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www.nuj.org.uk | december/january 2011
Contents Main feature
16 Media futures foretold
What’s on the cards for 2011
t may be the season of goodwill but protest has been one of the main issues occupying the NUJ and other unions in recent weeks. We’ve had a major strike at the BBC which took key programmes off the air as thousands of journalists fought to secure fairer pensions. Newspaper journalists at Newsquest are also demanding a fairer deal over pay, as Jeremy Dear explains on Page 9. And across the broader union movement, plans are underway for co-ordinated resistence to the Government’s cuts. But some feel this is being done too slowly and that we should learn from action in France. We look at the contrast between the two countries on Page 10. But as it’s Christmas and the new year is just around the corner, we’ve decided to have a light-hearted look at what is in prospect for the media. Raymond Snoddy peers into a crystal ball on Page 16. And continuing in the spirit of new starts we have a lovely feature on life after the BBC by one of its former veteran correspondents, Stephen Cape, on Page 20. We can’t know for sure what is in store for journalists next year but it’s probably safe to say that change, for good or ill, will continue at the same breakneck speed as has impacted the industry this year. And on that note, we probably all deserve a seasonal drink. Happy holidays!
Christine Buckley Editor
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Cover picture Steve Bell
04 Pressure on Ofcom over BSkyB
Wave of opposition to Murdoch takeover
05 Crucial pensions win for casual
Landmark victory at the Telegraph
06 Turmoil at the BBC
Corporation hit by strikes and cash cuts
08 Newsquest faces widespread action Regional papers face walkouts over pay
10 A tale of two cities
Protesting in London and Paris
20 Changing places Life after the BBC
09 Jeremy Dear 13 Unspun: a view from PR 19 The NUJ and Me 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters and Steve Bell Pages 26-27
Strike threat at the BBC recedes after new offer
in brief... Trinity Mirror advertising falls Advertising revenue at Trinity Mirror fell 4.6 per cent in the quarter to the end of October, as national and regional newspapers had an especially poor September. Stripping out the impact of GMG Regional Media, which it bought in March, group revenue fell 5.4 per cent.
he threat of further stike action at the The deal was approved by BBC NUJ BBC could be lifted after talks between representatives following the Acas talks. managers and unions at Acas, the The BBC first announced sweeping changes conciliation service. to its final salary pension scheme in June, Unions reached an agreement in principle arguing that the action was essential in although the approval of NUJ order to tackle a deficit of BBC representatives is needed. £1.5bn. But the exact level A meeting was due after The of the pension deficit has yet Journalist went to press The to be determined, with an agreement follows five months actuarial valuation planned of clashes between the two for the spring. The NUJ had sides which culminated in a argued that it made no sense two-day national strike by the imposing changes until the NUJ in November. The strike revaluation had taken place. took key news programmes Following a ballot for including Radio 4’s Today strike action the BBC offered Programme and BBC 2’s revised pension proposals TO STOP THE Newsnight off the air. More in September and said that PENSIONS ROBBERY strikes were planned in the runfuture payments into a new up to Christmas although these career-average benefit pension were suspended following the will increase each year by four BBC’s offer of more talks. More than 90 per per cent or by the rate of inflation, depending cent of those voting had backed strike action. on which is the lower figure. The NUJ, other unions and the BBC reached This was agreed by the other broadcasting an agreement to uprate pension contributions unions including Bectu and Unite. by up to four per cent a year. The corporation In the further negotiations the NUJ secured said that the increase will take place for the a guarantee that those annual rises will be next six years. An award of less than four per implemented automatically. cent into a new careers average scheme will only be made if the rate of inflation is lower. BBC in turmoil – Pages 6-7
The BBC argued action was essential to tackle a deficit of £1.5 billion
Irish backing for Zimbabwean journalists
The Irish government has pledged strong support to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and has offered its backing to the ZUJ and the NUJ in highlighting the harassment of journalists at international level. Peter Power, minister of state for development aid, met ZUJ General Secretary Foster Dongozi and ZUJ activist Jennifer Dube in Dublin with NUJ Irish Secretary Séamus Dooley. Mr Power offered to seek support at EU level for the promotion of
human rights in Zimbabwe and stressed the importance of an independent media in the country. He expressed his shock at the treatment of journalists in Zimbabwe and asked that the NUJ would brief the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs on developments. David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, also pledged ICTU support for the NUZ/NUJ campaign during a meeting with Congress representatives.
PCC pays damages to lawyer
he Press Complaints Commission has formally apologised and paid damages for remarks made by its chair, Lady Buscombe. She and the commission made a formal statement
of regret at the high court to settle a libel action instigated by Mark Lewis, one of the lawyers at the centre of the alleged phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World. Neither side would
disclose details of the damages. It is believed to be the first successful libel action brought against the press watchdog. Lord Prescott called for Lady Buscombe to resign.
Metro pushes further afield Metro, the morning free newspaper, is producing 50,000 more copies daily and extending distribution of its London edition as far afield as Southampton, Peterborough and Ipswich. Metro’s first circulation expansion in two years comes as the Independent targets London commuters with the i. Paywalls go up down under News Corporation’s Australian newspapers are erecting paywalls next year – but some content will remain free.The Australian, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Melbourne’s Herald-Sun are likely to follow the Wall Street Journal model rather than that of The Times. call for Police news review Metropolitan Police Authority Civil Liberties Panel has recommended that The Metropolitan Police must: ‘review its approach to news management to facilitate transparent and fair reporting by the media and citizen journalists’ in the wake of the G20 protests. British are mobile internet savvy Britons take up new techonology and new smartphones quickly and are keen to embrace the mobile internet , according to new research from Ofcom. They also spend more cash online than people in any other European country. The UK saw the fastest growth in smartphone take-up in the past year among European countries, with a 70 per cent rise in subscriber numbers between January 2009 and January this year.
Richard Aylmer-Hall/pa photos
theJournalist | 03
in brief... france BoosTs youTh Media drive The French government is boosting a programme to get young people to read newspapers and engage in the media with a further 210,000 free newspaper subscriptions to people aged 18-24 over the next year. The move, which started last year, is called Mon Journal Offert (My Complimentary Newspaper) and will cost more than £13m over three years. soros gives $1M To us Media waTchdog Media Matters, the not-forprofit website that monitors the conservative parts of the US media, has received $1 million from George Soros. The organisation says it will increase its efforts to hold Fox News hosts, such as Glenn Beck, accountable for their reporting. spanish press cuTs nearly 40% of JoBs Staff jobs at the four largest daily newspapers in Spain – El País, El Mundo, ABC and La Razón – have fallen by 39 per cent or 906 positions between 2003 and 2009. However, La Razon increased staff jobs from 214 to 247. larsson faMily give To news safeTy The family of Stieg Larsson has donated €50,000 to the International News Safety Institute. The best-selling author originally wrote a handbook on the safety of journalists for Swedish reporters which has regularly been reprinted. He had himself often been targeted by right-wing extremists. before his death from natural causes six years ago. reporTers charged wiTh exTorTion Two Ugandan journalists were charged with extortion. Police accused Yasser Kalyango of the Daily Monitor and Henry Katamba Mutyaba of Kabozi Kubiiri radio of extorting 1.5m Ugandan shillings from the boss of the National Water and Sewerage Company. It is alleged they offered to clear him of allegations about contaminated water and embezzlement.
pressure on ofcom over BskyB takeover
fcom, the regulator for the communications industry, has faced a wave of protests against attempts by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to take full control of the major British broadcaster BSkyB. News Corp is attempting to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own in a £8 billion deal. opposition to the takeover has come from a variety of media interests in the UK, unions including the NUJ
and other groups who are concerned that a full takeover by the group which owns The Times, Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World will damage media plurality in Britain. News International, which runs the British titles for its parent News Corp, has nearly 40 per cent of the average daily newspaper sales in Britain while BSkyB is the largest broadcaster in terms of its annual turnover. The proposed takeover was referred to ofcom by Vince
The decline in international news is at odds with increasing globalisation
Cable, the Business Secretary, following a call from several newspapers and broadcasters including the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Mirror, The Guardian, the Financial Times, the Director General of the BBC (although Mark Thompson later apologised for having signed the letter), Channel 4 and BT. News Corp has taken its fight to Europe by formally notifying the European Commission of the proposed takeover. Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of The Guardian, used a speech in Mr Murdoch’s
native Australia to warn of the ‘chilling effect’ that a single large media company can have on public life. He said that the allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World demonstrated the problems that can arise when one group becomes too powerful. Mr Rusbridger’s comments followed the revelations that Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s head of communications, had spoken to police about his time as editor of the Sunday paper which coincided with the alleged phone hacking.
