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T H E
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U N I O N
J O U R N A L I S T S
WWW.NUJ.ORG.UK | APRIL/MAY 2012
BEHIND THEWIRE The union is back in Wapping
Contents Cover feature 16 Behind the wire
Why Wapping needs the NUJ
ore than a quarter of a century ago, Barrie Clement and a small group of NUJ colleagues refused to join Rupert Murdoch in his Wapping plot to smash newspaper trade unionism. Now Barrie has been talking for our cover story with journalists employed by Murdoch who see that their future, and the defence of journalistic standards, is best served by joining the NUJ. Defending journalism and protecting sources are vital tasks right now for the union and all our members. The fact that one national newsdesk displays prominently a bottle of brown sauce and a bottle of ketchup with the slogan ‘Protecting our Sauces’ doesn’t mean there’s anything to laugh about in the current attacks on our trade. Contributions to this edition of The Journalist reflect the NUJ’s campaigning work at meetings, conferences and anywhere people will listen, to underline the importance of journalism in ensuring the people’s right to know. Attacks on our members and their ethical standards by corrupt politicians and police may ring hollow to us, but for a wider public they can have a seductive appeal. In this issue, we also look at training for journalists, and how students can get a start in the business. Together with union news, add in some acid observations on writing style, comment from our regular columnists and some lively letters pages to round off this issue of The Journalist
Eddie Barrett Acting Editor
Editor Christine Buckley firstname.lastname@example.org Design Surgerycreations.com email@example.com Advertising warren.mackenzie@tenalps. com Tel: 020 7657 1831 Print Warners www.warners.co.uk Distribution Packpost www.packpostsolutions.com
NUJ 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP firstname.lastname@example.org www.nuj.org.uk Tel: 020 7843 3700
Manchester office email@example.com Glasgow office firstname.lastname@example.org Dublin office email@example.com
Cover picture Nic Oatridge
03 News International chapel launched Major breakthrough for NUJ
04 Massive job cuts at Express
Axeman Desmond strikes again
05 FT strike threat victory
Stoppage wins improved pay
06 Taking on the media barons
Limit ownership of ‘core media’
07 Newsquest faces pay action Journalists ready to walk out
10 Regulation Irish-style
How NUJ created press council in Dublin
14 Safeguarding journalism’s future Issues for students and teachers
09 Michelle Stanistreet 21 Unspun: the view from inside PR 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters Pages 26-27
nUJ chapel breakthrough at news international JEFF GILBERT/ALAMY
n a major advance for independent trade unionism in Britain the NUJ has established a chapel at Rupert Murdoch’s Wapping plant in East London. The first act of the chapel – set up at News International after a union-free 25 years – will be to take legal action to protect journalists’ sources at The Times and Sunday Times after the company passed data, including Sun reporters’ emails, to the police. Three new chapel officers, all Times journalists, have liaised with colleagues on the other two titles and a meeting of all NUJ members at News International is being planned. The chapel officers have agreed to be named on an application for an injunction
against parent company News Corporation to prevent its ‘Management and Standards Committee’ (MSC) passing on information identifying legitimate sources. Material handed over to Scotland Yard by the committee included emails, expense forms and transcripts of internal interviews with staff, leading to the arrest of nine current and former Sun reporters on suspicion of allegedly making illegal payments to public officials. The same exercise is planned by the MSC at The Times and Sunday Times. Journalists on all three newspapers are deeply concerned that whistleblowers will be identified. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet has been in private discussions with editorial staff. She said: “We want News International journalists to know that the NUJ is on their side. The people who have set up the chapel and are challenging the company’s betrayal of sources, should be congratulated for their bravery.” Unions were derecognised in the Wapping dispute in 1986. A secure email address firstname.lastname@example.org. uk enables News International journalists to contact Michelle on a confidential basis. See cover story page 16
No Need for new privacy law
he NUJ welcomed a parliamentary report arguing against a new privacy law. The joint committee on privacy said cases should still be judged individually by courts. The union also welcomed the committee’s assertion that the defunct
Press Complaints Commission should be replaced by a body with more teeth. The NUJ is seeking a structure which acknowledges that self-regulation has failed. A new model should include a press ombudsman and a regulatory body with greater involvement by
We want News International journalists to know that the NUJ is on their side
civic society including the trade union movement. It would need statutory underpinning to bolster its powers to fine and award compensation, but it should be independent of parliament and the industry. See Irish Press Council page 10
Murdoch faces piracy claim
upert Murdoch’s News Corporation is facing allegations over pay TV piracy in the UK and Australia that strike at the heart of the multi-billion pound business. The company allegedly used subsidiary NDS to help drive paid-for TV competitors out of business by promoting the pirating of their smart cards.
BBC Panorama claimed that NDS hired computer hackers to sabotage ITV Digital, which folded in 2002, and the Australian Financial Review alleged that NDS engaged in similar activities against three Australian competitors. News Corporation has denied the claim, which has been described by Panorama
as the ‘biggest Murdoch hacking scandal of all’. Meanwhile, broadcasting regulator Ofcom has stepped up its investigation into whether BSkyB is a ‘fit and proper’ owner of a broadcasting licence. James Murdoch, a former director of NDS, has quit as chairman of BSkyB ahead of a Commons report on phone hacking.
NICK WINS TOP AWARD FOR EXPOSE The Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism worth £5000 was won by Guardian journalist and NUJ member Nick Davies for his expose of News of the World phone-hacking. The citation praised Nick’s ‘ dogged and lonely reporting’ of the impact which forced ‘a humbled Rupert Murdoch’ to close the News of the World and abandon the planned buyout of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, while Britain’s most senior police officer was forced to quit. MURDOCH-THATCHER MEETING REVEALED Rupert Murdoch secretly met Margaret Thatcher in 1981 to clear the way for him to buy The Times and Sunday Times, Thatcher’s private files revealed. Both sides had denied the meeting took place. Notes from it showed Murdoch planned to take on the unions, introduce new technology and cut the workforce by 25 per cent. SUN ON SUNDAY SELLS 3.2 MILLION The first official figures for The Sun on Sunday show a launch circulation of 3,213,613. The official ABC figure is slightly lower than the 3,260,000 quoted by Rupert Murdoch. In the month before it closed the News of the World had an average circulation of 2,667,428 YARD MEDIA CHIEF QUITS Scotland Yard’s communications chief Dick Fedorcio has resigned over the award of a PR contract to an ex-News of the World executive Neil Wallis who was due to appear for a second time at the Leveson inquiry. Fedorcio was facing disciplinary action. RUPERT’S ‘bELIEVE IT OR NOT ...‘ Commenting on the Sunday Times’ scoop about Conservative Party ‘cash for access’, the beleaguered proprietor Rupert Murdoch, himself at the centre of serious allegations, said on Twitter: “Without trust, democracy and order will go.” theJournalist | 3
‘irresponsible’ Desmond wields his axe yet again
LEbEDEV LAUNCHES NEW FOUNDATION The Journalism Foundation, a new non-profit organisation ‘which promotes, develops and sustains free and independent journalism’, has been launched under the leadership of former Independent editor Simon Kelner and supported by the Lebedev family, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard. JObS RISK AS RIVAL PAPER CLOSES Weekly paper Cambridge First , launched by Archant in May 2010 in response to Iliﬀe News & Media’s Cambridge Now launched on the same day, has closed. A total of twelve jobs are said to be at risk as a result. GRAND SLAM FOR WESTERN MAIL Wales’s rugby ‘grand slam’ saw a massive sales surge at Trinity Mirror’s Wales on Sunday and Western Mail titles. Copies of Wales on Sunday’s £1 grand slam edition were sold on Ebay for up to £4.
The £5m worth of cuts constituted a fraction of the money Desmond has paid into his own pension fund in recent years
grants his employees a long-overdue rise.” Under the proposals, London is in line to lose 27 staff jobs and the equivalent of 18 long-term casual positions, Glasgow will lose 12 staff and six casuals and Broughton will lose two staff and 10 casuals. Barry pointed out that the £5m worth of cuts constituted a fraction of the money Desmond has paid into his own pension fund in recent years. “This is a kneejerk reaction. Desmond’s only strategy for the future of the company seems to be to cut jobs and reduce the quality of his newspapers, which puts circulation at further risk. These are iconic and profitable titles and deserve better stewardship.”
MIrror CANCeLS penSiOn FUnD payMenTS
UJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick has secured agreement to regular reviews of pension provision from Trinity Mirror finance director Vijay Vaghela after the company cancelled this year’s deficit pension fund contributions.
Trinity Mirror is cutting payments into an earnings related fund by £69m over three years to pay off US creditors. The fund was frozen to new accruals last year. The decision by the group, publisher of four national papers and 130 regional
titles, is understood to be under scrutiny by the Pensions Regulator. The Mirror pensions deficit rocketed from £161m to £230m last year. Barry said: “When the company closed the final salary scheme they told us there was a 10-year plan to
pay off the deficit. They paid the first instalment, but not the second. Their tenyear plan lasted one year.” He urged Mirror shareholders to block a new pay package for Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey in order to save journalists’ jobs.
Hasn’t Thompson got a nerve?
WE’VE bEEN bLAGGED SAY bLOGGERS Thousands of unpaid bloggers attempting to claim millions of dollars from the Huffington Post have had their case dismissed by a New York court. The bloggers claimed their contributions to the website meant they should share in the profits following its $315m sale to AOL. But a US district court judge ruled that the bloggers were fully aware they would not be paid when they signed up.
he union is fighting plans by Express boss Richard Desmond for a fresh wave of massive cutbacks. Desmond wants to axe the equivalent of more than 70 jobs – 40 of them full-time – across the four Express and Star titles and is insisting on more seven-day working. The £5m worth of cuts include reducing the workforce in Glasgow by nearly a third, casting doubt on any claim that the company will continue to produce a ‘Scottish’ newspaper, says NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick (pictured). The Express chapel rejected the proposals and pointed out that, while Desmond presented himself to a House of Commons committee as a responsible publisher, ‘we deny that he can be any such thing’. He was running four profitable newspapers down to a point where they would no longer present value for the reader, a chapel resolution said. “We are ashamed to see management seemingly running up the white ﬂag and capitulating to the Murdoch empire’s price war. “We demand that Mr Desmond not only lays out a plan for the future of the titles but that he ends the four-year pay freeze and
STUDENTS DIP A TOE INTO bATH PAPER The Bath Chronicle has teamed up with City of Bath College to showcase the work of young journalists in the region. Once a month the Chronicle will devote a page of news to writers from the college’s online student magazine. The venture aims to raise student writers’ profiles and attract a younger readership for the paper. The student magazine focuses on features and stories about artists, filmmakers and musicians.
ight consecutive years of job cuts at BBC news under departing director general Mark Thompson has jeopardised the corporation’s position as a premier broadcaster, the NUJ believes. The latest announcement of 140 job losses is the first round of cuts in the news operation under the ‘Delivering Quality First’ plan to axe another 2,000 jobs across the corporation over five years. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet urged Thompson’s successor to revisit the agreement. Broadcasting organiser Sue Harris said: “In his leaving letter, Mark Thompson had the nerve to say that ‘the BBC I will be leaving is so much stronger than the BBC I inherited back in 2004’.”
