story, you wouldn’t believe the gold mine of stories and perspectives that there are out there. I feel we have to do a bit of demystifying the role of the media in this current world and embrace the wave of change that’s obviously happening with social media and AI soon.
What’s your strongest memory of being a student at Salford?
Honestly, it was the tutors and the general environment of the University. I went from doing an undergraduate where there was a thousand people on my course where I didn’t get to know the tutors at all to coming here and it felt like a complete contrast of an experience.
Having that smaller year group, we did so much together, like Quays News felt like we were genuinely doing the real deal. The adrenaline was rushing and you really got that team spirit which was fostered by the tutors and lecturers.