Charlene & Nadine White: cousins ​​on the front line of British media

In 2014, Charlene White became the first black woman to co-host News at ten. In 2020, Nadine White becomes the print media and The Independentis the very first racing correspondent. In doing so, they both made history. New “firsts”, if you will. They are first in their respective achievements as the under-representation remains and each achievement over the decades reflects where not everything had been allowed to go before. Charlene White and Nadine White are related. Their fathers are first cousins. Despite shared blood, ambition and employment in the industry, they speak individually about their respective professional positions. White people’s respective journeys in journalism were distinctly personal – the same destination but through different and emotional terrain.

“I’ve always enjoyed reading,” Nadine says on Zoom. “Write more precisely. I’ve always excelled in English, language and literature, so my connection to writing probably goes back a bit further. I went through some tough times during my pre-teen years; I lost my father when I was 11…. As an 11 year old, losing a parent, you don’t really know how to deal with this, but I found comfort in journal entries and it was my way of expressing my thoughts and making sense of them in a way that I couldn’t through conversations with people. When it came to thinking about a career, the perspective of journalism always seemed out of reach, not very realistic, because watching TV, picking up newspapers and magazines, I didn’t often see black perspectives reflected, really. A lot of the news and comments didn’t really speak to me, so it took me a while to realize that I had to be in it to win.

Did the writing grant Nadine, then a child, in the midst of her parental loss, a sense of expressive authority? “It was the first kind of major bereavement I experienced,” she explains. “It literally turned my world upside down and I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone about how I was feeling. Or not feeling… Turning to journal entries and writing down my thoughts and feelings. feelings gave me this authority. It was a cure for me. My relationship with writing, before journalism, before work, was always above all very personal. Where I did not feel that I could speak with people and having conversations, writing and writing down my thoughts has helped me gain clarity and authority, to find my voice.

For Charlene, who like Nadine is originally from South London but its Eastern Division, the love of writing also ran through the family. Adults who valued his relationship to words and writing. Until they don’t. “Like Nadine, I loved writing at school,” she says. “I absolutely loved it. I come from a family where if I wrote a poem at school and my mom and dad really loved it and they had a family friend come over, they would would have me stand in the living room and read aloud the poem or speech I had written. They would make me do this because they were so proud. My aunt had regular birthday parties at her house and in the part of his party, my job, since I was a teenager and probably even before that, was to write a speech. I should write a speech for his birthday. I should read this speech and give this speech to a room full of adults, but I really enjoyed it. I would find anecdotes; I realized that if I wrote a certain way, people would laugh and find it funny. So I started inserting jokes. The more I embarrassed my aunt, the funnier people thought it was, so I was like, “Oh, well, I’ll do that.”

Being so young, Charlene didn’t recognize the power of writing when she was writing these speeches. “I had no idea journalism jobs existed until we had a career day at school,” she says. “I didn’t know you could get paid to write! We sat and watched Trevor [McDonald] Every evening. The news was always broadcast in our house. So I thought, maybe this is the perfect job for me: this kind of puts those two things together and that’s why I decided to be a journalist. My parents were really against it once it sparked that interest; they were really, really against me to do so.

Why? “Because they are immigrants. Their parents did not bring them to this country to their kids not to be accountants or lawyers or doctors or dentists or any of those really stable jobs. They were, I suppose, fearful. I say “I guess”, but they were fearful. They said I would be unemployed for the rest of my life and therefore not “allowed” to do so. But I fought them, and fought them hard. I remember telling them, ‘You can’t raise an independent woman who, when she makes an independent decision, you say ‘no!’ It does not work like that. Obviously, it didn’t go very well.

The memory of Charlene jolted Nadine’s memory about a deal she made with her mother to appease his concerns about the perceived instability of pursuing a journalism career. “I thought: go to university, read English. Then I’ll try my hand at journalism and if that doesn’t work, I can at least fall back on teaching,” she says. “It was something my mother was quite happy with, although I had always had this burning desire to get into journalism. It is interesting to compare the two experiences.