There's no such thing as normal: interview with Nick Ransom

Check in with TV journalist and neurodiversity consultant, Nick Ransom.

Zahra Hanif
24th November 2023
Image: @Pixabay

Earlier this month, The Courier got the chance to talk to Nick Ransom, a TV journalist and neurodiversity consultant about the work that he does. 

What does a normal day look like for you?

Quite frankly, every day is different. Some days it's out on vacation. Some days it's at home trying to pitch ideas or come up with ideas. So every day is completely different and the diary is often absolutely packed or absolutely dead. But I really enjoy it. I think the variety you get being a freelancer is absolutely fantastic. But in terms of a normal day, there is no normal day. Sometimes it’s filming a piece, sometimes it's editing a piece, sometimes it's writing an article, sometimes it's a combination of everything really. And of course I'm a neurodiversity consultant as well, so I do a mixture of training workshops. You know, I'm somebody that needs that variety to be stimulated. So yeah, it’s really good fun.

What attracted you to the media industry, to begin with?

I mean from day one I was always very passionate. I love the technical aspects of videoing and the satisfaction of bringing something together and capturing life and then presenting it back in another way. I've always been described as a kind of observer of the world rather than somebody that's in the world. I remember when I was diagnosed as autistic, the psychologist said it's interesting that you sort of not hide behind the camera, but you know, you're on the other side of the camera sometimes. Because I was doing a lot of filming at that point where I wasn't necessarily on screen, and I was always observing the world and you know, I guess there is an element even when you're on camera that you’re still sort of hiding behind that camera and having that structure of a camera crew and and it being slightly somewhat more structured than the normal life generally. So I think that's why it works in a in an autistic way perhaps, but it's, yeah, it's genuinely fascinating and and I love it really and I think it's quite ironic that I'm autistic because I do genuinely love meeting people and trying to work people out and understand what makes them tick, so it's a dream job. It's what I've always wanted to do and there's a clip of me in 2008 saying that I wanted to be a TV reporter, and here we are. 

What does a consultant do, specifically in regards to neurodiversity? Why is this important, in your opinion? 

So as a neurodiversity consultant I do a mixture of things, but it includes training workshops, trying to improve the industry and create policy, and sometimes resources and guides to make the workplace more accessible so it's a real variety. I think it's critical really when you think about it because we have no real resource for neurodivergent people in our industry. You know, one in five people are neurodivergent and very often we get very much looked over and or clumped under the disability bracket. So I think that that's a problem. It's just trying to be more empowering and and as I say, it's not saying, look, this person can't. It's saying look, this person can if they're accommodated and it is just being slightly more accommodating and flexible so that's what I would say, but I do really enjoy what I do, and I think I’m starting to see some changes in the industry where people are thinking more proactively about this, and as a production company I'm working with at the moment that are doing incredible work in terms of really committing to improving neurodiversity and access to the workplace for neurodivergent people. So yeah it’s an exciting time, but I still think the industry is not going fast enough in this area and I think we need to be much more proactive as broadcasters, production companies, in every role really.

Why do you think it’s important to assert your role as a ‘neurodivergent’ journalist, and not just a journalist?

I think it's really important that we talk about being a neurodivergent journalist because, as I say, it's a term that doesn't really get much recognition. Quite frankly, it's something that needs greater awareness, greater understanding, and so the more I can reference that in my work, I mean, and also you know most of my work that I do on screen is around being. neurodiverse or neurodiversity generally, so I think it's just a good reflection of my role. Neurodiversity is a movement in the sense that, saying, look, we should celebrate people who think differently. Yes, there are challenges, but there's also great strengths.

Can you tell me a little bit about ‘The Neurodiverse Media Community’, and why you started it? 