It’s a small world
oreign reporting in newspapers has shrunk dramatically despite the expansion of editorial space in most papers, the Media Standards Trust has found. In an average week in 1979, The Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and The Guardian would publish 500 foreign news stories. last year the total had fallen to 300, a 40 per cent drop. Considering the increase in newspaper pages this amounts to a fall from 20 per cent of the overall content to 11 per cent now. Additionally, foreign news appears less often in the first 10 pages of the papers and in the tabloids it often involves celebrities. The trust argues that the decline in international news is at odds with increasing globalisation. Shrinking World: The Decline of International Reporting in the British Press can be read at mediastandardstrust.org
FIGHT GOes On For CHarles ataNgaNa
he NUJ is stepping up the campaign to stop Charles Atangana, a respected current affairs and economics journalist, being deported to Camaroon. Charles, who has lived in Glasgow for the past six years, was granted an adjournment at the High Court in October and now has until February 16th to present further evidence about why he should not be deported. The NUJ believes that Charles, who
has been active in the NUJ and in community groups in Glasgow, could face imprisonment or be in danger of death if he returns to Camaroon. He ﬂed from the country following harassment from the authorities, who were aggrieved at some of his reporting. The union urges members to write to their MPs about his case. A model letter can be found here: http://www. nuj.org.uk/getfile.php?id=931
04 | theJournalist
Crucial pensions win for casual sub-editor
asuals could be able to claim backdated pensions following a landmark victory for a sub-editor at the Sunday Telegraph. The NUJ hopes that a victory for Glyn Roberts, which enabled him to join the Telegraph’s pension plan, will help other casuals win pension rights. Glyn worked every Saturday for the Sunday title for more than a decade until he left two years ago. In 2006 he was classified by an employment tribunal as a part-time employee rather than a casual worker. He had taken his case to tribunal after special contracts which Telegraph managers had considered giving to regular casuals had failed to materialise. After his success in attaining part-time employee status, Glyn applied to join the staff pension scheme but he was refused on the grounds that he was still regarded as a casual worker for the purposes of the pension plan. The NUJ took Glyn’s case to the Pension Ombudsman who overruled the decision and
instructed the newspaper to allow him into the plan from 2001, when the scheme lowered the number of hours that had to be worked to qualify for membership. Glyn said: “I’m delighted at this ruling. It is a just decision, as I worked for many years for The Sunday Telegraph as a regular employee and saw no reason why the company should exclude me from its pension plan while other employees were allowed to join. “I could never have won this case without the union’s backing, and I hope the result can be of benefit to other people who work regularly for companies but are denied equal rights.” Barry Fitzpatrick, the NUJ’s head of publishing, said: “The Ombudsman’s decision is a step forward for many workers who should be entitled to a pension. We hope that the ruling will be applicable to other journalists and we certainly want Glyn’s determination to benefit others.”
I could never have won this case without the union’s backing
advice from seasoned journalists including Kevin Maguire, associate editor of The Mirror; Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason; Shiv Malik, investigative reporter; and Guardian political reporter Hél`ene Mulholland. They also heard an international perspective from Jim Boumella, president of the International Federation of Journalists and Foster Dongozi, General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
New leader for biggest union
he new leader of Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has pledged to fight the Government’s austerity cuts and to further unify the merged union. Len McCluskey, 61, a former dockworker, comfortably won the four-way fight to lead Unite, polling nearly twice as many votes as his nearest rival, Jerry Hicks.
Pearson forecasts boost from the FT Pearson expects earnings per share for 2010 to increase 10 per cent from last year with FT Group, publisher of the Financial Times, reporting underlying revenue up 8 per cent year on year in the first nine months. Digital subscriptions to FT content have grown more than 50 per cent in that time. Editors criticise FSA monitoring Several national newspaper editors have written to the FSA, the City regulator, criticising proposals to police relations between the media and quoted companies. The proposals include plans to record telephone calls with journalists and monitor all contact between reporters and company representatives.
One small step…one leap etting your first break in journalism can be a hard but also exciting step in your career. So, too, can moving into the area where you really want to work. The NUJ is working with students to help them get ahead as fast and as easily as possible. The union recently held a number of student events including conferences and talks in London, Manchester and Lancaster. In London many aspiring journalists got
New independent title sees sales slip Sales of the Independent’s cut-price spin-off i are believed to have fallen to close to about 70,000 a day, according to industry reports. The 20p weekday daily, which aims to offer a bite-size complement to the full title, launched in late October. In the third week after launch, average daily sales are thought to have ranged from about 75,000 to 85,000. Official circulation figures for the new title are expected in January.
His election means the union will be led by a single general secretary for the first time since it was formed from the merger of the T&G and Amicus three years ago. Since then it has been jointly led by Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley who have experienced a sometimes difficult relationship. Mr McCluskey is from the T&G side of the union.
Maddox becomes Prospect editor The new editor of Prospect, the current affairs magazine, is Bronwen Maddox, The Times’ chief foreign commentator. She replaces the monthly title’s founder – David Goodhart – who becomes editorin-chief after editing the magazine since its launch in 1995. Orwell prize The Orwell Prize for Journalism 2011 is open for entries. All work with a clear relationship with the UK or Ireland, first published between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010, is eligible. Entries close on 19th January 2011. Forms and details at www.theorwellprize.co.uk theJournalist | 05
the BBC has been going through one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. planned pension changes triggered two days of nationwide industrial action. It has also agreed the worst licence fee deal ever and is poised to make substantial cuts to services and jobs.
strikes halt news across the country
wo days of strike action in November against the BBC’s planned pension changes involved thousands of journalists. Many picket lines reported that members of Bectu, the broadcasting union that includes camera operators and technicians, refused to cross although the union had backed changes that the NUJ rejected. Other unions refused to take part in interviews with BBC journalists who worked through the strike. Some postal workers wouldn’t cross picket lines, saying that the post would be delivered the following week. The Welsh Language Society also refused to give interviews about a major demonstration it was holding. And fC United, a non-league football team formed by disgruntled Manchester United fans, refused to take part in the BBC’s football focus after their stunning defeat of League One side Rochdale. The team says it was founded on socialist principles. National ﬂagship programmes such as Radio 4’s Today and BBC 2’s Newsnight and key regional news and current affairs
shows were taken off the air. BBC managers attempted to put some content on air, reading the news and playing music. Some services, such as Radio Cumbria, carried no local news. High profile presenters such as Jeremy Paxman, Sandi Toksvig and fi Glover refused to cross picket lines although the Today programme went ahead on the second day because presenters Sarah Montague and evan Davis chose to work. The walkouts were staged on November 5th and 6th. Disruption had also been planned to coincide with the Conservative Party conference and the Comprehensive Spending Review but this was called off after the BBC offered concessions. for full coverage of the strike in words and pictures go to: http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=1796
High proﬁle presenters such as Jeremy Paxman, Sandi Toksvig and Fi Glover refused to cross picket lines
oN THe PicKeT liNe: pauL mason, eConomICs edItor at neWsnIght Where did you picket? Television Centre, where I work. You weren’t tempted just to have the day oﬀ? No, as someone who appears on screen I thought it was important that I show my face on the picket line. Have you done this much before? Despite always being a union member – in the NUT, the University and College Union and the Musicians’ Union – and working in some quite feisty industries, the only time I’ve ever been on strike is at the BBC. Every five years or so there seems to be a breakdown in relations.
How important was the issue? This is the first time in 10 years that I’ve seen meetings of journalists clamouring for industrial action. They were journalists who don’t normally attend meetings and some who had just joined the union. They realised that grabbing pensions meant a pay cut and that after working 40 years at the BBC they could have 20 in retirement with very little money. did you talk to anyone interesting? I met a bloke who used to present Playschool who claimed he was sacked for supporting the miners’ strike. I had a very polite
conversation with deputy director general Mark Byford which the tabloids depicted as a confrontation. do you think the public were on board? We had great support at Television Centre from people walking past. And people around the country who I spoke to said they had good support too. did the strike have an impact? In the short term it was to get the management back around the table. But the longer term impact should be to wake up the management to the fact that this is a people business and that they are in danger of losing the trust of their people.
do strikes generally have an impact? It’s never easy and as journalists we care about telling the story. If we had done what we first threatened and taken key government events off the air, in 20 years no-one would remember those events but they would know they couldn’t afford to have their fires on. It is about two sets of people, the workers and their bosses. Sometimes, when all else fails you just have to go on strike.
6 | theJournalist
Licence fee deal defended amid attacks
he BBC’s agreement to a six-year licence fee freeze has met with sharply divided opinion about whether the move was good strategy or too hasty and too swingeing a concession to the Government. The deal, which will keep the licence fee at its current level of £145.50 until 2016/17, was agreed in quick talks with ministers in October, just hours before the Comprehensive Spending Review. Talks about the licence fee were not due to begin until next year.
The BBC’s fall in income and its new commitments mean that it must make savings of 16 per cent or £500 million by 2016 although a potential liability for the £556 million cost of free licences for the over 75s was averted. The licence fee will now also fund the World Service and the BBC will contribute to funding the Welsh language service S4C. The deal is the worst in the BBC’s history but Mark Thompson, director-general, defended it, arguing that it preserves independence and offers financial certainty. Mr Thompson claims that the BBC outmanoeuvred its critics, including politicians and commercial rivals who wanted to use the next 12 months to turn a debate over the level of the fee into a wider attack on the size and scope of the BBC. He told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference in London: “I’m told that one media company has had to shelve – no doubt only temporarily – a carefully worked out 12-month anti-BBC campaign.” Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: “This is a full frontal attack on valuable public service broadcasting which will see vital services cut and thousands of jobs axed.”
World Service: programmes and hundreds of jobs to go
he BBC’s World Service faces ‘a significant reduction in services as well as job losses’, Mark Thompson, director-general, has said. The World Service is
currently funded by a grant from the Foreign Office but the Government is cutting this funding by 16 per cent between now and April 2014 when the responsibility for the
service’s budget transfers to the BBC. This year the allocation to the World Service has already been reduced to £261 million from £272 million. But Mr Thompson has
in brief... Royal Wedding shielded from cuts Coverage of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton will be protected from the BBC’s budget cuts. Jana Bennett, the corporation’s vision director, warned that there would be potential delays to events because of the cuts but promised that the royal wedding would be given ‘due prominence’.
This is a full frontal attack on valuable public service broadcasting
pledged to increase funding when it takes over financial responsibility for the service. Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s director of global news, told MPs on the foreign affairs committee recently that ‘hundreds of jobs’ and some foreign-language services would have to be cut to achieve the necessary cuts.