4 | theJournalist
walkout at FT prompts improved pay oﬀer
ournalists at the Financial Times won an improved pay offer following a twohour walkout and the threat of more industrial action. The chapel called off a second stoppage – scheduled to last three hours – after management watered down its plan for merit pay, devoting more cash to an across-the-board increase. The company agreed to pay a further 0.5 per cent to all journalists in addition to the previous award of between 2 and 2.5 per cent. Although the increase in the overall pay bill from July 1 remains at 3.5 per cent, the original offer was deeply unpopular because a third was to be used as merit pay or for ‘staff retention’ at the managing editor’s discretion. In the final negotiations management revealed that a profit-related bonus, negotiated with the NUJ three years previously, would be £394, payable by the end of March.
FT group FoC Steve Bird said: “This dispute has shown that our members are as principled and tenacious as trade unionists as they are as journalists. “I am proud of the chapel’s response and very pleased that management has listened to the majority of its staff. We hope to rebuild good relations with senior managers and get back to producing a great newspaper.” The chapel voted unanimously to welcome the company’s decision to redistribute the pay award ‘more equitably’ and also management’s commitment to discuss the lessons of the pay dispute and to revise and complete the draft house agreement accordingly. NUJ national organizer Fiona Swarbrick, said the dispute had been ‘long and difficult’ for members and welcomed the improved award. She said the chapel was encouraged by management’s commitment to greater ‘transparency and substance’ in future negotiations.
This dispute has shown that our members are as principled and tenacious as trade unionists as they are as journalists
extra! More hyper locals launched
hree new hyper-local newspapers were being launched in the Northamptonshire towns of Corby, Wellingborough and Kettering. The new fortnightly titles published by Extra Newspapers were due to go live this month after research into ‘news gaps’ across the UK found that Corby – with a population of around 55,000 – had no dedicated newspaper. Extra Newspapers managing editor Stuart Parker said his company was eyeing further launches in the near future.
Johnston Press’s Kettering-based Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph currently circulates in Wellingborough and Corby and the publisher also prints a number of weekly Citizen series titles in the area. But Parker said Extra Newspapers does not see itself as being in competition with Johnston. “The Evening Telegraph isn’t competition, we’re not in their league,” he said. Parker described those who predict the death of newspapers as ‘doom mongers’.
oN-LINe PUBLISHerS UpBeaT
wo thirds of UK online publishers are planning to increase the number of digital roles ‘on the back of product growth expectations’, the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) says. That compares with
55 per cent of publishers experiencing growth in 2011, which was the highest figure since 2008, according to the AOP’s annual census. Just over half of the publishers taking part in the census were said to be planning to recruit staff to
work on apps and almost half (48 per cent) on mobile. That was a significant increase on 2011 where the corresponding numbers were 41 per cent and 31 respectively, the report said.
LAW OFFICER MUST PURSUE TWITTERATI A parliamentary committee on privacy injunctions says the Attorney General should be ‘more willing’ to bring contempt actions against legal breaches on social networks. As a student was jailed for racist ‘Tweets’, the committee pointed out that Twitter would identify account holders when presented with a court order. Despite an injunction banning publication, an estimated 75,000 users revealed Ryan Giggs’ alleged aﬀair with a model. ACTION NEEDED OVER VIOLENCE The international community urgently needs to take sanctions against regimes which commit acts of violence against journalists, says UNESCO. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange estimates that in nine out of ten cases journalists’ killers are never prosecuted. LEEDS LEADS IN STUDENT IPAD APP The Leeds Student has launched what is understood to be the first edition of a British student newspaper on iPad. The app was approved for release by Apple after two months development, mainly by the newspaper’s editor and digital editor, with help from the paper’s design team. bANKS COULD TAKE JOHNSTON SHARES Scotsman publisher Johnston Press could be forced to ‘surrender part of the company to its banks’, in order to secure a new life-saving loan, a Sunday Times report says. Shares in the company – which has £350m of debt – slumped after its annual results were delayed to continue talks on renewing loans. NEWSPRINT COSTS HIT TELEGRAPH Operating profit at Telegraph Media Group fell 7.3 per cent to £55.7m in 2011, in the year ending 1 January 2012. Improved revenue was oﬀset by increased costs, especially substantially higher newsprint prices, the company said. theJournalist | 5
news in brief... UK NEWSPAPERS DECLINE MOST British newspapers are among the worst circulation performers in Europe according to industry analyst Jim Chisholm.They have plunged by 20 per cent in five years, compared with a European average of 12 per cent. UK nationals declined by 16 per cent against a European norm of 13 per cent, while regionals declined by 29 per cent against 12 per cent generally. bULLIED FOR ASKING FOR A ‘LIVING WAGE’ The NUJ supported Rentokil Initial cleaners working at Thomson Reuters who took action over poor pay and bullying. Last November Thomson Reuters rejected any increase to their wages. Cleaners who circulated a petition calling for the ‘London Living Wage’ of £8.60 an hour say they were subjected to intimidation and abuse by Rentokil managers.
FRIGHTENING ATTACK ON MEDIA FREEDOM The NUJ has protested over a ‘frightening’ erosion of media freedom in EU member Hungary. NUJ vice president Barry McCall said there had been an ‘unacceptable silence’ over the Hungarian government’s attacks on the right to freedom of expression.
sources of funds to stem the crisis in local journalism. Firstly, cash could come from a one per cent levy on the turnover of ‘content aggregators’ – profit-making organizations that gather free material from websites. Secondly, there could be a levy on internet search advertising, as in Spain and the Netherlands. The third source could be a levy on internet service providers. The cash would be administered by a public trust. NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley (pictured) told delegates that he might have an ‘Irish solution to a British problem’. He pointed to the Irish Press Council which has 13 independently appointed members, with most drawn from outside the industry, and an ombudsman. (See Page 10)
Chair of the NUJ Leeds branch Pete Lazenby said much of the decline in regional papers was caused by the greed of proprietors. Pete, also joint FoC at Yorkshire Post Newspapers, said: “Where Tesco’s was happy to make 10 per cent profit, regional newspapers were told that 30 per cent wasn’t enough. And the answer has been to cut, cut, cut.”
Seamus Dooley told delegates that he might have an ‘Irish solution to a British problem’
INforMATIoN SHoULd Be Free
ttempts to dilute the Freedom of Information Act and bring in new charges for requests must be resisted, according to an NUJ submission to a Commons committee. However, the Ministry of Justice told the justice select committee, which is investigating the effectiveness of the Freedom of Information Act
2000, that FOI requests were a drain on public bodies. The hearing came after local councils lobbied to introduce new charges. Former ex-Guardian journalist David Hencke gave evidence for the NUJ. Now an investigative reporter for ExaroNews, he told MPs that since the act there has been a sea change in the
amount of information available to the press and public. The committee was told that some local papers would not be able to afford FOI requests if there was a fee for the information. Many public bodies were blocking requests and delaying responses, MPs heard.
nUJ welcomes Dale Farm decision
he NUJ has welcomed a key legal decision allowing it to apply for a judicial review of a court order forcing journalists to hand over footage of the Dale Farm eviction to Essex police. The Dale Farm case raises fundamental issues about the ability of the press to report matters of public interest without fear of intimidation.
The application is on behalf of NUJ member Jason Parkinson, the BBC, ITN, BskyB and Hardcash Productions. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the case would have significant implications for the whole industry. She said journalists were not ‘evidence gatherers’ for the police.
NO HAVEN FOR TAX DODGERS The Tax Justice Network, of which the NUJ is a member, has launched a 15-minute monthly podcast service about tax evasion and avoidance, tax havens and the shadow banking system at www.tackletaxhavens. com/taxcast. It features headlines and analysis of events of the month.
radical blueprint aimed at breaking up media monopolies was launched at a key national conference ‘Taking on the Media Barons’. Professor James Curran, director of the Goldsmiths Leverhulme media research centre, proposed that no corporation should receive more than 15 per cent of the total revenue of the UK’s ‘core media system’ – newspapers, TV, radio and part of the internet which reports public affairs and is funded by advertising. If a company received more it should take on public service obligations, Professor Curran told the conference organized by the NUJ, TUC and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. He told delegates that there were three potential
DIVERSITY HELP FOR NCTJ COURSES Journalism Diversity Fund bursaries are on oﬀer to people from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds who have applied for a place on an NCTJ-accredited course. There will be four bursary rounds this year with the first deadline for applications expiring on April 20. For more information visit www.journalismdiversityfund.com.
Media ownership ‘must be restricted to 15 per cent’
Jason Parkinson: Page 8
6 | theJournalist
newsquest faces strike over freeze on wages ELIZABETH LEYDEN/ALAMY
ore than eight out of ten NUJ members at the Newsquest group are prepared to take strike action to fight yet another pay freeze this year. Some 82 per cent of the membership voted for walkouts in an indicative ballot, with just 18 per cent against. The UK’s third largest regional newspaper
group insists there is no official group-wide pay freeze, but no chapel has reported being made an offer. Most chapels were told the situation would be reviewed by the end of last month. Newsquest has not given its staff a pay rise in three out of the last four years, yet the profits for its US owners, Gannett, have risen by 15 per cent to £82.5 million. A leaﬂet distributed to local NUJ officers points out that journalists have only received a two per cent increase in the last four years while inﬂation has risen by 14 per cent. In the wake of a survey of chapels which revealed a relentless regime of cuts, members were also asked in the ballot if they had confidence in Gannett. Some 95 per cent said No and just 5 per cent Yes. Northern and midlands organiser Chris Morley said the result of the ballot showed that members were in no mood to accept the ‘cynical and miserly’ treatment. Newsquest Group Chapel FoC Bob Smith said the vote of no confidence in Gannett demonstrated the ‘despair’ of NUJ members who were desperately trying to maintain journalistic standards. Chapels throughout the group took part in the Work Your Proper Hours initiative on February 24 to protest about the increasing burden on journalists.