That's a very good question. It was during the time of the Black Lives Matter movement, actually and I wrote a bit about this on my website, if you want a bit more detail, but essentially I was sat during the movement, really inspired by everything that everybody was doing and trying to improve their community and I felt like there's not really a community within my space of mainstream media, and I think I wanted to bring people together, really. That's the reality, I think you know, that neurodivergent people are often isolated. And that's what we need to have more of, is much more understanding and support for neurodivergent people. So I think it was one of those things where I thought there's not really many of us and they started this just for neurodivergent people. And then I thought well actually we should make it fully diverse in the sense of having people who aren't neurodivergent. So we've got a mixture of people who are just passionate about neurodiversity, want to do more on neurodiversity in there. I think we're creeping up to about 1000 members now, so it's a really exciting thing. I'd love to spend more time on it. I don't always have the time because obviously it's a voluntary thing that I've set up myself. Of course, I'd like more volunteers if people are interested in that space. So. It would be great to hear from people if they want to help out or post more regularly. 

What steps do you believe need to be taken for the media industry to be more accommodating for those with hidden disabilities?

The industry has to accept firstly, that neurodiversity isn't talked about enough. It's something that is very, very underrepresented. I think we talk about ethnic minorities a lot, which is of course, really, really important. But we talk a lot about disability and race, but not so much about neurodiversity and diversity of thought, as it's described, which is absolutely critical to any business, particularly the creative industry, so it's it's comical, really, that we're not really doing much in that space, but I think it's certainly going to improve. Our work, our content and our ability to interact with the world if we have people who are neurodivergent or have a hidden disability, if you want to call it that, it's something that is absolutely essential to improving the whole workplace. So in terms of the steps to do that, I think it is just accepting it #1. But #2 is then really understanding it. And taking time to to consult, that's a really critical part, but then really put steps in and resources and and processes in place that are going to support neurodivergent people and and make sure that managers and people looking after people are very much aware and understanding of it because it's it is a very complicated area and I think it's much more complicated than any other form of diversity because it is so wide-ranging, but it's as I say, absolutely critical to understanding our world, but also making the world accessible, which it's it's a bit of a travesty really that the workplace isn't fully accessible really.

What’s your favourite broadcasting piece you’ve ever done?

I mean working on Chris Packham's documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds last year was just incredible. It was a two-part documentary about four autistic people, all making films about their autistic experience, and it was just an absolute pleasure to do that and a real honour to be representing the autistic community, but such a huge responsibility, but I mean seeing those episodes be broadcast was just the most incredible moment. I'd seen the episodes obviously having worked on it and, you know, worked on the edit a bit. But when they went out, I was just incredibly emotional and it's bringing it back to me now, I think it was just we were all sat in the room together, the crew and cast and watching the programme go out and I could feel a sense of change in the air. I could feel the world, about to learn. It was a very amazing feeling and I've got goosebumps now talking about it, but I think, you know, I've heard the impact of the series and of course I was just an assistant producer. But the impact has been so great and people come up to me all the time and say, look, you know it's really helpful and I think my grandson understands himself better or we understand him better. Or you know those kind of words, it's really quite, quite something. I mean, also I met somebody on the programme who was autistic and supports the same football team as me, Middlesbrough? He was the first person to be cast. I had nothing to do with it. He lives in the same village as my where my dad grew up, so there's lots of weird coincidences that happened on the show. We filmed a scene near the village where I grew up as well, down South, so a real mixture of places and things that happened on the series just made it incredible. Even now we won a Grierson award the other day and it's just indescribable really, how amazing that was.

What’s your favourite part about working in the media?

I think the media is just such a creative but structured world and I think creating content is a really great way of observing the world. I'm not somebody that really goes out and spends much time out of my house domestically. I'm somebody that really likes to watch TV and consume the world that way, and I think it is a bit safer from an autistic perspective to have a sort of barrier between you and the world, because it can be quite overwhelming. And I think when there's a lack of structure and routine in the world, it can be incredibly overwhelming. So I think that's the greatest thing ist being able to use media as a way to learn about the world, and I think it would be much more difficult if I didn't have that sort of barrier in place. But there's so many things, I mean, I meet so many fantastic people every day and I work with some incredible people and I've met some incredible people. And so I’m really, really lucky, really.

Find out more about Nick and his work at: https://www.nickransom.co.uk/

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AUTHOR: Zahra Hanif
English literature student :)

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