Byford departure leads management shake-up Oli Scarff/getty
ark Byford, BBC deputy director general, is to leave next June and the post will be scrapped. Sharon Baylay, the marketing chief, is also leaving without being replaced. Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, and Lucy Adams, director of the human resources department, will step down from the executive board but continue in their roles. The corporation, which is aiming to reduce its senior management pay bill by 25 per cent by the end of next year, said the moves would ‘enable the BBC to realise further efficiency savings in support and management costs’.
apology over band Aid story The BBC apologised to Sir Bob Geldof over a programme it broadcast which it said ‘gave the impression’ that some money raised from the Band Aid single Do They Know It’s Christmas went to fund the purchase of weapons. Sir Bob said it was a ‘lapse in standards’ by the BBC. Sale of television centre progresses The sale of the BBC’s iconic Television Centre in west London has moved a step closer after the appointment of commercial property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton. The firm has worked for the BBC before, advising on the disposal of the corporation’s Manchester headquarters. Discovery channel joint venture sold BBC Worldwide sold a 50 per cent stake in a joint venture with the Discovery channel for £97 million. The sale follows a BBC Trust review which said that the commercial division should sell non BBCbranded international channels. The money raised will help launch new BBC-branded channels. The partnership between the BBC and Discovery began in 1997. World service chapel goes on air The NUJ’s World Service chapel of the BBC set up its own internet radio service to give members information before and during the strike. And in between information the 24/7 service played a lot of classical music chosen by its creator and chapel leader Mike Workman, who ran the mini station from his home computer. theJournalist | 7
Wave of action at Newsquest papers
in brief... Scotland considers libel for the dead The Scottish Government is consulting on whether it should change libel laws to ensure that the reputations of the dead are protected. The region’s Justice Department has said that it has no view yet on whether a change is necessary. The decision to open a review of the current legislation follows a campaign by a family who suffered the deaths of two children.
ournalists working for Newsquest across the country have taken strike action or have balloted to do so in escalating disputes over pay and job cuts. The Brighton Argus, Southampton Echo and were both hit by walk-outs while Newsquest titles in the north east, including The Northern Echo, were balloted for industrial action. Members at Newsquest Darlington, Hampshire and Oxford are also balloting. The Brighton strike was in protest at moves to move production of the well-known paper to Southampton with the loss of five sub-editing jobs and the editor’s post for the Worthing edition. Some 90 per cent of the chapel voted for action against the changes. The Echo chapel also complains that loyalty payments for lower paid employees have been scrapped.
London council scraps newspaper London’s Hammersmith and Fulham Council is to end publication of its fortnightly free newspaper H&F News next year. Its decision follows proposals by the Department of Communities and Local Government to clamp down on so-called ‘town hall Pravdas’. Brighouse ends 123 broadsheet years The Brighouse Echo has joined the exodus to the world of tabloid pages after 123 years as a broadsheet. The West Yorkshire title decided to make the change after reader research which showed an overwhelming eight to one in favour of the smaller format. Johnston Press hit by ad revenue fall Advertising revenue at regional newspaper group Johnston Press dropped 5.4 per cent in the 18 weeks to early November, after a fall in public sector and recruitment advertising. Property advertising continued to show growth but recruitment ads continued to slump with a 29 per cent year-on-year fall for the period. Hampshire wants to charge for Foi Hampshire County Council is pressing for the right to charge newspapers and commercial organisations for responding to Freedom of Information requests. It wants the Local Government Association to petition the Government to relax the FoI Act to request payment from organisations that benefit commercially from receiving the information.
The action at the Southampton Echo followed the breakdown of protracted talks, including negotiations at the conciliation service ACAS over a two-year pay freeze which has been imposed by the company. A pay freeze has been in place across Newsquest since July 2008, which the NUJ says amounts to a pay cut in real terms. In Yorkshire at the Bradford Telegraph & Agus, Ilkley Gazette, Wharfedale & Airedale Observer and the Keighley News, Newsquest has told the papers’ journalists it is making 18 positions redundant and replacing them with 16 new jobs. This means that current employees would have to reapply for their positions. Newsquest is also ending the final salary pension scheme next March, and staff were forced to take a ‘voluntary’ week of unpaid holiday last year to reduce costs. Meanwhile the highest paid director of Newsquest – understood to be chief executive Paul Davidson – received a real terms pay rise of 21.5 per cent last year.
Interns can claim back unpaid wages
he NUJ is stepping up its campaign to get a fair deal for interns. If you have worked as an unpaid intern in the past six years you could be entitled to claim back the national minimum wage,
regardless of the terms of your internship. It could be possible to recover up to £232 per 40-hour week. The initiative follows an employment tribunal in November 2009, in favour of an intern who worked
for a production company. Nicola Vetta had agreed to receive only expenses but after her internship ended, she sought payment, with the backing of the broadcasting union Bectu. The tribunal recognised that
a worker is entitled to the minimum wage whether or not they agreed to work for nothing. If you are a former intern and want help, you should contact interns@ londonfreelance.org
Press Club Ball raises £40,000
ournalists in need were given a helping hand thanks to keen bidding at the annual London Press Club Ball which raised around £40,000 for the Journalists’ Charity. Chris Tarrant presided over the auction, knocking down the Audi A1 supermini star prize for £16,000 – just hours before he was fined in court next day for a double speeding offence. He said: “It’s a fantastic night but it’s also in a very good cause that supports journalists who fall on hard times.” Kate Silverton hosted the evening, which attracted 450 guests to London’s Natural History Museum. The Journalists’ Charity spends about £1million a year giving grants and other support to journalists, their partners and dependants in need.
08 | theJournalist
General Secretary Jeremy Dear on the growth of strike action in regional newspapers
Taking a stand on low pay
ice work if you can get it. Newsquest Chief Executive Paul Davidson is luxuriating in a £106,000 a year pay rise and a welcome boost to his already generous pension. Newsquest staff, meanwhile, are facing the sack, having to reapply for their own jobs on worse terms and conditions and are seeing their papers left short-staffed. Subbing is moving out of their circulation areas and they are having to work harder while their pay, in real terms, continues to fall. Years ago, when I was the union’s national organiser for newspapers, I doorstepped Mr Davidson to try to present him with the Scrooge Employer of the Year Award for the obscenely low levels of pay at some of the company’s titles. He declined the opportunity to personally accept the copy of Charles Dickens’ book that I had so carefully giftwrapped for him. The stunt was part of our ﬁght against low pay. We made real progress, exposing the hypocrisy of the media companies making huge proﬁts, awarding themselves massive pay rises whilst paying their journalists a pittance. We secured some signiﬁcant rises across the industry thanks to an active, high-proﬁle campaign backed by industrial action. Now it’s time to target the same employers again. Newsquest is in line to win Scrooge Employer of the Year again. While Mr Davidson has seen his pay jump considerably and the group’s ﬁnance chief has
recently boasted of the company’s huge proﬁtability, staff are in the third year of a pay freeze. Some have had no pay rise for more than 1000 days. As if that was not bad enough job losses continue, subs are being pooled – taking the production of more newspapers out of the heart of the communities they serve In Yorkshire staff are having to reapply for their own jobs, but on worse terms and conditions. These moves come just weeks after Newsquest axed its ﬁnal salary pension scheme. Newsquest values its staff so little the union chapel in Brighton had to hold a meeting in a supermarket car park opposite the ofﬁce – they were prevented from meeting on company premises.
Newsquest is in line to win Scrooge Employer of the Year again
espite the short-stafﬁng, despite the cost-cutting, Newsquest’s journalists continue to do their professional best to produce quality papers and websites. Newsquest bosses live in another world. And in their world they believe staff will accept cuts upon cuts. Not so. Across the UK, members have been taking action. In Brighton and Southampton members took strike action against job cuts and pay freeze. More are balloting or will ballot shortly. Deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet is to head up a major union campaign co-ordinating action across the whole group, highlighting the hypocrisy of a company which boasts to the City how much money it is making while imposing pay freezes. A company that claims to produce local newspapers must respect communities and value journalists. Newsquest does neither. The union is committed to making sure it does both. Newsquest is not the only company at which such a criticism could be levelled. Trinity Mirror, Johnston Press and many others are contenders for this year’s Scrooge Award. But Newsquest is ﬁrst among equals.
For all the latest updates from the General Secretary visit his blog at: http://jeremydear.blogspot.com theJournalist | 9
A tale of two cities Action against government cuts has differed in London and Paris. Christine Buckley and Jeff Apter consider the contrasting styles
The British Way
f tabloid headlines are anything to go by, a new winter of discontent has arrived, and it was perfectly timed for the drop in temperature. There has certainly been some high profile industrial action: the NUJ’s strike at the BBC over pensions; the Fire Brigades Union’s action in London and elsewhere over enforced new contracts; and the RMT’s strike on the London Underground over job losses. Then there was the wellattended and sporadically fiery students’ demonstration against tuition fees and the subsequent protests and occupations around the country. But the main union event – a show of strength by all of them against the Government’s cuts – has yet to happen. That, for some in the movement, is a problem. For others, waiting and preparing is essential to ensure the maximum amount of public support. The idea of waiting until a national demonstration planned
by the TUC for late March is that the impact of the cuts will be by then biting hard and the support will be the strongest. The danger of this, felt by some unions and their supporters across the wider movement, is that the momentum will be lost, in fact may already be lost, as the Government rolls out a stream of harsh cuts to no significant co-ordinated public reaction. Significant cuts are occurring throughout the country at local levels with tens of thousands of jobs already axed or in the process of being so in local authorities. But there may be difficulties for the unions in translating this into a national picture and up to now there has been little local strike action. So far the unions together have held a lobby of parliament and two rallies in London although one was within the confines of the TUC; two rallies also have been held in Edinburgh by the STUC. There was some pressure from within the Trade Union Coordinating Group, a group of eight unions including the NUJ
10 | theJournalist
Protests vive la difference Why aren’t we more like the French?