Proﬁts for its US owners, Gannett, have risen by 15 per cent to £82.5 million
we’re turning the tide over equality
he NUJ gets a pat on the back in a survey of equality in trade unions by the southern and eastern region of the TUC (SERTUC). The research,’Swimming against the tide’, assesses
equality in 38 TUC unions covering 99 per cent of the affiliated membership. The survey points out that the NUJ, with a 39 per cent female membership, has increased the proportion
PeNALISed for BeinG preGnanT
UJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet warned that women in the media are still facing discrimination, harassment and lower pay. They are penalised for becoming pregnant, frozen out of promotions and
edged off the TV screen, she told a fringe meeting on the media at the TUC women’s conference last month. Award-winning freelance photographer Jess Hurd, who has covered riots and demonstrations in Tahrir Square, told the meeting
women news photographers working for the national press face widesspread prejudice. “We all have to put up with the sexist banter; it’s all about putting women in their place. Men sometimes physically block your shots.”
of women on its national executive from 13 per cent to 32 per cent. The report is available on the SERTUC website www.tuc.org/sertuc Or contact Joanne Adams on email@example.com
SUN RISES AS MIRROR FALLS Audit Bureau of Circulation figures show every newspaper website apart from the Sun recorded a month-on-month decline in total unique browsers for February, with the biggest drop by the Mirror at 31.29 per cent. This came in the same month the Mirror site was relaunched. The Sun’s website recorded a rise in total monthly traffic of 2.29 per cent. LAbOUR ‘FAWNED’ OVER DESMOND Remembering his time at the Express, Independent editor Chris Blackhurst told the Bath literature festival: “We were trying to turn the paper into a more liberal and upmarket paper but management lost its nerve. They sold the paper to Richard Desmond... Within a fortnight, the heavy bulk of the Labour Cabinet was fawning over Desmond. We were really shocked by it.” NY TIMES ATTRACTS 450,000 SUbSCIbERS The New York Times is allowing access to ten free articles a month online before payment is required, compared to 20 when it first launched its ‘paid-content’ model in March last year. The group also announced that a year after launch it has around 454,000 paid subscribers across its digital subscription packages. EDITOR HELD OVER SLUR ON MONARCH The International Federation of Journalists has urged Thailand to release Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor-in-chief of Voice of the Oppressed (Voice of Taksin), who has been held since April last year accused of ‘negative references’ to the monarch. EMERGENCY TEST FOR STUDENTS Fifty broadcast journalism students from Nottingham Trent University took part in a training exercise involving a simulated chemical disaster. The students performed the role of the media, testing the response of the emergency services. theJournalist | 7
dale farm JESS HURD/REPORTDIGITAL.CO.UK
ff o s d n Ha l a i r e t our ma Video journalist Jason Parkinson is at the centre of a battle to protect unpublished material from police
everal hundred riot police armed with batons, shields and tasers stormed the Dale Farm Irish Traveller site at Cray’s Hill in Essex, when I began filming just before dawn on October 19 last year. I never could have imagined that five months later the footage would be at the heart of a legal case that could alter the future of press freedom in the UK. For the past 18 months I have watched the increase in production orders being served on the press to obtain their unpublished material. Now the main broadcasters are saying ‘enough is enough’ and have joined together with the NUJ to oppose the Dale Farm production order by applying for judicial review. Ironically, the increase in seizing journalist material began happening around the same time we saw improvements in police and press relations. Gaining passage through police cordons was no longer a problem, press cards were being 8 | theJournalist
respected and overt surveillance by Forward Intelligence Teams had stopped. It was also the start of some of the worst unrest this country has seen for many decades. I received an email last November from Essex police stating I was being served an order to obtain all my footage from the Dale Farm eviction: two days worth of footage. That email came 38 minutes after a separate email, also from Essex police, tried to obtain the footage for ‘training purposes’. Within a week, production orders were served on every professional news and film camera that covered the eviction. All opposed the order on the grounds of protecting journalist impartiality, free from state interference, and the effect that interference would have on the safety of all journalists in the future. The union’s own code of conduct lists the protection of sources and all journalistic material as fundamental to journalists’ ethics. When this was raised
The fear now is that the journalist is being forced into the role of an unwilling agent of the state
at Chelmsford Crown Court during the application hearing, I was told by prosecuting counsel that I held a “very extreme view” for defending the code of conduct. Judge Grathwicke, who presided over the hearing, said in his judgement he did not believe being forced to comply with the court order would breach the code of conduct. Just as ITN received another production order for the recent Syrian Embassy clashes in London, its chief executive John Hardie said: “Rather than being a rare exception where requests are made for otherwise unobtainable evidence of serious wrongdoing, the wide-ranging Dale Farm production order is in danger of becoming the norm.” The BBC and Sky News have also expressed very serious concerns. Essex Police Detective Inspector Jennings admitted in the application hearing they were more interested in the background footage, not just the scenes of criminality, which suggests this material is being seized to fill police intelligence databases. John Hardie was right, production orders were once used to obtain the unobtainable. At Dale Farm there were three police camera units, one helicopter and two bailiff cameras. Now it would seem the net is cast far and wide to gather additional evidence, using the press as nothing more than CCTV. The fear now is that the Dale Farm case is being used not only to make this type of production order the norm, but to make them arbitrary, the journalist being forced into the role of an unwilling agent of the state.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet speaks up for journalism’s first principle
We’ll defend our sources
eaders, listeners and viewers will declare that a journalist’s first responsibility is protecting the identity of sources. It’s a sacrosanct principle: journalists live and die by their sources – where would we be if whistleblowers feared to come forward and trust journalists to tell a story the public needs to know about? Yet the ability of journalists to protect their sources is being undermined and threatened as never before. Take the use of production orders by police. The NUJ has been defending a case on behalf of our member Jason Parkinson, together with the BBC, ITN, Hardcash Productions and BSkyB. The case (opposite page) centres around footage filmed at the Dale Farm eviction – material which the police want to seize in its entirety. Increasingly the police are turning to journalists as a kneejerk reaction, not as a last resort – we risk journalists being seen as agents of the police, with the consequential impact on journalists’ safety. The latest threat is at News International through the actions of its so-called Management and Standards Committee. With no evidence of wrongdoing, the MSC turned its attentions to The Sun. A staggering cache of documentation – including emails, expense claims, articles and transcripts of internal meetings with staff – was handed over wholesale to the Metropolitan Police, who have set up shop alongside the MSC inside News International. To
the shock and outrage of journalists across News International, no genuine attempt has been made to protect their sources – indeed some sources have since been arrested as a result of the ongoing investigation. The scope of the investigation is now set to extend to The Times and The Sunday Times. Following the arrests of Sun reporters, the NUJ was flooded with calls from sources who had passed information to journalists at the group. These people were terrified they were about to be arrested and sacked, and couldn’t understand how journalists were allowing their sources to be betrayed in this way. But this is a situation where the control over revealing a source has been taken out of a journalist’s hands by an employer who is hellbent on salvaging its own corporate reputation, regardless of the impact on individual journalists and on the identity of sources.
It’s a sacrosanct principle: journalists live and die by their sources
he broader impact on press freedom of this News International behaviour will be immense. If potential sources cannot trust journalists to keep their identity confidential, they simply won’t come forward. Powerful people and interests will escape scrutiny. That’s why the NUJ is working with members at News International to challenge this outrageous abuse. We’re supporting three brave journalists on The Times (who have launched a new NUJ chapel at the group) in legal action to protect sources, and are seeking assurances that no further material will be passed to police. Without that commitment we will fight this case in court and seek an injunction. These are unprecedented times in our industry. It is clear that the NUJ and its members need to stand up and fight to protect a fundamental tenet of journalism, under attack from the police and even our media groups. We’ll do it because this is a principle worth fighting for, and we’re determined it’s a fight we’ll win.
For all the latest news from the NUJ go to www.nuj.org.uk To take part in debates see The Platform on the website theJournalist | 9
While the NUJ considers a press council plus an ombudsman arrangement for the future of UK newspapers, Seamus Dooley explains how it has worked in Ireland
An Irish solution to a British problem?
itting on the same side of the table as management from News International, Associated Newspapers and other publishers doesn’t come naturally to an NUJ official, but that was the price of creating a common front to defend media freedom against an establishment drive for increased press regulation in the Republic of Ireland. Sharing intimate moments of intensity with editors and owners who in other circumstances would not give the NUJ a second glance was an unusual experience, but it was a lot less painful that we might have expected. And it was a price worth paying. Faced with the threat of draconian privacy legislation we soon learned to set aside significant differences on industrial issues
in order to develop a common platform. The strength of our collective agreement with leading Irish newspapers helped and, over time, the British newspaper representatives came to recognise the value of having the NUJ on board. All was not sweetness and light. At one meeting an editor accused me of wanting to ‘get my grubby hands around the neck of every editor’. I could only reply: “Just you, sir.” Remarkably, the work of our group, the Press Industry Steering Committee, was leak-free. We managed to hammer out differences of opinion without media intrusion. As far as I know, our phones were not hacked. Only one incident was leaked to the press and that was after the formation of the Press Council of Ireland, when I attended a meeting to review the operation of the press code. A tabloid
editor took exception to something I said and complained that in other times he would have been allowed to take me outside and ‘beat the shite out of me’. As he and I exchanged pleasantries after the meeting, I was inundated with media calls about the incident, which within 30 minutes had been widely leaked by his colleagues. Never trust a roomful of editors! The issue of libel reform had long been a priority for the NUJ and, despite enormously difficult relationships with some press barons, the union joined as far back as 1999 with two representative bodies – the Regional Newspapers Association of Ireland and National Newspapers Ireland, in a public appeal for an end to our draconian defamation laws. When threats to media freedom emerge, lawyers are never too far behind: in 1993 when a legal advisory group on defamation – established by the Minister for Justice – recommended that the defamation laws be reformed. Senior counsel Hugh Mohan favoured a Government appointed statutory press council, while a draconian privacy bill was also mooted. The NUJ can claim most of the credit for leading the campaign against the privacy bill.
10 | theJournalist
regulation In retrospect, that threat helped concentrate in particular the mind of UK publishers, who had wavered in their support of any press council and were none too keen on joint initiatives with the NUJ. Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell, never a friend of the trade union movement, was absolutely insistent that if the industry wanted an alternative to a statutory press council he would only accept a model which recognised the pivotal role of the National Union of Journalists. NUJ colleague Martin Fitzpatrick and I were uncharacteristically lost for words at one particular meeting when McDowell laid down the law on this point. The steering committee was initially convened by former Northern Ireland Ombudsman Senator Maurice Hayes. Work on an actual code was carried out by a committee chaired by NUJ member Brendan Keenan, business editor at Independent Newspapers. At meetings of a code committee, good ideas and insults were exchanged with abandon and eventually we came up with a model of coregulation which meets the needs of the Irish media and our diverse audience. It is worth noting that the editor of The Sunday Times (Ireland) was a member of the Code committee. The editor of the Irish Sun was a member of the Press Council of Ireland. The Sunday Times general manager sits alongside the NUJ Irish Secretary on the Finance and Admin committee. Associated Newspapers plays an important role in the PCI and is currently represented on the council.
