Joy Francis has made it her mission to create a level playing field in the newsroom.

She believes the only way to provide full and informed news coverage for diverse ethnic communities is to reflect that diversity among journalists.

And, to achieve this, she's enlisted the help of the Telegraph & Argus, which is one of only five publications across Britain taking part in a pioneering new scheme aimed at recruiting journalists from ethnic minorities into the media.

Joy is a director of the Creative Collective, a new media training and policy consultancy set up by black and Asian journalists championing racial inclusivity in the media.

The partnership has launched The Creative Collective Newspaper Internship after landing a £10,000 award from the Freedom Forum - an American media foundation promoting free speech and press freedom.

The T&A is one of five publications taking part. The others are The Times, Manchester Evening News, The Big Issue, and Nottingham Evening Post.

There will be one internship for African, Caribbean or Asian journalism students on each publication, and three-month placements will start this July. Placements could lead to full-time employment.

In January, presentations on the internship were given to students in journalism colleges across Britain. Applications will go to the Creative Collective and CVs will then be sent to editors of the publications involved.

The scheme - supported by high-profile media names including Channel 4 News's Jon Snow and New York Times political correspondent Jonathan P Hicks - is expected to attract hundreds of applicants.

Joy says that as well as providing better opportunities for ethnic minority journalists, the scheme will help white journalists better understand the ethnic communities they serve.

"Lack of diversity in the newsroom can lead to uninformed reporting," she says.

"Many white journalists come from middle-class backgrounds. Most have never been out of academia until they start their careers and haven't been in contact with black and Asian communities. Yet they're expected to cover issues involving ethnic cultures and groups like Yardies which they know nothing about. It must have an impact on their reporting.

"People from ethnic minorities need to be an integral part of newspapers. But it's got to be more than tokenism. There is a danger that they are only brought in to write about ethnic minority issues. They can end up thinking "is that why they took me on?"

"They need to be providing a broader all-round coverage."

Joy says newspapers are generally less progressive than broadcasting in recruiting ethnic minority staff.

"Look at television news programmes and you see a lot of black faces," she says. "It's a powerful, positive image. The vibe is "you too can have a TV career."

"But in national newspapers most big-name journalists are white. It's not very encouraging. There's already a shortage of applications from black and Asian people because they either see journalism as a white people's profession or, particularly with Asians, their families don't see it as a respectable career.

"Seeing ethnic minority journalists doing well can be very inspiring for young people. The publications taking part in this internship are playing a big part in addressing this."

T&A Editor Perry Austin-Clarke said he would like the newspaper's staff to be more representative of the local community.

"We're not looking for more journalists from the ethnic minority communities so that they can cover only ethnic minority affairs," he said. "It's long been our policy that all our journalists are here to serve all our readers, whatever their ethnic background.

"But if 20 per cent of the local community have an Asian background, for instance, then it can only help our understanding of the issues and stories which interest and affect them if our staff has a better racial balance.

"We've had some success over the years with recruiting ethnic minority journalists - and Anila Baig see above is a good example - but it's a difficult task for all the reasons Joy Francis describes.

"So the Creative Collective's initiative is very welcome. We're delighted to be a part of it and we're looking forward to welcoming our first candidate in July."

Joy was inspired to set up the internship after seeing its success in America.

The Freedom Forum's Chips Quinn Memorial Fund for Minority Scholars in Journalism - which is funding the Creative Collective placements in Britain - has over the past decade put 500 people through newspaper internships. More than 80 per cent are working in American media.

"The forum keeps in touch with them through a website, which is what we want to do here," says Joy. "During their placements we'll offer guidance and mentor support, and visit interns at work to monitor their progress.

"And we'll keep in contact after the placements. We want to know what these people go on to do - otherwise there's no point in it.

"If we (the Collective partnership) as working journalists can manage to set up this initiative there's no excuse for other newspapers not to get involved."