It’s not a question you hear every day. But it’s rumbling in parts of the union movement over the contrast between the French unions’ response to pension changes and our own so far more muted reaction to the sweeping public sector cuts. The French seem to do the protest of many people’s dreams with remarkable ease. Large numbers turn out on the street, ports are blockaded, and transport is disrupted in what appears a genuinely collective response. Our own reaction,
The unions didn’t commit to specific action
however energetically pursued by some union leaders and in some quarters, seems a whole lot less cohesive, less immediate and less powerful. But France and Britain have very different political and trade union heritages. That contrast is something that simply can’t be changed overnight despite the will by some to do so, believes Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at Hertfordshire University. He argues that the Left is generally a stronger force in France compared with the UK where the make-up of society is
which are not affiliated to Labour, for a national demonstration before Christmas but this wasn’t sufficiently supported. At the TUC in the autumn, the mood was distinctly militant, even from the traditionally moderate and, by necessity, collegiate TUC leadership. A call for co-ordinated action was backed by all the unions except for the pilots’ union Balpa. Observers say that the need now is to follow through convincingly. Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at Hertfordshire University, says: “The unions didn’t commit to specific action. The danger is that they all go their own ways and PCS [the civil service union] are left on their own, or just with the backing of some of the smaller unions.” Professor Gall also fears that some of the larger unions, possibly swamped by the amount of localised cuts, have not yet got a big enough campaigning answer to the cuts. “On their websites, they seem to be relaying information as much as anything; I don’t detect anything campaigning along the way.” The TUC committed to building partnerships with other like-minded groups to strengthen the opposition and also to try to counter claims by right-wing newspapers and other opponents that unions are just spoiling for a fight for the sake of it. Such alliances can take time to forge. In the meantime it is also campaigning broadly on alternatives to the cuts and forecasting the economic consequences of the cuts with initiatives such as the False Economy campaign. Ground does need to be made with the public with some polls showing reasonable support for the Government’s austerity measures.
much more conservative. He says: “There is more of a tradition of direct action in France. Also, the membership of unions is quite weak [about nine per cent] so to make an impact they go for short, sharp strikes.” British unions, meanwhile, have had a long history of attachment to the political process through their founding of and affiliation to the Labour Party. Therefore lobbying has been the first option rather than direct action. Importantly, the French also have less draconian employment laws than those that Britain operates.
All the unions want the national demonstration in March to be a success but it comes more than five months after George Osborne’s comprehensive spending review setting out £83 billion of spending cuts, the toughest cuts in decades. Some believe that the speed with which the Government is pushing through enormous change is because ministers fear the coalition could collapse as Liberal Democrat unease grows. Some fear that the unions could regret waiting until after the damage is done.
The French Way
erhaps the most amazing thing about the seven days of action in France in the autumn against President Sarkozy’s pensions reform measure was the surprise that the demonstrations and strikes took place. They should have been predictable. Olivier Fillieule, professor of political sociology at the University of Lausanne, says: “France is the European country where people demonstrate most as a means of democratic expression even though such demonstrations are not a substitute for strikes.” The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity of the 1789 French revolution appear very much alive in the French character for a better quality of life, against injustice and for retirement as a happy phase of life. And French unions, without the albatross of anti-union laws, have mobilised in unity far beyond their membership against what they see as government attempts to make people work more for lower entitlements while the bankers are bailed out and the rich get tax rebates. President Sarkozy’s pensions reform raises the age of retirement from 60 to 62 with a pension based on 41.5 years of social security contributions. But to get a full pension, often paltry for low-paid workers and especially women, the age rises from 65 to 67. The issue has inspired the most widespread protests since 1995 when the then government withdrew a similar measure to overturn one of the 1981-86 left-wing government’s most popular moves – the reduction theJournalist | 11
of the retirement age for men and women to 60 after 37.5 years of contributions. Turnout during the demonstrations was as strong as 3.5 million people on the streets in more than 250 towns and cities. Some 70 per cent of people polled expressed sympathy with the movement and 50 per cent said they positively supported it. One significant feature of the protests has been the participation of young working people and university and secondary school students, as much for a future pension as for a job that will get them one. While almost 10 per cent of the French workforce is unemployed, 24 per cent of the under-25s are jobless – one of highest youth unemployment rates in Europe. This rises to 50 per cent in some city suburbs. Philippe Marlière, a senior lecturer in French politics at University College, London, says: “While the Government claims young people are manipulated, the protests in fact have galvanised them in their demand for jobs.” While the trade unions recognise that the country is in crisis, they say working people will unfairly bear the brunt of the re-hashed system that in any case will fall into deficit in 2018. The unions’ own plans for stable long-term pensions arrangements include getting the rich to contribute more – a recommendation that strangely has also been echoed by the
former centre-right Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. The French national – and especially the strong regional – press and government-influenced broadcasting outlets could not ignore the movement and gave wide coverage to what became the mother of all French social battles since the unions achieved withdrawal of an attempt to change the pensions system in 1995. But they grasped every opportunity to criticise the participation of young people and attack the unions. Prime Minister François Fillon, whose own political future appears shaky, said that after the law is in place protests will fade. But anger continues to grow at President Sarkozy’s performance and style. Jérôme Sainte-Marie, head of political research at the large polling institute CSA, says that 70 per cent of those polled expressed dissatisfaction with the president, citing ‘general concern and discontent, and an enormous fear of unemployment’. Other issues involve cuts to public services, failure to curb high incomes, and plans to review the media and broadcasting. There will be important district elections in March followed by presidential and legislative elections in spring 2012. Liberty, equality and fraternity still guide the French people and unions, and perhaps we should be a little less amazed if they take to the streets again soon.
Unions recognise the country is in crisis, they say working people will unfairly bear the brunt
Cashback for interns
12 | theJournalist
THE VIEW FROM INSIDE PR Name: Francis Beckett Job description: Freelance journalist and PR consultant
Fighting ﬁre with ﬁre in a heated dispute
was drafted in on a freelance basis to handle Fire Brigades Union media relations to deal with the London ﬁreﬁghters’ strike. It was called because London Fire Brigade gave them 90 days’ notice of dismissal, so it could re-employ only those who signed new contracts. It’s years since I’ve done this sort of work, and I’d forgotten how exciting it is to have the odds stacked against you. The Sun, Mail and Telegraph loathe union members on strike, and the 27 press ofﬁcers at the LFB were feeding them with a story a day to put London ﬁreﬁghters in a bad light: many ﬁreﬁghters lived outside London; some of them had second jobs, that sort of stuff. When the FBU announced its bonﬁre night strike (cancelled on November 4 after a way forward was found) a Sun reporter emailed me: “We are running a story tomorrow on the massive expenses spent by [FBU general secretary] Matt Wrack and four other ofﬁcials.” These ﬁve had apparently spent more than £1 million on hotels and meals. They hadn’t, of course. The ﬁgure was for every hotel and meal paid for by the union during the year – delegates at the national conference, training schools, 400 lay ofﬁcials, regional committees, the lot. The next day came an apologetic call from the Evening Standard.
“You know how it is, Francis, when a strike’s called the papers always do the general secretary’s salary.” Matt is paid £68,000 because his package is linked to a ﬁre ofﬁcer grade. Matt thinks he earns too much, and gives £1,000 a month to good causes. The next day The Sun told me that, back in 1981, Matt signed a petition in support of someone it considers a terrorist. A quick word with Matt and ﬁve minutes on the web enabled me to ﬁre off a one sentence statement: “Mr Wrack supported this campaign along with Amnesty International and a number of MPs because he opposes the death penalty.” The story never appeared. A reporter knocked on Matt’s former wife’s door – they’ve been apart for 20 years. Another went to his student son’s ﬂat, carrying a photograph, asking the neighbours about him, rooting through the bins. Both claimed to be from the Mail. Of course I can’t be sure they were. The Telegraph belatedly did the story of Matt’s salary. They ran my comment (I’d made a scene earlier when they failed to run it on another story.) Matt, I said, earned £12,000 a year less than the head of communications at the LFB, and his package was much smaller than that of all six top LFB ofﬁcials. By the day before the ﬁrst strike, I felt we were starting to win signiﬁcant victories. The LFB line that
it was all about ﬁreﬁghters resisting ‘modernisation’ was appearing less frequently. People were starting to remember that ﬁreﬁghters risk their lives, and to resent newspapers and the LFB presenting them as shiftless good-for-nothings. We were starting to get our counter-punches into the media. The Mirror had come out strongly for us. Our people were performing well on radio and television and sticking to agreed messages. We’d gone on the offensive against the LFB spin machine, to good effect. Best of all, the combative chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, Brian Coleman, was getting more airtime. The more he went on TV and insulted London ﬁreﬁghters, the better. He’s like Pooh Bah – he was born sneering. Their last hope of burying us was our one-day November 1st strike. If they could get pictures of our pickets behaving even moderately badly, we’d lose every inch we’d gained. Our pickets behaved perfectly. The only arrests were of strikebreaking drivers, who drove fast into our pickets, injuring two. It was the ultimate ‘man bites dog’ story. The Mirror grasped it, but most papers seemed embarrassed. ITN’s London Tonight even reported that one of our pickets had ‘fallen down in the melee.’ No, he didn’t. He was hit by a ﬁre engine. The matter is now subject to legal proceedings.