The co-operation between industry, trade union and civic society representatives sharply contrasts with the UK experience. The UK obsessions with editors are not mirrored in Ireland. Certainly editors play an important role, but other senior editorial personnel also represented publishers, and this trend continues. It would be an overstatement to view the NUJ as having been enthusiastically welcomed by all participants in the process. But from day one there was recognition by the employer representatives that any model of regulation which excluded the NUJ would not be acceptable to government or the public. The Press Council of Ireland has 13 members, each of whom is appointed by an independent Appointments Committee. A steering committee comprised of independent public figures with no industry involvement selected the original appointments committee. This high level committee seeks expressions of interest to be independent members of the Press Council by public advertisement, and chooses for appointment six of those who have responded. The chair is the seventh independent member of the Press Council. Unlike the UK, it is the Press Council (with a majority of non-industry representatives) which nominates the Press Council chair and media owners do not have a veto on the chair. The fact that the majority of members of the PCI are drawn from outside the media industry is significant and the non-industry
representatives are reflective of many strands of Irish society. In any new UK model civic society must be given a real voice and the placing of public interviews, rather than searching for suitable candidates in clubs, would be a good starting point. The work of the Press Council is to adjudicate complaints. Meetings are held in private but findings are published on the PCI website and in the press. On the original code committee the NUJ did not always get our way – we would have preferred more explicit reference to stories for cash, for example, but the Code is strongly rooted in the NUJ Code of Conduct. The Council and the Ombudsman have a moral authority. The independence of the chair and the qualities of our first Ombudsman – Prof John Horgan, an NUJ member, distinguished academic, former journalist and ex-politician – have contributed to what I think is our success. Important, too, is the work of his colleague Ms Bernie Grogan, who plays an increasingly important role in early conciliation of complaints. The decisions of the Ombudsman may be appealed to the PCI and he may refer cases directly to the council. It is an efficient and less costly alternative to the courts. The Irish model is by no means perfect but it may provide the foundations for a new and more acceptable system in the UK. Seamus Dooley is Irish Secretary of the NUJ and a former newspaper editor
The NUJ can claim most of the credit for leading the campaign against the privacy bill
theJournalist | 11
Kim Badawi images/getty
news in Cairo
David Lynch assesses the state of journalism in Egypt a year after the heady beginnings of the Arab spring
henever we focus on vocabulary dealing with the media, my Arabic teacher Amir is quick to say something like “Al-Ahram is to Egypt what The New York Times is to America”. During a class break I asked him if the paper’s content had changed much since the 2011 January revolution. He scrunched up his face in concentration. After a few seconds, he said ‘qalilan’ (a little), but he looked far from certain. This sense of uncertainly over the scale and durability of changes in Egypt’s post revolutionary media extends beyond readers like Amir and into the minds of many journalists and analysts. One narrative is broadly positive. Since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak over 12 months ago there has been an explosion of new privately-owned media in both the print and TV sector. Newspapers such as Al-Tahrir have hit the streets – clearly imbued with the spirit of the revolution. A variety of coverage is apparent. The day after leading liberal Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei announced his exit from the presidential campaign, Al-Tahrir splashed it across its entire front, Al-Masry Al-Youm had it prominently above the fold, while Al-Ahram had a much shorter, perfunctory report below its lead. 12 | theJournalist
Al-Ahram is to Egypt what The New York Times is to America
Many Egyptian journalists are excited by a new sense of freedom and the disappearance of some former ‘red line’ topics. The revolution has led to an inevitable reappraisal of previous practices such as self-censorship and coercion from on high. There is a new feeling of being braver when pitching article ideas to editors. English journalist and sub-editor Hugh Nicol has lived in Cairo for 17 years. Currently subbing at the Egyptian Gazette, part of the (state owned) Al Gomhuria group, Hugh works in a building with almost 5,000 Egyptian media workers ‘and three foreigners’. He also knows a thing or two about bravery in Cairo as he cycles the city’s chaotic streets. “There is more openness about the leadership (among Egyptian journalists), people can now criticise Hosni Mubarak and his family,” he said. “Before, you could not– it was very dangerous to do that– but now there is much more openness on that front. I think it will be the same with the next president after the election. “I think there will be more openness about what he does. If he is a bit of a failure, I think he will be more honestly reported, whether he is good or bad.” A German friend conducting postgraduate research into the working practices of Egyptian journalists in the private and public sector, generally concurs with Nicol’s comments. In replies to a questionnaire she has sent to Egyptian journalists, she notes: “They say before the ousting of Mubarak they self-censored themselves much more than they do now. “I had one example of a journalist who said they had a lot of stories before the revolution about social injustice, raising bread prices and things like that, but he did not even approach his editor-in-chief about this. Now he would.”
cairo The future of state backed newspapers is difﬁcult to predict. Damned by the revolutionaries as mouthpieces for the old regime (and currently the military leadership, the SCAF Supreme Council for the Armed Forces), they are not popular with the Islamists either. Years of criticising the Muslim Brotherhood may mean a future Brotherhood-led government will take a very extensive look at state funding of the sector. “Uncertainty is the key word in terms of politics and also in the media at the moment,” says Nicol about the country’s newsrooms. Alongside positive developments, there is a darker narrative that does not bode well for the future of media freedom. Reform in establishment papers is difﬁcult, as people appointed to management levels under the old regime are reluctant to give up power. ‘Red lines’ that journalist cross at their peril, have not gone away. While criticism of the interim government, the former regime and social problems are allowed, criticism of the SCAF leadership is far more problematic. Bloggers, online activists and journalists have faced military trials. The state media (both print and visual) still often act as the regime’s mouthpiece. Post revolutionary Egypt actually plummeted 39 places (from 127th last year to 166th this year) in the most recent ‘Reporters without Borders’ Press Freedom Index. The
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striking fall was “because of the attempts by Hosni Mubarak’s government and then the SCAF to rein in the revolution’s successive phases,” reads the gloomy report. “The hounding of foreign journalists for three days at the start of February, the interrogations, arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers by military courts, and the searches without warrants all contributed to Egypt’s dramatic fall in the index.” But the battle between freedom and censorship in the Egyptian media cannot be seen in isolation from wider political trends in the country. When the revolutionary forces have been in retreat, as during the deadly clashes in Tahrir Square last November and December, this has been mirrored in a more proactive media crackdown by the authorities; the heady weeks following the fall of Mubarak marked a period of greater activism by journalists seeking further freedom of expression. Almost all observers believe the Egyptian revolution is incomplete and the future of the country’s newsrooms will be shaped, as with almost everything else here, by the shifting battle lines between revolutionary and counter revolutionary forces. David Lynch’s ( www.davidlynchwriter.com ) most recent book is “A Divided Paradise: An Irishman in the Holy Land” (New Island). He blogs from Cairo at www.arabspringinmystep.com .
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Safeguarding journalism’s future? Chris Frost examines the issues facing students and teachers in journalism training
s the police make more arrests and the Leveson inquiry hears further damning evidence of poor journalistic standards, one question that has yet to be seriously considered is what part does training play in journalism’s future? Journalism training has changed enormously over the past 20 years. Despite disparaging claims in the pages of many national newspapers that journalism degrees are “Mickey Mouse” qualifications (often the same national newspapers as those now under investigation) most entrants into journalism now have a degree either in journalism or something else with a journalism post-graduate qualification alongside it. Postgraduate qualifications in journalism, first as a postgraduate diploma and then more recently as a masters degree, became popular during the 1980s, taking over from on the job training. Undergraduate programmes were started in the UK in the early 1990s and more than 60 UK and Irish universities now offer journalism degrees, graduating an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 undergraduates and 1,200 post graduates a year. Many NUJ members now work as lecturers in universities, full time or part-time, teaching journalism. Most universities prefer lecturers who have worked as journalists for a number of years. Most journalism departments are made up of journalists working alongside other specialist academics and together they design and deliver appropriate courses. Universities have a tricky job, mixing training to the standards required by the industry with an education that will fit the student to survive in a rapidly changing and developing world. Trainee journalists need to know not just how to do the job today, but how to deal with the changes that will be inevitable throughout a career that could span almost fifty years if the present government gets its way on retirement ages. There are two main ways to study journalism. The more traditional way is to read a degree in a non-journalism subject such as English or politics, economics or history and then
sign up for a one-year post-graduate course in journalism specialising in either print or broadcast. This can be ideal for a student who sees themselves as a future political correspondent in mainstream media but is likely to become less popular as the new fees structure bites leaving graduates with debts of around £50,000 and a distinct lack of enthusiasm to increase these by signing up for a postgraduate course at a further cost of £10,000-£15,000. The modern journalist also needs a broad range of skills to maximise career potential, not easy in a one-year course. Many students now sign up for a journalism undergraduate course. Most of these are multi-media, combining tuition in print, broadcast and web journalism. Some do specialise in such subjects as magazines, sport or music journalism. But for most students the general course is the most attractive, giving a broad journalism training and humanities education. This readies a student to go straight into work with skills of critical thinking, analysis and synthesis as well as a sound journalism training. Many courses are accredited by one or more of the main journalism accreditation bodies, the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, the National Council for the Training of Journalists, the Periodical Training Council or Skillset (the Creative Industries’ Sector Skills Council). These bodies lay down minimum standards that courses are required to match and in the case of the NCTJ it also sets its own examinations that students can take as a pre-entry qualification. The NUJ has representation on the boards of the BJTC and Skillset and also has a representative on one of the NCTJ’s exam boards. It is vital that today’s journalist is able to hit the job running. The amount of training done on the job these days, the BBC excepted, is minimal. Some local newspaper
The latest edition of Chris Frost’s book Journalism – Ethics and Regulation has just been published by Pearson Books. There’s a special discount on the book available for NUJ members at www.pearson-books.com/NUJ. Or, tell The Journalist (firstname.lastname@example.org ) who launched the first course in journalism and your name will go into the hat for a free copy.
14 | theJournalist
summer breaks are slightly less frenetic, but they’re packed with student admissions, marking, meetings, planning, development, preparation and scholarship and research. Those last two activities are vitally important to universities and their staff. It is crucial that our teaching remains up to date and in tune with the industry we serve. Unlike schools, our curricula are not decided by the ministry and panels of experts. There is guidance, from the Quality Assurance Agency, the BJTC, the NCTJ and Skillset, but it is still up to each department to decide its approach and this is based on scholarship.
groups still train some of their intake, but then they have very small intakes. The BBC is about the only employer taking training seriously enough to teach good graduates what is required for good journalism outside of specific software training or general workplace induction. Most of the jobs that students start with are on small scale publications or websites that do not employ many journalists, relying on getting new starters who have the basics and who can develop their professional skills without much support. Often these early posts are work placements or internships and even when payment starts the journalist is likely to be on a short term casual contract. The Association for Journalism Education identifies more than 60 UK and Irish universities offering journalism courses; there are about 500 lecturers, most of whom have switched from full time journalism. Teaching can be highly rewarding, but it is no dreaming spires retreat. Term times are packed with teaching sessions, tutorials, counselling students, meetings and course development. The Christmas, Easter and
It is vital that today’s journalist is able to hit the job running
his involves keeping up to date in order to teach students current practice and thinking. For instance, I specialise in ethics and so my workload has been increased enormously by the Leveson inquiry and all that it involves. In the end, it might all condense down to a couple of hour-long lectures and a seminar or two – but it is my job to be up to speed with it on behalf of the students. I also carry out research – identified by the Higher Education Funding Council’s as original investigation undertaken to gain knowledge and understanding. My research areas in media regulation, the Press Complaints Commission and Ofcom are highly topical at the moment and so my books and papers on the subject are widely used by fellow lecturers as part of their scholarship. All lecturers have to be involved in scholarship – it’s how we keep up with a fast-changing industry – and all lecturers should be involved to some degree with research. But it is not easy for journalism lecturers to find the time when very practical programmes mean long teaching hours and preparation. Learning to research, even though the skills required are very much those of a journalist, requires a lot of time. Many lecturers learn their research skills whilst studying for a masters degree or a PhD. Finding the time to research, something many journalism teachers want to do and something their employers press them to do, is even more difficult. ‘Research or die’ is a phrase heard in many a university department and it is one that is soon likely to echo around journalism departments. If you can survive the pressure then teaching, scholarship and research can be highly enjoyable. Certainly dealing with youngsters taking their first tentative steps into the competitive world of journalism is both challenging and hugely rewarding. Chris Frost is Professor and head of Journalism at Liverpool John Moores University. A former president of the NUJ, he chairs the union’s Ethics Council, is an NEC member and a member of Profcom, the union’s professional training committee. He sits on the board of the BJTC and is a former board member of the NCTJ and Skillset. theJournalist | 15
Barrie Clement has been talking to journalists at the sharp end of the crisis engulfing News International
un staff have been ‘devastated’ by the arrest of 11 reporters based on information supplied by their own management, their colleagues told me. The decision by News International’s ‘Management and Standards Committee’ (MSC) to hand over hundreds of Sun journalists’ confidential emails to police breaches employment and human rights legislation, according to one senior source at the Sun. Much of the information related to legitimate contacts and whistle-blowers who would now be ‘insane’ to contact a News International title, he said. Sun reporters were subjected to two-hour inquisitions by the committee as part of the internal investigation into allegations that journalists had bribed public officials.