More news at www.fbu.org. uk and davidhencke. wordpress.com on LFB chair Brian Coleman
theJournalist | 13
Once, jobs in journalism were clearly defined and based on years of traditional working practices. Now they are anything but, finds Rosie Niven
ditor, reporter, sub, picture editor, editorial assistant, broadcast journalist. They are all familiar and well-established job titles. But with the rise of the internet, these jobs have been supplemented by other roles, including communities manger and social media editor. The continued evolution of digital platforms and the upheaval in the media industry has resulted in journalists having to develop more and more skills. And they don’t always come under the traditional role of a journalist. When freelance Adam Westbrook trained at City University just four years ago the media industry that graduates were entering was very different to the one they face now. “Since then, the things we’ve been doing as journalists have expanded massively,” says the multimedia journalist. “I’m blogging, I’m ﬁlming, I’m organising events.” One of his City contemporaries has also experienced this shift. Journalism.co.uk’s editor Laura Oliver has been involved in the website’s event programme including the recent News Rewired conferences, in addition to reporting and editing. She thinks that many other journalists are willingly taking on other roles and adds that it can often take their careers in directions they had not expected. She says:“With any
industry that is going through change you are going to get people taking on new roles without necessarily realising it,” she says. “They might have the title of reporter or editor but they might take on a role in event management, they might end up working with data or in search engine optimization (SEO). And then their role could change after that because they might specialise.” Paul Egglestone, a lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire’s school of journalism, media and communications, says multi-platform coverage means that a journalist’s role will extend to include commissioning specialists involved in interactive programming, additional graphics, photography and video. Egglestone says journalists have to be ‘great project managers’ with the entrepreneurial skills to manage themselves and the new relationships they will encounter. “We’re going to have to be able to run our own businesses and pitch for money,” he says. “We’re going to have to understand the commercial world, and have that relationship instead of ignoring it, which is what journalists have done for the last century.” Demand for business-savvy journalists is something that Laura Oliver has noticed. She has identiﬁed one emerging role
14 | theJournalist
Jobs FACT FILE
as project manager, following approaches from companies wanting to advertise for the post. “It’s not about blurring the lines between journalism and business,” she insists. “It’s more about looking for spin-offs that work for both.” Oliver has also seen a growing demand for community managers and social media managers and recently came across an advert for an SEO reporter. “To me it signiﬁes that news organisations are taking these areas far more seriously,” she says Other emerging roles include the curator and data journalist. The term curator conjours up images of eggheads in dusty rooms surrounded by books and artifacts, but in the new media world a curator is someone who sorts, chooses, and displays online information in an area in which they have extensive knowledge. Data journalism meanwhile is threatening to become a genuine specialism in the mainstream media with The Guardian’s Free our Data campaign and the Telegraph’s appointment of a Data Mapping Reporter. In the US, journalism schools are even starting to teach a fusion of IT and journalism called computational reporting. Kathryn Corrick, UK chair of the Online News Association, says that with newswires taking over news generation in many mainstream outlets, data is proving to be an attractive way of bringing a ‘uniqueness’ to news coverage. With government data now more accessible and the ways of presenting it more imaginative, journalists are increasingly being required to process and interpret it. But Kevin Marsh, executive editor of the BBC College of Journalism, senses a reluctance among journalists to handle data. “Journalists don’t understand data,” he says. “They see it as a geek role, but it’s not. It’s a journalistic role enabling your audience to get to the stuff that matters. We’ve got to drop this idea that the journalists do all the writing – the arty stuff – and the people who build the timelines and put the stuff on the timelines, they’re the geeks. That’s got to go.”
ther professionals are taking core skills from their discipline and recasting them for corporate and public service clients. In recent years, designers have started using design principles to solve problems in services. Another example is anthropologists and other social scientists who have been brought into private sector companies to help achieve culture change within an organisation and sell uncomfortable ideas to executives. Journalists’ core skills include understanding stories, making them relevant to the reader and verifying them. They are already applying them in PR and research work. But could journalists go further in their transfer of skills, bringing them many more lucrative clients in the future? Some journalists are already using their skills for rewarding and often proﬁtable projects outside journalism, including
In recent years designers have started using design principles to solve problems in services
Ben Chesterton, co-founder of duckrabbit. For the past 18 months, the former BBC radio journalist has been producing multimedia, still images and documentary audio, mainly for external clients, to provoke change. One of duckrabbit’s earliest projects was a collaboration for Médecins Sans Frontières, which documented the effects of war in Eastern Congo. Analysis of viewers showed that 60 per cent of those who started watching one of the videos continued to watch it to the end. Chesterton says ﬁgures like this suggest that the potential market for duckrabbit’s services is massive. But he is doubtful about whether you can call duckrabbit’s work journalism. “It’s all journalistic, but not journalism. The language and the approach is the same whether it is for the ﬁre service in Devon or the BBC. We use that approach to create something that is authentic – that’s why people are buying into that journalistic approach.” Fellow multimedia journalist Alex Wood agrees that journalists can apply their skills to plenty of outlets beyond traditional journalism. “I’m doing a lot of video streams for ﬁnance conferences. It’s not video journalism in the broad sense, but I put a lot of journalism into it. We have text stream underneath the video and I run a fact check on this text. So we are adding those little clusters and blocks of journalism integrity that goes into broadcast television. “I often ﬁnd when people want something that normally goes under the arm of marketing they would rather go with a journalist because they are not just going to get a video.” But while this professional cross-pollination brings opportunities, it also poses risks for journalists. Laura Oliver says there is a move towards programming and coding in the industry that could bring new blood into journalism.“We will see more programmers who are articulate and good at expressing themselves moving into writing and journalism and also news production,” she says. So if the invisible barrier between the journalists and the ‘geeks’ is breached, journalists may have competition when it comes to grasping these opportunities.
WHO DOES WHAT? • Social Artist – a social media professional who works creatively to bring people together. • Community Manager – an organisation’s ear to the ground through a variety of online engagement with customers. • Social Media Editor – helps a media organisation to reach and engage with its audience in social media. • Co-Creation Producer – taps into customers’ experiences to create better products.
• Director of Distributed Reporting – oversees the integration of crowdsourcing (outsourcing tasks to a large group or community) and collaborative journalism methods into investigative reporting. • Embedded Artist – a practising artist who is embedded in an institution or organisation to bring a new perspective and develop projects. • Twitter Tsar – encourages colleagues to use social networks such as Twitter to communicate.
theJournalist | 15
Media f Being an account of sundry and important developments in the media throughout the forthcoming year in the company of Raymond Snoddy
ld Snodd’s Almanack for 2011 was very nearly cancelled. Not, I hasten to add, from any lack of interest in such an institution but because so much of the future has already happened, is already known, or can be too easily predicted. What is the point, for instance, of forecasting that the media will go berserk over a Royal Wedding sometime in the Spring when they already jumped in at the deep end over the engagement. No credit for suggesting that there will be an important BBC licence fee agreement in 2011 when the deal, astonishingly, has already been done in a mere 18 hours rather than the more normal two years. We can’t even suggest dramatic new changes of directions for Channel 4 and Five. Channel 4 looks like becoming more like itself next year, more like Channel 4 used to be, under its new top team of chairman Lord Burns and chief executive David Abraham. And you don’t need even a trace of clairvoyance to know what new Five owner Richard Desmond will do next year – cut more jobs and trim the management structure so that the executive in charge of the raunchy TV channels will also run Five’s children’s programming. Oops. That’s already happened, 16 | theJournalist
a futures foretold hasn’t it? You begin to see the problem about predicting the future, don’t you? There is ittle point in suggesting that Alexander Lebedev should try to create a new stream of revenue to save The Independent; because he’s already gone and done that by launching the ‘I’. You can get yourself into real trouble trying to divine the future, particularly when elementary mistakes are made, such as using hard numbers and precise timetables. Futurologists should always avoid real numbers if they have any sense. You don’t need to remind Claire Enders, the feisty lady who founded Enders Analysis, of that truism. Two years ago she became the regional newspaper industry’s public enemy number one when she told the Society of Editors conference that half the local and regional press would have closed by 2013 – no less than 650 titles just gone. The structural changes the industry faced would simply be too overwhelming. Now, clearly we haven’t reached 2013 yet and anything could still happen – that’s the main problem with the future – but recently Enders Analysis threw in the towel, appropriately enough at the Glasgow conference of the Society of Editors.
The X Factor will continue to dominate ITV ratings in the coming year
enior Enders analyst Douglas McCabe admitted that his boss’s incautious prediction had been ‘unnecessarily pessimistic.’ A diplomatic way of putting it. In fact most of the 60 titles that have closed have been small free weekly newspapers, no regional dailies have crashed and this year there have actually been more launches than closures. It really is best to be a little vague and remorselessly upbeat with your predictions. That’s what Old Snodd’s Almanack has always practised. The internet will play an increasing role in all our lives. Sales of the iPad will continue to rise in the New Year. The X Factor will continue to dominate ITV ratings in the coming year. That’s the sort of thing. Simon Cowell will offer Ann Widdecombe an X Factor contract after winning Strictly Come Dancing. That could be a tricky one. Let’s make that Simon Cowell offering Widdy an
X Factor contract if she wins Strictly Come Dancing. It’s great pretending to be the Oracle, but of course in ancient Greek tradition the musings were always fiendishly ambiguous. The listeners could read anything into the pronouncements that they wanted – just like Mystic Meg’s newspaper horoscopes. But with all the necessary warnings and caveats maybe it’s time to plunge into some of the mucky detail. What on earth will the BBC do with a licence fee frozen for six years and having to pay for the likes of the World Service and much of the Welsh Fourth Channel on top.
ill director-general Mark Thompson, much criticised for his salary, though he was actually awarded it by then BBC chairman Michael Grade, clear off to the US? And who will be chairman of the BBC Trust after Sir Michael Lyons, with a clear eye to the future, luckily got his retaliation in first by announcing he would not seek re-appointment? First the wonga. The licence settlement is tough, but nothing compared with what the private sector has been through in recent years. And it’s not quite as bad as it looks. A massive period of capital expenditure on new premises will come to an end in the next couple of years – Pacific Quay in Glasgow, the move to Salford and the new W1 headquarters for news and the World Service in the centre of London. But services will still have to go in order to make ends meet. The closure of BBC 4 will be sugared by making BBC Two what it once was, and much more like the present BBC Four. But there will still be howls of protest at any cuts other than in the size of the bureaucracy – HR would be a good place to start – and top managerial and editorial salaries. The ‘digital dividend’ – money released when digital switchover is complete – will help, as will the fact that divorce will not go out of fashion. Every new household created is another licence fee for the BBC. Thompson, who is on a one-year rolling contract, will stay to get at least the outlines of the new structure in place and then go out in a blaze of glory after the 2012 Olympics. theJournalist | 17
Old Snoddâ€™s Almanack is quite certain that there will be no further nonsense about hiring people in from outside the BBC at inflated salaries and that this clears the way for the appointment of the first woman DG â€“ Helen Boaden, the current director of news. Chairman? The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy on that one but the names floating in the mist include former chairman of ITN Mark Wood, Peter Bazalgette, the man responsible for bringing Big Brother to Britain, and former chairman of both Johnston Press and Future publishing Roger Parry. The clearing fog reveals the name Parry, once a Today reporter, if he is prepared to accept what is, for him, the peanuts salary on offer. Almanack is much clearer on Culture Secretary Jeremy Huntâ€™s plans to launch a chain of ultra-local television stations. The plans will definitely go ahead because Hunt is determined that they will and why wouldnâ€™t people come forward if there is any hint of money on offer. The BBC is obliged, under That Deal, to provide ÂŁ25 million to launch the project and ÂŁ5 million a year thereafter to keep it going. Nothing of substance will happen as a result of Huntâ€™s Folly. The future of newspapers is very clear for 2011. The papers
2011 will be a year in which the great newspaper experiment continues in the search for Eldorado
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will keep coming out and no national title will die, although there could be a little doubt around December about whether The People and the Sunday Mirror might eventually merge. We can be equally certain that News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch will not back down on his newspaper paywalls even though most people think the scheme cannot possibly work. Rupert Murdoch rarely backs down on everything. So, 2011 will be a year in which the great newspaper experiment continues in the search for Eldorado â€“ finding the best way of extracting gold from newspaper content online. It is equally certain that Murdochâ€™s ambitious plan to take over the 61 per cent of BSkyB which he does not already own will remain mired with the regulators, or appeals against the decisions of regulators. But as we gaze into the future never, ever, forget the immortal sayings of the patron saint of all Almanacks everywhere â€“ Donald Rumsfeld, former US secretary of state. â€œThere are known unknowns, â€œsaid Rumsfeld the sage. â€œThat is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are unknown unknowns. The ones we donâ€™t know,â€?. Old Snoddâ€™s Almanack could scarcely have put it better.
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18 | theJournalist
Denis MacShane is MP for Rotherham and a former president of the NUJ
THE NUJ AND ME What made you become a politician? Moving to Small Heath, Birmingham as a BBC trainee and seeing racism up front. I joined the Labour Party and the NUJ about the same time and it’s been a common combat ever since.
What other job might you have done? If I could sing I would have loved to be an opera singer. I fell in love with journalism as a student editor and the affair has yet to end.
When did you join the NUJ and why?
PHOTOS BY MARY EVANS PICTURE LIBRARY/ALAMY, PAUL SPRINGETT 02/ALAMY
The NUJ blocked me going straight into a Sunday Times London traineeship. The union insisted I did training in the ‘provinces.’ I was furious at the time but the years spent in Birmingham were the best of my life.
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite for a dinner party?
And the worst ones? Leading the ﬁrst ever BBC strike in 1975. It felt good and militant at the time. But it was part of a trade union arrogance that ushered in 18 years of Thatcherism and helped weaken union organisation possibly irremediably.
Shelly, Camus, Caesar, Elizabeth I, Wilde, Marilyn Monroe.
What was your earliest political thought?
What is the worst place you’ve worked in (you don’t have to name them)?
Russian tanks crushing workers in Budapest was as wrong as the Suez invasion.
Reporting third division football on wet Wednesdays in Walsall. Sharing a prison cell with 12 other people who were arrested as part of a round-up of pro-Solidarity activists in Warsaw in 1982.
And the best? I love the House of Commons. As the son of Polish, Irish-Scottish parents, I’m still rubbing my eyes I am here.
What are your hopes for journalism in the next five years? That journalists make more than one call and political journalists report rather than opine. Marilyn for dinner..
And your fears? The slow death of print journalism and the break-up of the profession.
Are many of your friends and family in a union?
What advice would you give to someone starting in journalism?
What one thing would you most want to change in the next 12 months?
Most friends (after all I am a Labour MP) and a doctor brother in the BMA. Now, that’s a union that knows how to get good pay for its members.
Start writing a book early on. Like running a marathon, it seems impossible but once you get going it all comes together.
Libel and privacy law that made sense.
What’s been your best moment in your career?
What advice would you give a new freelance?
I didn’t realise it at the time but being ﬁred by the BBC and blacklisted for employment after Mrs T won power. It made me go and work with unions struggling for democracy in Poland, South Africa, Korea, and Latin America.
Always sell your story to three outlets
And in the union? Negotiating good deals for commercial radio. Being elected the youngest ever president in 1978. Writing a pamphlet highlighting racism in the media.
Who is your biggest hero? Joe Hill, Willy Brandt, Bronislaw Geremek
And villain? All the anti-semites who are now crawling out of the woodwork
Who would you like to see join the NUJ? ... and a view of the office
Every hack joining the NUJ as every doctor joins the BMA. And for the NUJ to enter into a broader alliance of news, information, and cultural production workers.
How would you like to be remembered? Someone who told the truth to power whether power was on the right or the left, in government, in political establishments, and to self-important panjandrums who own, edit and write mainstream media. theJournalist | 19
image by: Simon Ryder
Changing p Stephen Cape left London and the BBC for a chilly, clockmakerâ€™s shop in Cumbria
20 | theJournalist
g places T
he train eased out of Kings Cross station. It was the high noon to Newcastle, and that seemed appropriate after decades at the BBC. As labour affairs correspondent, the last few years had been particularly frustrating because of the lack of interest in trade union stories, and with questions over the future of the Corporation’s pension scheme it was time to bail out and reinvent myself. I looked at the bawling child sitting opposite me and a smile spread across my face. I would become a great clockmaker, I thought, at the age of 55. Dream on. Little did I realise then, the transition from hack to horologist would be a nightmare. For my foray into the world of wheels, springs and other bits, I walked into a small Dickensian looking clock shop in the ancient market town of Alston in Cumbria .The owner, a slim intent-looking man named Peter, was sitting at a bench. He appeared doubtful when I first suggested that I could become the next Thomas Tompion. You may not know this but the maestro was the Jimmy Hendrix of the clock world of the 17th century. Whether Peter could see any natural ability in me I don’t know, but I was hired. The clockmaker’s apprentice! I will never forget the first timepiece I pulled apart. PING! That sinking feeling when a piece of metal only slightly larger than a pinhead was catapulted across the room in a nanosecond to land somewhere on the brown mottled carpet. Finding it would require the skill of Sherlock Holmes. Without the so called ‘gathering pallet’, the clock could never announce the passing hours. It would just DING DONG until the spring wound down. In the early months of my apprenticeship, many hours were spent searching for bits lost in the workshop. After being a crime correspondent for several years I decided to copy a search pattern used in police murder investigations. The floor had to be divided into squares and then combed using a magnifying glass and a torch, with the feeling that all hope was now lost, and the customer would have to be told their pride and joy was doomed. Matters were made worse because, in the winter, the shop had no real heating as temperatures plunged below pipe freezing levels. When the boss decided to get a heater it was left on low to save money, and I had to work at the bench in a coat and hat to stay warm, even wearing a scarf to drive the point home and making cracks about being like a 21st century Bob Cratchit. I longed for a warm air conditioned office at the Beeb with a latte at 11am and a tuna salad sandwich around lunchtime. It could rain all day and I didn’t care. But I was told the working conditions were all part of the learning process. Be cold and miserable and grateful for being alive. In bygone days of clock apprenticeships, the workshops were always busy, with a steady flow of broken devices to
Little did I realise then, the transition from hack to horologist would be a nightmare
repair. So for the keen young worker, it did not take too long to develop basic skills to make simple parts and fix a variety of clocks. But the business had changed as modern technology took over, and for me the path to enlightenment was slow. With the recession starting to bite hard, an executive decision was made to renovate cheaper clocks for sale. I was presented with a little Made in England Enfield striker. This bit of UK industrial heritage was built on December 16th 1952. How do I know that? No expert knowledge, someone had simply stamped the date on the inside of the case and now it was about to get another lease on life. Well, that’s what I thought .One day I arrived at the shop, only to find the mechanism of the little Enfield was stuck in the strike mode. It would not stop bonging. 11, 12, 13 and 14. For the inexperienced apprentice, these problems seem insurmountable. You want to throw the thing on the floor. “Take that you swine! Where’s the hammer ….no give me a mallet. I will teach you to bong.” But this was not personal. Clocks can’t think, they are not out to get me. Calm was restored as I set about rectifying the problem. The clock master’s voice rattled in my head. That nagging mantra ‘Remember, Stephen ,patience. Don’t rush things’. Now winter has arrived again, and the drive to work is precarious as the icy winds cut across the narrow moorland road to Alston. But despite the weather things are now starting to look up. The outside of the shop could be painted next year or at least the windows will be cleaned. Customers are bringing in repairs and clocks have been sold at last. Peter clearly feels flush because he bought chocolate biscuits the other day, and he now wants me to work on more complicated clocks. That’s a good sign. However his young, perceptive daughter told her daddy recently that, in her opinion, I will only be fully trained when I am 70. At the rate I am going she could be right.