Staff Association (NISA) had shown itself to be ‘inept and inadequate’. In a series of interviews with News International journalists – all of whom asked to remain anonymous – the protection of sources emerges as one of the foremost concerns. One of the potential attractions of the NUJ to journalists at Wapping seems to be that it is a ‘craft union’, as one Times journalist put it, and keen to stand up for journalism. NISA covers the whole workforce and was created during the Wapping dispute of 1986 when Murdoch moved his titles from central London, sacking his 6,000-strong workforce and withdrawing recognition from their unions. One Times reporter said: “The NUJ only represents journalists. That makes a difference. When something threatens journalism, Michelle can speak up for it. “The staff association has done well in negotiating wages, but it might be accused of misusing its money if it starts crusading for journalism.” News International is funding legal advice through the staff association for those arrested because of the actions of the MSC.
“Rather than go back to the reporter if they found something dodgy, they acted as judge and jury and handed everything over to the police. “There were 11 arrests altogether, that’s about a quarter of the reporting staff. Teams of police descended on people’s houses in dawn raids, ransacking their homes and sometimes arresting them in front of their children.” Staff were deeply upset that chief reporter John Kay, a highly regarded journalist on the paper, had attempted suicide after being arrested. “There is fear and anger in the newsroom and a sense that reporters have been thrown to the wolves. “The events over the last few months have been an enormous wake-up call. It is important to have a union recognised – having somebody out there who can help is absolutely vital.” The journalist admitted that to his ‘shame’ he had only recently joined the union. He said the company had ‘betrayed’ staff and that the management-funded News International
The Times journalist, who has been a member of the NUJ for nearly 30 years, said it was difficult to see how NISA could continue to protect colleagues arrested on the basis of information supplied by the company itself. But he was sceptical that the NUJ would win the ten per cent vote among employees needed to call a ballot on union recognition. Other sources strongly disagreed, and NUJ figures back them up. Before the phone-tapping crisis there were around 100 NUJ members on the four titles out of a total editorial staff of about 700. Since then many have joined and a chapel has been formed. See page 3. Murdoch hoped to boost morale with the launch of the Sunday edition of the Sun and some journalists felt considerable relief when it was announced. But production of the paper requires a huge amount of goodwill because of low staffing. Despite emollient words from Murdoch, some journalists feel they have been treated ‘like mugs’. Another News International journalist who preferred not to be identified by newspaper, said there was a general
Wapping judge 16 | theJournalist
recognition among colleagues that the NUJ had been ‘a key voice for journalists’ during the crisis. “What is abundantly clear is that the staff association has failed quite miserably to represent the interests of journalists. It didn’t establish the parameters of the internal inquiry and did not seek assurances that sources would be protected. “No-one is saying that evidence of wrong-doing, where appropriate, should not be handed over, but there certainly hasn’t been a proper response by NISA.” According to one NUJ member at the Sun there was considerable distrust of the union after the 1986 Wapping dispute. The NUJ had instructed members not to cross picket lines but the chapels at the four titles voted to go in and the majority of journalists did so. A Sun journalist added, however, that the union had been ‘brilliant’ during the current crisis and that it was ‘essential’ to have a union that represented journalists. The Times reporter said: “People have been really heartened by what Michelle has been saying.”
ge and jury JAMES BOARDMAN/ALAMY, 3D STOCK ILLUSTRATIONS/ALAMY
theJournalist | 17
students Carrie Dunn examines ways to get work experience in journalism
How to get started
hen all the entry-level jobs in journalism seem to require years of experience, it’d be easy for students to get disheartened and feel that they may never find a role that suits them once they graduate. Plus, of course, lots of journalism and media courses now require students to go on a placement, for anything from a few weeks to an entire year, and locating companies with the space to take on a young person and introduce them into the world of work is not particularly easy. This is compounded by the fact that students on work experience will have lots more to do than simply making the coffee – they’ll be an integral part of the office, so it’s important that the company finds someone they can rely on. “The well-publicised rationalisations of journalism workplaces has meant more and more employers are giving more and more responsibility to more and more interns and work experience students,” says Gary Naylor, formerly associate dean at the London College of Communication. “This is a doubleedged sword for students as they can
18 | theJournalist
get real work done – and bylines and other valuable additions to the CV – but the pay, if it’s there at all, is usually not commensurate with the workloads.” Recent graduate Amy Campbell landed her dream job at a major UK magazine firm, and she puts it down to her practical experience gained in her media studies degree. “I had a portfolio of work to show them, produced for one module’s assessment, demonstrating that I knew how to flat-plan and compile a features list as well as write for a particular audience,” she says. “I had some relevant work experience as well, but being able to show them what I can do, even though it wasn’t produced for publication, was crucial.” Jody Vodden has added local radio and newspaper experience to her name since starting her media studies course. “I think it is important if you really want to get into the media industry and to show that you are willing to go the extra mile,” she says. “There are tons of people who want to compete against you to be in the industry so if you have something that could put you above somebody else in an interview or on your CV then it is worth it.”
No matter what you’re trying to achieve, you have to be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs
But even with that work experience, she struggled to get a placement, making 40 applications before one was accepted. She is sanguine about the rejections, though: “If you can’t stick out a placement application till the end, then consider what it will be like when you actually want a full-time job in the industry.” Her university offered some support with the application, helping with application letters and CV structure, and this is common in most higher education institutions.“The support provided by a college or university can vary from partnerships with organisations that offer a seamless progression from classroom to newsroom through to a briefing and a link to a handful of recruitment websites,” says Gary Naylor. “The best kind of support is probably somewhere between the two – placing the expectation on the student to get the placement, but giving them the tools and support they need to do so.” In a competitive market, students need to make their applications stand out, whether it’s through an online portfolio, hard copies of articles (but make sure you present these nicely, rather than an envelope full of scrappy cuttings), or a DVD with broadcast pieces. Highlight work that has been done for big-name media organisations and give statistics about your number of readers. Show that you can do a variety of work, but make sure you include work that hits the ‘person specification’ and job description on as many points as possible. “Never give up,” says Naylor. “In the media of 2012, no matter what you’re trying to achieve, you have to be prepared to kiss a lot of frogs. Doggedness and persistence are traits of the good journalist anyway, so you’re learning all the time you’re searching. Be open to any area of the media – don’t hang on waiting for that dream placement, because it might not happen. Take a placement somewhere a little more offbeat – you’ll learn just as much and probably more.” Remember, if you’ve secured an internship, rather than a short work placement, you’re entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage. Check out http:// www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj. html?docid=1754
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theJournalist | 19
Satish Sekar of Empower-Sport magazine spent four weeks in Gabon covering the African Cup of Nations FRANCK FIFE
The beautiful game in Africa
overage in European media wouldn’t suggest it, but the African Cup of Nations (ACN) is actually three years older than the European Championship. It started small and grew. It wasn’t until South Africa won the right to host the World Cup that it was taken seriously by European media. It was a largely successful and well-organised tournament – one that should have led to bigger and better things, especially as the World Cup would come and go, but the African Cup of Nations had to survive and fulfil its mission of developing Africa through sport. ACN 2010 in Angola was an obvious test of that policy, but like many others I had to miss out on Angola at the last minute. Journalists who went to Angola told me they didn’t enjoy it at all, and didn’t plan to return. Many journalists told me the prices there were extortionate and the organisation was poor. A pity, as post-competition tourism needs to be an integral part of hosting the African Cup of Nations and that needs a competent media strategy to encourage foreign media to highlight 20 | theJournalist
the charms of the host nations. Ghana got that right for ACN 2008, but this year Gabon organised visits poorly and then claimed there was not sufficient interest. There was. It’s sad to see both Angola and Gabon get it wrong. More of the progress from Ghana 2008 was reversed. Media transport between venues was won after a struggle in Ghana and it proved useful and popular, but was scrapped in Gabon. The country even had a football and media-savvy president in Ali Bongo Ondimba “We don’t have white elephants,” Bongo said, “we only have dark ones,” in response to a question on whether the stadiums would be wasted after the tournament. They called in the great Pelé as guest of honour and launched much-needed social campaigns such as CAN Sans SIDA (African Cup of Nations without AIDS) – the work of First Lady Sylvia Bongo Ondimba’s Foundation to combat HIV and AIDS. Her initiative rightly got considerable coverage. CAF also supported humanitarian and peace campaigns – about time that the most popular sport in the world used its platform for social good, but where was the acknowledgement of
We don’t have white elephants, we only have dark ones
this in European media? The media centres in Libreville and Franceville were first rate, but accreditation issues remained problematic and the cost of living was incredible and without justification. The same applied in Angola. They are not alone in hiking prices up for sporting events – just watch London prices in the summer – but some journalists and media resented it and it showed in their coverage. Many media organisations did not cover the whole competition and that was Africa’s loss. Others were over-charged. The African Cup of Nations remains essential to the development, not only of African football, but Africa too, but organisers and hosts must learn that exploiting foreign media doesn’t help. Either they won’t come at all, or they leave with prejudices confirmed, or hostility developed. That lesson should have been learned in Angola (which also failed to accredit our South Africa correspondent), but sadly it was clear again in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea was no better. Host nations have to understand that they need foreign, especially Europeanbased, media now more than ever before, and if they don’t, CAF needs to make sure they do. Meanwhile, European media need to understand that the African Cup of Nations is over 50 years old and that the quality of the football is good – European scouts would not attend in droves if it wasn’t. It has earned the right to be treated with respect and European journalists should reflect that too, especially if they witness it at first hand.