over 50s meet the apprentice
The number of over-50s enrolling for
apprenticeships has nearly doubled in the past two years as older workers have lost their jobs in the recession, become worried about their pensions, or decided to switch professions. According to research by Age UK and the Age and Employment Network, about 5,000 people over the age of 50 are now
taking apprenticeships compared with 2,600 two years ago. The current figure includes 400 apprentices in their 60s and 13 in their 70s. The growth in older apprentices has also been fuelled by an expansion in courses and the two organisations are urging the government not to scrap places. Young people still comprise 75 per cent of
apprentices but the number of apprentices aged over 25 more than doubled during the recession, according to the two groups. A spokeswoman for Age UK said that the rise in older apprentices showed that older people were keen to work. She said: “It shows their commitment to working longer, because we are all living longer, and also wanting to take training opportunities within the workplace to enhance their skills, and continue to contribute to society in that way.”
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4=@3D3@G1CB /<<=C<132B67<9 Â·1=C:2/B/F=<0/<9A 6/D3>/724=@B6/B-Â¸
Carrie Dunn crunches the numbers on whether it is better for freelances to be sole traders or a limited company
hile working as a freelance for several years, I’ve had multiple problems with finances and never of my own making. I’ve won a court case against a non-paying publisher; I’ve had to accept PAYE contracts and thus had tax deducted at source; but this year I was told that I had to set up a limited company before an agency would consider me. I’m perfectly happy operating as a sole trader, handling my own accounts and the modest paperwork. So I turned down the job instead. Then I started thinking about the possible advantages of operating as a limited company – are all the other freelances doing it and I’m the only one who’s not? Siobhan Walsh is a sole trader, writing about food. She says: “To date I’ve earned so little that I haven’t really had to pay tax so I’ve done my accounts as self assessment online. This year will be different, but my accounts are simple and I’m fairly confident to file again myself.” National news reporter Katy Ferguson was slightly less happy: “I do my own accounts but it isn’t ideal. I know I would be far better off handing everything over to the accountant who looks after family stuff, but I have just never got round to it.” Surely the sole traders without accountants would be confident of the advice they get from the HMRC selfemployed helpline? Not quite. Katy says: “I have found HMRC generally OK for basic advice, but obviously they are not so hot on the specifics of our profession, as in what is tax deductible and so on.” Siobhan is even less impressed: “I have not found HMRC’s advice very reliable at all. The only consultants I’ve ever spoken to
do not really seem that au fait with the specifics of certain sole trading situations. I’m not at all sure they advised me correctly when I had a loss from an unpaid invoice.” Am I the only person ever to have been told by a client I couldn’t be employed unless I was a limited company? Katy says: “My partner, who is a designer and a VAT-registered sole trader, has had various contracts where he has had to operate via an umbrella agency to get paid.” Arts writer Helen Baker had different problems: “I’ve never had trouble with companies not able to pay me as a sole trader but my old company refused to pay VAT that anyone added to invoices; that’s partly why I’m so loath to be VAT-registered, because of all the potential hassles.” It starts to look like it might be easier to get an accountant after all. Critic Michelle Peters set up as a limited company. “It saves me money and looks more professional,” she says. “The accountant’s fees for doing the limited company’s books are more but they seem to be able to save on tax.” So is it better to be a sole trader or a limited company? Darren Fell. of Crunch.co.uk, says it partly depends on possible tax savings. “The main issue is that sole traders effectively pay tax on every pound earned unlike limited companies. As an example, at £25,000 you can save up to around £1,300 and at £40,000 as much as £2,400 in tax and National Insurance contributions. Worthwhile? Absolutely.” Mike Rhodes, business development manager at Danbro doesn’t necessarily agree. He says: “For higher earners, it will normally be more tax-effective to set up as a limited company; for lower earners it is probably better to work as a sole trader because it will not be worth the additional costs involved for
A solo act W
Am I the only person ever to have been told by a client I couldn’t be employed unless I was a limited company?
the small tax saving you would make. “Sole traders are subject to the same income tax rates as employees and also have to make National Insurance contributions at eight per cent, plus £2.50 per week towards their state pension. By contrast, company profits are subject to income tax at 20 per cent, but there is no NI. If you don’t pay NI, that will restrict your access to state benefits in future, but with a limited company you can pay yourself a salary to keep up NI payments. For example, the company could bring in £60,000 a year and you could take £20,000 as a salary, paying tax and NI on this, and take the rest as company profits.” The two advisors do, however, concur on the legal advantage of setting up as a limited company. “Limited companies provide protection by establishing a virtual shield between you, the person, and the business,” says Darren. “This becomes apparent if anything goes wrong and you are sued. Clearly, professional indemnities are always necessary. But a limited company route adds more.” So the legal benefits are obvious, but generally it seems if you’re an average earner, there’s no financial advantage to being a limited company. It makes me feel better about turning down that work now. 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 THE BANKSY GEEK’S DONE GOOD BANKSY LOCATIONS (& a tour) Vol.2 by Martin Bull Shellshock Publishing £12.50
Visual art Street Art: Contemporary Prints from the V&A The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry Until January 16 The gallery is the ﬁrst venue to host a new touring exhibition from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. It features the work of some of the biggest names in street art such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Sickboy, Pure Evil and D*Face. The Herbert has also commissioned six emerging UK street scene artists to decorate its walls – Pahnl, SPQR, Lucy McLauchlan, Ben Slow, AsOne and Newso. And to explore another aspect of the scene, the gallery is showcasing aerosol art from Birmingham-based grafﬁti artist Mohammed Ali. Ali calls his art, AerosolArabic, a unique fusion of urban grafﬁti art with traditional Arabic Islamic calligraphy. www.theherbert.org
Following the surprising success of his
original self-published book – Banksy Locations & Tours – which focuses on only three areas of London, Martin Bull has rehashed the formula with the rest of Banksy’s UK grafﬁti from the past ﬁve years, as well as some older survivors. This unique, unofﬁcial and unashamedly DIY book includes over 135 detailed locations. Collect all the locations like a geek or put your slippers on and settle back for an open-top bus ride through some of Banksy’s best public work. The Banksy grafﬁti phenomenon continues after numerous books, a self-made DVD and also a sequence in an episode of the Simpsons where you’ll be treated to the bleakest opening in the cartoon’s 21 year history. He has a dig at its producers for using cheap child labour working on the animated stills for the show in a swipe at the Rupert Murdoch-led Fox Corporation, the show’s paymaster. But where it all started for Banksy – on the streets – still fascinates. This tome which includes more than 220 colour photographs takes you through Banksy grafﬁti locations in London, Bristol, Brighton and the South Coast, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and the West Country. It tells you where each piece is, gives a bit of history, random facts and idle chitchat about the current status of the grafﬁti. As the author says: “Don’t expect pseudointellectual ramblings on what this grafﬁti all means, how the Banksy phenomenon has
Ink and the Bottle: Drunken cartoonists and drink in cartoons The Cartoon Museum, London Until February 13th Raise your spirits with a look at the perils and pitfalls of the demon drink with classic depictions by Hogarth and Cruickshank and some more contemporary distillations. www.cartoonmuseum.org History The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists The Women’s Library, London January 29 Robert Tressell’s famous book ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ is one of the classic works on how capitalism operates in the workplace. The original manuscript has been in the care of the TUC since 1958. This event marks the centenary of the death of Tressell, and celebrates his work. www.thewomenslibrary.ac.uk
taken off, who he is, who he isn’t, when grafﬁti becomes art, or what the difference is between grafﬁti and street art. It’s just a grown man doing what he enjoys in life.” While researching his ﬁrst Banksy book, Bull bumped into a Big Issue seller and that inspired him to donate a percentage of sales to the Big Issue Foundation. So far he has donated £27,500 and he will continue to put 12 per cent of his sale price to the Big Issue and two other charities. Both these books started out in 2006 when the author walked the streets in an effort to share the information and to let people take their own photos. He ran a series of free guided tours, gave information to internet groups and continues to update information on any new grafﬁti or ones that have been scrubbed off on www. shellshockpublishing.co.uk or The Banksy group on ﬂicker – www.ﬂicker.com/groups/banksy/ Whether you love or hate grafﬁti, you can’t ignore Banksy who is now a tourist attraction in his home town of Bristol, and once said: “I want to paint on every wall in the Bristol borough of Easton that I can get my hands on, because I want to have the best looking borough in Britain. They’ll be selling maps of it with little red dots where my paintings are. That’s all I want.” Well, the maps and the red dots might not be there yet but the Bristol tour is worth doing. Join the geeks, with book and map in hand. Alf Martin
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Arts Music Glastonbury – did you forget? If you forgot to register for Glastonbury 2011, you could be out of luck because tickets sold out within four hours. All those who registered and were lucky have now had their ticket conﬁrmation and booking reference via email. You still have a chance of a re-sale of cancelled tickets around springtime, and remember that there will be no Glastonbury in 2012. Mud and rain has never stopped the festival but the humble toilet has put paid to the following year’s event because huge demand for portable toilets from the Olympic Games has forced organiser Michael Eavis to give Glastonbury a rest. www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk Try the others… Get in quick for other festivals due to take place in 2011. If you’re among the ﬁrst to book for the summer you might get an early bird deal for the V Festival, Reading, Leeds, T in the Park or Camp Bestival among many others by going to: www.ents24.com.