THE VIEW FROM INSIDE PR Name: Dr John Lister Job description: Information Director, London Health Emergency
Following the doctor’s orders to protect NHS
have worked for London Health Emergency since I landed a one-year contract 28 years ago, and in that time we have moved from pretty much an agitprop campaigning organisation funded by the GLC to a research-based and information organisation; initially working with councils, but now mostly doing commissioned research for trade union organisations. As information director of a pressure group campaigning in defence of the National Health Service you get the best (and sometimes the worst) of all worlds. You get to be the first with a story, the first to ask difficult questions on a hospital closure or privatisation plan: but you also get to see lots of your best stories spiked in newsrooms. One of my high points was in 1992 when a well-placed contact faxed me a summary of the Tomlinson report (outlining plans for closures in London’s hospitals) the evening before the Department of Health’s official press conference. Two of us and a fax machine were able to get the story and our comment into all the national daily papers, and undermine the careful government spin. One of the low points has been struggling to build awareness of this
government’s Health and Social Care Bill. Despite my attempts to raise these issues with BBC reporters, BBC news bulletins and coverage have time after time completely failed to convey the scale, content and importance of the bill, summing it up nonsensically as “proposals to give more powers to GPs”. With even right wing newspapers critical of the bill, the BBC’s poor coverage was a big factor in limiting public awareness, no doubt to ministers’ delight. Campaigning on health and the NHS you realise early on that the basic NCTJ training of journalists includes local government but not the structures and workings of the NHS, Britain’s biggest single employer. Journalists landing the health beat in local papers generally have to find their own way round; and, with pressures on time and resources, some can wind up too dependent on official press releases and spokespeople offered by local NHS PR departments. Many a time I’ve had to explain to a local journalist how to access published information from their Strategic Health Authority,or primary care trust which they did not know was available, or figures which NHS officials have misleadingly claimed they ‘don’t recognise’.
Trade unionists come to me because they want help in understanding and explaining issues to their members – ranging from changes in mental health services, through care of the elderly, to hospital closures, privatisation and the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). They are an appreciative audience. You get to delve in detail into policies and documents which other journalists lack time for, or in many cases know nothing about. Last autumn I was researching for Unison on privatisation of community health services in Suffolk, which has now hit news headlines as Serco won the £140 million contract. Sadly, having good information on a subject like this is no guarantee that the story and my report will attract press coverage, unless journalists and their editors recognise a good story. Journalists come to me for comment and advice: when this is linked with a credit for London Health Emergency and a quote this is very rewarding. The NHS will stay in the headlines as the £20 billion squeeze combines with the new Bill: I hope health journalists who want straight answers and consistent critique will know where to come. www.healthemergency.org.uk and www.keepournhspublic.com
John Lister is joint chair of the NUJ Standing Orders Committee. A new edition of his book Health Policy Reform is now available
theJournalist | 21
clichés ALEXEY STIOP/ALAMY
Dedicated cliché-basher Fabian Acker opens a can of textual worms
Don’t come to me for welding
’m a crap welder, but then I don’t sell my services as a welder. And if I did, I’d soon be found out because something I’d worked on would eventually break, shatter or explode. Yet journalists seek to sell their services as writers, and some use words as badly as I use a welding torch. But, unfortunately, they don’t get found out. We have this immense store of words and templates available to us to express the most complex (and the simplest) ideas with precision and grace, and we end up insulting our readers with flaccid, boring wordy rubbish. How about this from the latest issue of Digital SLR: “It’s good to report that the image quality is nothing short of excellent”. This phrase was considered so compelling that the sub used it as a pull-out quote in 18 pt. If somebody said that to me in a conversation I’d refer him to a psychiatrist. A lot of journalists don’t seem to be concerned about the quality of their writing, and I find that painful. I’ve always assumed, despite many examples to the contrary, that people became journalists because they had a certain skill with words. If they didn’t,
22 | theJournalist
why choose journalism? There are other equally dubious professions they could have chosen where these skills are not important. Managing directors, for instance: “But we need to put some flesh on the bones of what movement in the right direction looks like. So it might be step by step, something like this, set a timeframe, 10, 20 years in the future when it will all be gone completely, but we take it step by step.” – Tim Collins, Managing Director, Bell Pottinger, December 10, 2011. Once when I was looking after a careers desk at a secondary school, two lads asked me how to become sports journalists. I started to explain, but one of them interrupted: “No, we don’t want to write anything; we just want to get into the matches for free.” One of them is probably a sports reporter on a national now. Perhaps it was the other one who wrote this for our local paper: “Joan S took the 400 hurdles title with a new best of 65 seconds ...” I think Olympic tracks manage with ten hurdles, but Crystal Palace seems to have 400, according to the reporter. If 400 of them were spaced 3 m apart that would make the track 1.2 km long. Do crime reporters have the same problems as my two hopeful sports
Journalists seek to sell their services as writers, and some use words as badly as I use a welding torch
writers? Not that they want to commit crimes, but they only want to hear about them. They use police press releases with barely a word changed. “Multiple stab wounds,” for instance. What information can the reader gain from this? Suppose somebody asked a crime reporter how much he’d won on the races. ‘Multiple pounds’? Actually, ‘multiple’ is now beginning to overtake ‘actually’ as a comfort word. From The Independent last November: “For years, Mr Phelps and his multiple children ...”; “He already had multiple wives before …” from the Mail. Why do I bring this to your attention? The many good writers I’ve encountered were always willing to consider how they could improve. And this is addressed to them. The lousy ones generally said something like: “Nobody ever taught me how to write, and look where I am now”. Writing riddles for Christmas crackers I hope. Fabian Acker is a former NCTJ senior tutor
Maeve Binchy is a successful novelist and NUJ life member
THE NUJ AND ME What made you become a journalist? I used to travel abroad a lot when I was young and I sent letters home to reassure my anxious parents that I was alive and well. They were dead impressed by these letters and sent them to a newspaper and I was started.
What other jobs might you have done? I was a teacher, Latin and History, in various girls schools. I loved teaching and would have stayed there for ever, but in 1968 I took a year off to try living on my writing. Risky and dangerous, everyone said. Foolhardy, even.
When did you join NUJ? Half way through my year of trying to scrape a living as a freelance, a job came up in The Irish Times. I joined the NUJ at once, and also got the job. So that was great altogether.
PAUL ANDREW HAWTHORNE, BLOOMBERG, LIAM WHITE
Are many of your friends in the union? All my journalists friends are in the NUJ. Mary Maher has been a stalwart member and my husband Gordon Snell – who was a very active trade union member of the Association of Broadcasting Staff, which preceeded BECTU in Britain – is also a long-time member of the NUJ
What was the best moment of your career ? In 1974 The Irish Times trusted me to go to Cyprus to cover the war. I was absolutely terrified, I got sick with nerves every day, lost all my belongings in the Ledra Palace Hotel, slept on a floor in an RAF camp, and had to buy clean clothes from soldiers; but
I managed to get a story in every night. And they said they were pleased with me
I wrote a light-hearted, cheery but mainly unimpressed account of Princess Anne’s first wedding. It unleashed a thousand letters of personal abuse directed at me. Hugely upsetting at the time, I lived in fear of being fired.
Ask people for help, admit you know nothing at the start, be interested in everything.
What advice would you give to a new freelance? Don’t give up. Invent a column for yourself. Create a need and then fill it. Develop a very thick skin.
Anyone who writes an etiquette column and tries to tell defenceless, vulnerable people that there is a way to buy your way from one social class to another by rules of ludicrous behaviour.
Which six people, alive or dead, would you invite for dinner?
That it is grossly unfair for what we called “The Poor” not to get a proper education and proper health service. That’s still my main political thought
As a student in London, selling material in an Oxford Street store. I couldn’t cut it straight and was constantly in trouble. No other job I ever had was as frightening, tedious and boring all rolled into one.
Give some advice to anyone starting in journalism.
What was your earliest political thought?
What was the worst place you ever worked?
Well I loved The Irish Times, of course; what was there not to love? I also loved teaching Latin and that glorious moment when, after maybe five years of studying it, it suddenly dawned on the pupils that this was a real language that people once spoke, not just a torture invented to upset them
Kurt Vonnegut . He had THE most amazing mind and wild imagination. It would make you weep with jealousy and admiration
Hannibal , to discuss how he got over the Alps, the poet Ovid who would recite his love poems, President Obama who would sing for us , my great friends Mary Maher and Mary Kotsonouris who would keep the conversation going, and Neven Maguire would help me get the dinner ready and pretend I did it all myself.
Your worst career moment?
And the best?
Name your greatest hero?
What are your hopes for journalism? Hero: Vonnegut
That the stream of bright young women in journalism continues and that women never feel they can’t do any job as well as men
And, your fears for journalism? That people will weary of some media that in search of circulation have become increasingly sensational and inaccurate.
Who would you like to see in the NUJ? All journalists , particularly new and young members. The future is in their hands.
How would you like to be remembered? As someone who was very interested in everything that went on and who sometimes got it right and made people think. theJournalist | 23
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
INDEPTH WAITING FOR AN OUTSIDE BET Film: Outside Bet. Gateway Films. Release date: April 27 Books: The Mumper. Orion Books. Paperback £7.99. The Fashion Of Football on the ebook platform. Wholepoint Publishing. £1.99
Durham Miners’ Gala, Bob Dylan’s songs, Women of the Revolution and 33 Revolutions, Gilbert and George, Annie Lennox and Paul Merton Books The Big Meeting: A History of The Durham Miners’ Gala. By David Temple. Published by Durham Miners’ Association. £19.50 hardback, £14.50 paperback. This is a history of coal mining and the social history of the towns and villages of Britain. The first Durham Miners’ Gala on August 12, 1871 was so successful it led onto a second one that attracted 70,000 miners. The book is a story of boom and bust, strikes and lockouts, with first hand accounts and famous speeches. The book is only available from the Durham Miners’ Association, PO Box 6 Red Hill, Durham, DH1 4BB. Cheques and postal orders made out to the Durham Miners’ Gala Book Project for £23.50 for hardback and £17.50 paperback. For further details telephone: 01833 640574
When Mark Baxter started work at the Press Association as an office junior he thought it was a job for life. He’d already worked on market stalls selling clobber and been a DJ. He progressed to the photo despatch department, still keeping his passion for ‘60s clothing and Millwall Football Club, all the time longing to become a journalist. He started an in-house journalist course while carrying on his job but things were to change. One day in the Bar Italia coffee shop that was almost his office in London’s Soho, Mark meets Paolo Hewitt, official biographer of Oasis and Paul Weller author of many other books on popular culture. Mark, a big man with a gruff South London accent, throws an idea at Paolo for a new book and ‘The Fashion Of Football’ became an embryo. When the book was published it was voted by Four Four Two magazine one of the best 50 football books of all time. Depicting how fashion influenced players and showing how that was represented in the stands with an assortment of rare photographs. Then Mark came up with another idea: the story of him and six of his South London mates who met regularly in a pub for a good drink, a laugh and, on this occasion, to celebrate a 40-year print-workers’ 65th birthday. In came a complete stranger, sidles up to their table and
The Playgroup By Janey Fraser. Arrow Books. £6.99 Janey Fraser (real name Jane Bidder) has been an NUJ member for over 25 years, writing regularly for national newspapers and magazines including the Daily Telegraph and Woman. Her novel introduces us to a group of characters who revolve around the acting head of The Playgroup, who has a secret that’s about to explode. www.janeyfraser.co.uk. 1066 The Conquest by Peter Fieldman. Grosvenor House Publishing £10.66 England’s defining moment in history has been given new treatment by writer and NUJ member Peter Fieldman who has spent much of his adult life in France and now lives in Madrid. This is an adventure story – part fact, part fiction – and follows the events depicted in the most famous and unique reference still in existence: The Bayeux Tapestry housed in the Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, France. www.grosvenorhousepublishing.co.uk
says, “Hello, chaps, ever thought about owning a racehorse?” They decided to risk seven thousand pounds on the venture. “The horse got called The Mumper, the name chosen from four out of a glass by the barmaid,” explains Mark. It also became title of the book . A TV company, later a film company, got interested in it and now Orion Books is publishing the book. The film’s plot, now called ‘Outside Bet’, starring Bob Hoskins, Jenny Agutter and Adam Deacon, is set against the backdrop of the turbulent Thatcher years, when a life-long group of friends find themselves on the wrong end of money, privatisation, unions and a media evolution, with poor redundancy pay-outs after their newspaper goes bust. Their hope of salvation lies in investing their money in a racehorse, hoping their fortunes can turn around. “I’m now in fashion PR,” concludes Mark “but looking forward to the film coming out and, hopefully, also selling more copies of our books.” The Fashion Of Football is now out of print and can fetch up to £20 but was recently released on the ebooks platform at £1.99. www.gatewayfilms.co.uk www.orionbooks.co.uk www.amazon.co.uk www.wholepoint.co.uk
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arts Women of the Revolution – Forty Years of Feminism By Kira Cochrane. Guardian Books. £9.99 The essential guide to feminist thinking and writing of the past 40 years, bringing together the best of the Guardian’s feminist writing. www.guardian.co.uk 33 Revolutions Per Minute By Dorian Lynskey. Ecco Books. £17.99 Now in paperback, Dorian Lynskey, who writes for the Guardian, The Word, Q, Spin and Empire, gives us a thrilling and moving history, told via 33 songs, of the music that inspired and soundtracked social change. When pop music meets politics, the results are often thrilling, sometimes life-changing. 33 pivotal songs spanning seven decades, from Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit to Green Day raging against the Iraq war. Exploring the individuals, ideas and events behind each song by artists such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, the Clash, U2, REM, Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. Examining how music has engaged with racial unrest, nuclear paranoia, apartheid, war, poverty and oppression. www.amazon.co.uk Exhibitions House of Annie Lennox Lowry Museum, Manchester Until June 17 Singer, musician, innovator and icon, Annie Lennox, whose House of Annie Lennox exhibition had a successful six month run at London’s V&A museum, moved on to The Lowry in Manchester and runs to June 17. The exhibition showcases a selection of costumes, videos, personal treasures and ephemera from Annie’s political campaigns including the SINGS campaign she established in 2007 for women and children affected by HIV and Aids plus a specially commissioned video of Lennox in conversation. Once the exhibition finishes at The Lowry, Annie hopes it will move to her hometown of Aberdeen. www.thelowry.com Gilbert and George – London Pictures White Cube Galleries. Until May 12 Renowned artist partnership, Gilbert and George, have hit the headlines
in their latest and largest series of works of newspaper headlines – 292 pictures based on 3712 newspaper sellers’ posters they stole over the last six years – are showing at three different White Cube galleries in Mayfair, until May 12, Bermondsey, until May 12 and Hoxton until April 14. It then goes on a world tour. “We didn’t write the headlines,” said Gilbert, “we are just showing what is going on.” www.whitecube.com
History of the music that soundtracked social change
Music Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan. Universal. Honouring 50 Years of Amnesty International In January 1961 Bob Dylan strolled onstage of a Greenwich Village coffee house and launched himself onto the folk scene. By coincidence, a few months later, British lawyer Peter Benenson and some friends in London launched the campaign that became Amnesty International.
Both artist and organisation were idealistic and out to change the world. Dylan through his early protest songs and Amnesty through their work to secure the human rights of the persecuted and imprisoned across the world. Fifty years on Bob and Amnesty are saluted by 80 musicians across four CDs from a diverse group of artists across the generational and musical genres from rock, pop, rap, hip-hop to folk, country, jazz and blues that includes veterans like 92 year-old folk legend Pete Seeger singing ‘Forever Young’ with the Rivertown Kids, to this year’s big thing, Adele with a live version of ‘Make You Feel My Love’. The box set can be ordered through Amazon for £14.99 and can be downloaded for the same price. If you don’t fancy the whole collection, individual tracks can be downloaded at various prices. www.music.amnestyusa.org or www.amazon.co.uk
PREVIEW The fiftieth anniversaries of Amnesty and Bob Dylan’s New York debut
The Bread and Roses strike celebrated The Bread and Roses Centennial. StudioSTRIKE, Bread and Roses Pub, 68 Clapham Manor Street, London, SW4 6DX The Centennial marks the Bread and Roses labour strike, a pivotal
A look into the singer’s life at the House of Annie Lennox
May Day Parade. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-51009
event that saw women textile workers in Massachusetts, USA go on strike in 1912 for improved pay and conditions. The Bread and Roses strikers have been lost to history, but they strengthened demands for workers’ rights (particularly women workers) and tackled misrepresentations surrounding immigration. They faced opposition and intimidation from industrialists and the political establishment. A film festival highlights London’s historic links to the international labour movement and the Bread and Roses strike, with talks, exhibitions, live performances, poetry, art projects, a script writing competition and smaller projects that will run throughout the year. Lambeth council is commissioning a large and permanent mural. At the end of the project a publication will be produced as a round-up to the Centennial. StudioSTRIKE is a creative space for emerging and established creatives above the Bread and Roses, a former coach house now owned by the Battersea and Wandsworth Trade Union Council.All profits go to union causes and campaigns. www.studiostrike.com
theJournalist | 25
A wApping thAnks Thank you NUJ and everyone supporting the News International Dispute 25th Anniversary Exhibition which closed recently after a successful tour beginning and ending in London, and also displayed in Liverpool, Manchester, Salford and Brighton. The emerging hacking and corruption scandals have riveted attention on the Murdoch empire. Uncovering media, police and political corruption demonstrates the motive for getting rid of an entire unionised workforce. But the big issues of monopoly ownership and especially trade union/workers’ rights are hardly covered. The exhibition tells the workers’ story and reinforces the aims for the right of all workers to recognition of their free and independent trade unions and the right to strike, picket and take solidarity action. The proceeds from the exhibition will be used for the establishment of a News International Dispute Archive. We haven’t a firm date yet when the Archive website will open but we are maintaining an email list for information about the web-site and any other exhibition venues which may be arranged. You can contact us meanwhile via freepress@ cpbf.org.uk if you need any of the publications or want to inquire about availability of the exhibition. In solidarity, Ann Field For the Exhibition Working Party
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Bullying? Not in my day It was with great sadness that I read your litany of bullying and malpractice in the profession that I love (February/ March). I am eighty-one now and came up the hard way just after the war. I left school at sixteen and was given a reporting job on a London weekly by a fierce but benevolent editor. No university degree, of course, just shorthand and typing and a fierce determination to succeed. Nobody said it was going to be easy: National Service in the Army and editor of a garrison newspaper. Then regional evenings and dailies and finally Fleet Street, retiring as chief sub-editor of The Sunday Times Magazine. Bullying? Was it bullying when you lived in mortal fear of news-editors and chief subs who took no prisoners? I don’t think so. They were hard men but they were just, and they turned us into journalists because the harder they
were the more determined we became to show them. They put pressure on us to deliver but that went with the territory. And never once was I asked to do anything unprofessional. I was always proud to be a journalist – proud and honoured to be a member of the Fourth Estate. Reading your report made me feel I belong to a lost generation from a lost world where integrity counted for a lot. Patrick Nicholson Life Member
Stand against unethical instructions While I abhor and condemn entirely the practices discovered by NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet when she interviewed journalists working on certain tabloid newspapers, it is important to note that most, if not all, of these are illegal (The Journalist, February/March 2012). While sympathising with colleagues on the
receiving end of bullying and abuse we should be aware that the law and the NUJ is on the side of individuals who suffer in this way. Any reporter who is forced to ‘steal, bribe and cheat’ to obtain information, any woman (or man) who ‘receives sexually explicit text messages from managers’ or told to wear ‘totally sexist and degrading costumes’, or anybody ‘targeted to produce anti-Muslim stories’, should realise that the full force of the NUJ and the law is on their side. Any journalist – indeed, any worker – put under such duress should immediately inform the NUJ and they should, dare I suggest it, contact another publication of repute, in print or online, who will more than likely support their case. Keep those sexist texts, take details of the improper bullying and note when you were asked to ‘steal, bribe and cheat’. It is a foul position in which to find oneself but any journalist, especially an NUJ
member, worthy of the title should surely take a stand against corporate hegemony. Otherwise, why become a journalist in the first place? This is the strength of united action. Your colleagues will all stand with you without hesitation. You will have the respect and support of all your colleagues in the union, and the law is on your side. The story of how you were treated will become far bigger than the one your employer asked you to obtain by bullying and deceitful means. Michael O’Hare Northwood, Middlesex
Conscience clause the way forward A beneficial side-benefit in practice of a statutory ‘conscience clause’ for all employment contracts for journalists is that it would remove the free-riders’ response of ‘I don’t agree with the NUJ, trade unions etc’. It would also solve the problem of ‘what to do about the (toothless) Press Complaints Commission’. The imposition of a standard ‘conscience clause’ would simply put the PCC out of business – as there would be virtually no more ‘unethical’ conduct complaints left for them to turn their Nelsonian ‘blind eye’ to! Mark R. Whittet (LLB, BA) Edinburgh branch
NUJ backing a success Being challenged by expensive lawyers is the nightmare of all journalists. As well as being a journalist, I am also a senior research fellow at the Open University. But when I was challenged by a company that said I could not use material showing their misconduct, the Open University refused to defend me. But the NUJ did defend me, and was spectacularly successful. Just one excellent letter from the NUJappointed solicitor was enough for the company to back off. So I can now use the material – everywhere except at the OU. I’ve been an NUJ member for 40 years, and it is this sort of support,
26 | theJournalist
when your employer won’t back you, that makes union membership so essential. Joseph Hanlon London
Answers are online Chequing the post (The Journalist, February/March 2012) only tells part of the story. The NUJ has substantial resources called the Freelance Fact Pack – available on the NUJ website at http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj. html?docid=933 – which has been described as nearly everything you wanted to know about freelancing and quite a lot you didn’t ... For example, the section on ‘business’ alone includes 22 different information sheets. Most of it has been written by NUJ freelance activists with expertise in each particular area. Any and every freelance NUJ member can get to this information free. Oh yes, the Freelance Office at Headland House has already done the footwork for insurance on behalf of the members; it comes from Imaging Insurance and they’re the only people who offer appropriate public indemnity cover.
They’re very helpful and deal with every one individually. And, sorry, but little of this is a secret; it hasn’t been for years. It’s been available in the Freelance Fact Pack ... Adam Christie Leeds branch, FIC and NEC
Media monopolies silence dissent Ray Snoddy suggests (February Journalist) that Sir Ray Tindle should help Ashley Highfield re-launch Johnston Press as a digital local news broadcaster. Is he aware that Tindle censored his vast local newspaper empire in 2003, ordering editors not to run any anti-Iraq-war stories? Snoddy’s column was all the more ironic, running alongside John Pilger’s piece castigating all of us for failing to scrutinise and investigate the bogus war case. Bruce Whitehead Edinburgh Freelance Branch
Last word on gypsies This debate may well be running out of steam, but Nathaniel Harrison raises an issue that is very important
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
for journalists to get right. The word Gypsy is not offensive when used about the community also known as Roma. It’s their word and, while it may be used as an insult, it has not been abandoned by the community. Where it is seen as offensive is when it is used to refer to all travellers, whether Roma, Irish or other. The recommended collective term for travellers is just that, travellers. Most important to remember is the NUJ’s policy on gypsies and travellers: “Only mention the word gypsy or traveller if strictly relevant and accurate.” If it is relevant, such as the coverage of Dale Farm, then journalists have a duty to ensure their coverage is accurate, and that includes recognising that there is diversity within the traveller communities and this should be represented in the media. Donnacha DeLong, London Central
Attacks in Mexico After the timely article on Mexico by Jeremy Dear (February Journalist), our colleague Lupe Sosa sends heartfelt thanks and this alert from Mexico:
Email your letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
“At least 14 journalists from the city of Juarez have been suffering aggression by police from the beginning of this year alone whilst undertaking news coverage of various incidents. “We journalists demand a total cessation to the attacks and unrestricted respect for the exercise of our profession on the part of the diverse crime (police) bodies.” Almendra McBride London Freelance
Taken for a ride? Media agencies are not the only ones making a quick buck at the expense of people trying to break into journalism. National Geographic Traveler and web network Matador has a competition for aspiring travel writers to win a trip to National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, DC and spend a day with the editorial staff. It costs $25 to enter! Many journalists and editors earn less than that per hour. it looks more like a cynical moneymaking exercise. George Mitton London Magazine
theJournalist | 27
training Non Members
professional Training courses Members
Mon 16 April
Business for Journalists
Tue 17 April
Economics for Journalists
Mon/Tue 23/24 Apr
Introduction to InDesign
Wed 25 April
Reporting the NHS
Wed/Thur 16/17 May
Build Your Own Website
Wed/Thur 13/14 Jun
Writing for the Web
Sat 16 Jun
Getting Started as a Freelance
Tues 19 Jun
Making Internet Journalism Pay
Fri 29 Jun
Develop a PR Strategy
To book a place on any of these courses or if you would like some advice or have any questions, please email email@example.com or telephone 020 7843 3730. You can view course outlines at www.nujtraining.org.uk
april-june 2012 london
The nuJ offers a wide variety of short courses in professional subjects. Whether you want to learn the best way to video blog or sell your services as a freelance, you can get to grips with the techniques you need over one or two days. The courses will help you increase and refresh your skills whether you’re at the start of your career or further along the professional path.
Lost Your Job? if you’ve lost a staff job you could be entitled to a free course. Bookings must be made within three months of losing a job and are free at the union’s discretion and subject to availability.
*For students and members in their first year of employment
Building your website Nic Mitchell So much to do when you leave the assumed safety of a full-time job and strike out on your own as a freelance journalist or PR consultant. As I found out when I was declared redundant and realised I really didn’t want to work for any single employer again. Instead, I launched my own consultancy to help European universities communicate with British audiences and encourage greater student mobility. But despite having good contacts from my university PR days, I knew I needed a website to go with my LinkedIn profile to keep me in
the eye of potential clients. So imagine the joy of discovering that the NUJ could save me hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds and help me build my own web presence. The two-day course was pretty intensive and we participants confessed (among ourselves) to some terror at all the prep work. However, it was worth it, and we got off to a flying start. By the end of the second day, we all had our rather basic, but workable, websites up and running. Tutor Chris Wheal wasn’t half as scary as his pre-course handouts appeared, and within hours, we were happily using the Wordpress language
of ‘plugins’ and ‘widgets’. It helped that Chris is still more journalist than techie and didn’t make us feel foolish when we took several attempts to grasp many of the basics. As someone who has happily used Twitter and Facebook without having a clue of what’s behind them, and who relied on ICT web people in my former working life, it was somewhat liberating to create a live website with help from Chris and the NUJ. I’ve even done my first blog, comparing current UK higher education policy with Alice-inWonderland. Have a look at http:// delacourcommunications.com
28 | theJournalist
BULLYING IN THE NEW AGE
Michael Cross on the latest trends and kit
n my desk lies a relic from the stone age. It’s a steel foot-ruler, engraved with lines showing brevier, primer, nonp and pica scales. (That’s 8-point, 10-point, 6 and 12-point, to anyone born since the 1950s.) My type scale isn’t much use for measuring on-screen, so nowadays it serves mainly as a paperweight, letter opener and newspaper-clipper. It’s also a daily reminder of the sheer weight of technical jargon that journalists, especially subs, once had to deploy if they didn’t want to be ridiculed by colleagues and printers. Remember flong, brass (as in “brass it out”), and, of course, stone? In hot metal days, anyone who got such terms wrong was treated mercilessly. I was never actually sent down to ask the compositors for a bucket of pica ems, but I remember other humiliations. Nowadays it’s different: every teenager knows what a ‘font’ (sic) is, and most print-specific terminology has gone the way of the Linotype machine. So you might assume that routine humiliation of people who don’t know the lingo has gone, too. I’m not so sure. The other day, a colleague confessed on the Journobiz
REVIEW STICK WITH THE NOTEBOOK! Mobile computing let me down
straight away. Passing through Hong Kong in 1989, I invested in one of the first laptops: a Toshiba device called the Dynabook, “This is the life,” I thought as I set up by the swimming pool to write. And gave up immediately: the screen was unreadable in sunlight. Anyway, the battery lasted only half an hour. (Later, I got into the habit of carrying two or three spares, to the consternation of airport security.) It’s only in the past couple of years, and many upgrades later,
Techies find it amusing when colleagues struggle with terms like “retweet”
that mobile technology has started to live up to the promise. The breakthroughs were in connectivity, battery life and screen brightness. My Dynabook connected to a host computer (not much of an internet, in 1989) through a pair of crocodile clips. Nowadays it’s rare I can’t find Wi Fi any place I need to file. It’s even a couple of years since I used my T-Mobile dongle. Battery life has improved beyond recognition. I’m still getting more than five hours from the battery in my 11-inch MacBook Air. The golden rule at conferences is to pack as long a power cord as possible. And as for screen legibility? I’m sitting in bright sunlight as I
web forum that she didn’t understand the term ‘muffin’, thrown at her by an editor. Neither did I; it turned out to mean a small pic signalling the content of the piece. Luckily the person who asked was an experienced and selfconfident pro. But I wonder how many colleagues wouldn’t have dared? I also wonder how many colleagues struggle with the jargon of IT and social media? Techies find it amusing when colleagues struggle with terms like “retweet”, but it’s not funny if you’re on the receiving end. I’m guessing that if you’ve read this far, you’re one of the more IT literate readers in the NUJ community. I’m also betting that, if you work in an office, one of your colleagues is struggling. Here’s a suggestion. If you’re the techie of the office – even more so in a freelance community – why not take some time to look out for a colleague who’s struggling? Maybe, when everyone else has knocked off for the day, quietly suggest working together on some task involving the jargon, and as a matter of routine, talking the struggler through it? Gentle piss-taking is an essential part of newsroom culture. Bullying is not. Let’s kick it back to the stone age.
write, though admittedy not in my swimsuit. Possibly in 20 years’ time the MacBook will seem as primitive as my first Toshiba, but I think we’ve reached a technological plateau. It’ll be a long time before I dispense with my paper notebook, though. Its value was brought home to me a couple of years ago in Addis Ababa when my digestive system spectacularly let me down a few minutes before I was due to interview the prime minister. Even in the presidential palace there was no toilet paper, but a few sheets of my trusty Ryman 120-page helped to clear up the mess. Try doing that with an iPad.
theJournalist | 29
Raymond Snoddy peers at the issues surrounding self-regulation of the press
Tension between Lords a-leaping
he future of the press in the UK is going to be determined to a considerable extent by the way two Lords leap. Both are lawyers but one is a former Conservative cabinet minister who is an expert in the law surrounding regulation. The other presided as a judge over the trial of an axe murderer and in the Court of Appeal upheld the murder conviction of James Hanratty. By chance, both were born on Merseyside and both went to Liverpool College. The battle is on between Lord Hunt of Wirral, chairman of the former Press Complaints Commission and the Right Honourable Lord Justice Leveson. Lord Hunt took on what seemed like an impossible task for two simple reasons. Despite everything, he has an undimmed belief in a free press. He is also convinced that if effective self-regulation can be achieved, it is usually better, and certainly more flexible, than regulation by statute. So, encouraged by Lord Leveson’s initial seminar remarks that he wanted to hear ideas for reform from the newspaper industry itself, Lord Hunt cracked on at impressive speed. The Conservative politician persuaded the industry to close down the PCC so that there can be a fresh start with an interim body holding the reins. Lord Hunt’s new press body would have the power to investigate serious press misdemeanours in the way that the old PCC did not. It would also have increased powers to audit compliance with a code of practice and if necessary also impose fines. But in the really clever bit, Lord
Hunt has pulled off a masterstroke and apparently ‘solved’ what became known as the Richard Desmond problem – the undermining effect of any publisher who simply walks away from self-regulation as the Express owner has done. The answer Hunt produced is a legally binding contract, which publishers would sign for five years at a time, tying them into full compliance with everything for which the new PCC would stand.
Those who believe selfregulation should survive despite manifest abuses will hope Lord Hunt will prevail
t would be very strange if anyone in the industry decided not to sign up for such a package, knowing what the alternative would be. Lord Hunt has consulted widely and produced at least the outlines of a workable future for self-regulation with teeth. Above all, he appears to have found a way of squaring the circle – how do you achieve effective regulation without the slippery slope of statutory intervention? You would think the other Liverpool College boy would be suitably grateful for all the work carried out and compromises achieved. Lord Leveson could have adopted the tone of a good headmaster encouraging a bright pupil to greater efforts in the hope that the unprecedented mess could be cleared up in a reasonably civilised way. Instead, there was something approaching a slap-down for Lord Hunt. “A solution must work for me,” insisted Lord Leveson, before adding he meant by that “the public at large.” Leveson acknowledged he had previously encouraged Lord Hunt to continue working on plans for reform, but added: “It is important that this encouragement should not be taken as endorsement, let alone agreement.” The skirmishing will continue into the autumn. But those who believe that self-regulation of the press should survive despite manifest abuses will hope that Lord Hunt will prevail.
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
30 | theJournalist
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April & May issue of the Journalist, the magazine of the National Union of Journalists.