Ink and the Bottle: drink in cartoons The Cartoon Museum, London
For one Christmas only: The Pogues Touring the UK
Is it farewell to the Pogues? The Pogues’ annual Christmas gigs are one of the highlights of the festive calendar, but this year’s sparked a feud between some members of the Irish punk-folk collective after it was billed as a Farewell Christmas Tour. So, does that mean the band is splitting at the end of December? Well, it’s not entirely clear but Shane MacGowan and Co. will hit the road, supposedly, one last time, starting with December 13 O2 Academy Glasgow; 14 O2 Academy Newcastle; 16 O2 Academy Shefﬁeld; 17 Apollo Manchester; 18 O2 Academy Birmingham; 20 and 21 – O2 Academy Brixton, London. Catch them while you can, they might not return after this one.
playing a track of your choice or a vocal message for your friends and family to remember you by. The basic package includes a 30-disc pressing plus the standard R.I.V. record label with your name, date of birth and date of death. The music can be a favourite track, a personal message or just silence – the crackling sound of you and the vinyl melded. They also sell merchandise (mainly ‘souled out’) and a ‘raveyard’ showcasing band talent you can choose from. Live from beyond the groove. www.distco.co.uk/and vinyly/ andvinyly.html
And Vinyly… When the album that is life ﬁnally reaches the end wouldn’t it be nice to keep that record spinning for eternity? If you’ve ever imagined the song you’d like played at your funeral, then And Vinyly might be your rave from the grave. This UK-based company will press your cremated ashes into vinyl
banksy books to win Thanks to the author, Martin Bull, we have 25 copies of Banksy Locations (& a tour) Vol.2 to give away. Just answer the questions below and write a few words about the NUJ. We’ll use the best of your thoughts in new recruitment material and we’ll send each winner a copy of the book. 1) How many members does the NUJ have? 2) Name two of its current campaigns 3) Who is the deputy general secretary? 4) In 25 words or less say why the NUJ is important to you.
Answers by 31 Jan to: competition@NUJ.org.uk
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thompson should quit now The BBC Director-General, Mark Thompson, visited Bush House on the same day the NUJ suspended its strike over pensions. He was trying to sell his disastrous deal with the Government in which the World Service grant-in-aid will be severely cut and then reduced to zero. About £500 million of public expenditure – including the World Service budget – will now be financed from the licence fee. Mr Thompson has turned the mechanism that is supposed to guarantee the BBC’s independence into a broadcasting tax in the gift of politicians. To make matters worse he has agreed for the first time to give ministers a say in what services the BBC can broadcast. These developments cannot be divorced from the greed of senior executives. If Mr Thompson and his acolytes had more modest salaries they would have been able to stand up effectively to the politicians. For a start they would have had the support of staff and the public. Instead, Mr Thompson has turned on staff by breaking promises over pensions and pursuing what looks like an attempt to break the unions. It is too frightening to imagine what could happen next. Now more than ever the BBC needs effective and fair leadership committed to the values of public service. Mr Thompson is not able to provide this. I call on him to resign. Maybe his successor will be able to undo the damage done to the BBC’s reputation and independence. Mike Workman, Chair, BBC World Service branch
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Licence fee freeze will lead to fewer services The long-term freeze on the BBC’s licence fee is a major, major blow to all BBC staff and those who care about the quality of broadcasting and independent news coverage – national, regional, local and on the web. It will lead to fewer services, less technical development and a real threat to drama and the arts. The BBC World and Monitoring Services, our country’s voice and ears to the world, have been cut and held back over the years already. The current projected cuts will severely damage the service they provide and the careers of those very many people who have always maintained the industry’s highest standards that have been recognised throughout the world. This Con Dem Government’s actions threaten a UK industry which is recognised as one of the very best among all its competitors. So much
so that Rupert Murdoch and the Daily Mail cannot wait to see it dumb down. John Fray, Former NUJ Deputy General Secretary
Danger of following the right-wing press In his Unspun column Nigel Stanley bemoans how the right-wing press at the TUC congress chased The Strike Story. That’s certainly true. Characteristically, many of them pretty much came with the quotes already in their notepads and ignored nuances and inconvenient things, like facts, that contradicted them. So when he refers to ‘blood-curdling quotes from the union leaders most likely to frighten their readers, even when those views did not reflect the union mainstream’ (my emphasis), he’s in danger of playing their game. No trade union leader spoke solely about industrial action. Why would they?
In passing the main motion about protecting public services – which would have ended in a unanimous vote had it not been for a surprise last-minute intervention by the general secretary of the airline pilots’ association – the unions committed themselves to a wide-ranging and co-ordinated campaign against the Government’s public spending cuts. If this means industrial action at some point, it will be more effective if it is co-ordinated as closely as possible, preferably through the TUC. But that’s not the sum of what any union’s campaign is about. At PCS, we’re proud of the role we’ve played in making the case for the alternative to the cuts – which you can read at www.pcs.org.uk/altdoc – and we will continue to promote this where we can. Like I did just there. Richard Simcox, National press officer Public and Commercial Services union
All members of the union are real journalists Our union is certainly not ‘undermining its own profession’ by defending members working for local authority publications, as Gavin Aitchison argues (Oct/Nov edition). And, in answer to David Skentelbery’s question in the same edition – ‘How many are written by ‘real’ journalists and how many are members of the NUJ?’ – a survey recently carried out by the London Press and Public Relations Branch found that not only are our local authority members indeed ‘real’ journalists, but they provide a valuable service to local communities that, in many areas, commercial publications completely fail to provide. All members of our union are ‘real’ journalists, whether they work in broadcast media, online or print, on national dailies, local weeklies, or magazines in either the public or private sectors. What a pity that NUJ members such as Mr Skentelbury and Mr Aitchison fail to recognise that the Government’s attack on local authority publications is part and parcel of its overall assault on every single aspect of public service provision. Our duty as trade unonists, is to defend the terms and conditions of all of our members – so let’s ditch these elitist attitudes. Karl Stewart, London Press and PR Branch
Council newspapers often better than ordinary ones I object to government proposals to curb local authority newspapers which are useful and often more reliable than ordinary local and national newspapers. Many issues are not covered by newspapers and when they are they are unbalanced. Stories about union activity, for instance, are often little more than rants, with no attempt to explain the issues. Many local papers ape the worst excesses of papers like The Sun and are unreliable as sources of information.
26 | theJournalist
Some editors believe that their mission is to entertain, and not to inform. Local councils and courts go unreported. By contrast, council-run papers provide useful information, important to everyone’s lives. Council-run newspapers are often more objective and more aware of equality and diversity issues and they are a cost-effective way for the council to communicate with local people. Why does the Government want to restrict them to publishing only four times a year? How would a quarterly paper inform residents of rubbish collection dates over a holiday period? But perhaps the proposal is itself politically motivated, designed to make it more difficult for councils to tell people about the effects of the Government’s cutbacks. Ray King, London
Cake campaigning that really takes the biscuit I write to thank the NUJ for making the Equal Pay debate easier for me to understand. Encouraging members to sell or hand out cakes with one sixth missing to mark the pay women are
missing out on is an idea that really captures the enormity of the situation for women workers. I then thought about other images the union could use if it runs out of cupcakes. Perhaps it could remove an inch from a stiletto heel, pour away nail varnish or cut the top off a lipstick. Or it could rip some pages from the latest chick lit novel. It could even go so far as to remove a sixth of a presenter from Loose Women. All of these things would make women receiving less pay than male colleagues much easier to understand and, importantly, would not compromise our femininity or out us as opponents of post-feminist irony. As a female, disabled, part-time worker I do appreciate something that will help me understand workers’ rights and political activism; the stress of which, of course, inevitably makes me eat too much chocolate. In fact, perhaps all NUJ campaigns and political debate can be delivered as a sexist cliché, covered in icing and sprinkled in hundreds and thousands just so that I can get my pretty little head around it. Rachel Broady, Manchester branch
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
Older people are not always at tea dances Why is it that media coverage of pensioners’ issues is often bereft of imagination when portraying the lives of the over 60s? Too often visual portrayals irritatingly opt for a tea dance in the community hall. The quickstep may seem the height of athleticism to Newsnight hacks but the ‘beat generation’ deserves better. Thousands of older people hike and bike ride across Britain, run marathons, climb mountains, and tour by car, caravan and coach worldwide. Go to any sports stadium and see how things revolve around the work of older men and women. Take a look at performing arts centres where oldies write and perform. Or visit music venues where they sing and play. Evening classes are stuffed with older people learning practical hobbies and academic subjects. The unpaid work of older citizens is the catalyst for untold aspects of British life. Many charities would collapse without them. Political parties would vanish! The experience of the over 60s makes
Email your letters to: email@example.com Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
the case for a decent later life. But the media generally prefer to use celebs to illustrate pensioners’ issues – cue Joan Bakewell and Boris Johnson’s dad. It smacks of laziness, given the material for proper images of older people today. Roy Jones, North Wales
Calling Harlow old school Full marks for the impressive articles in your October/November issue by Raymond Snoddy, David Hencke and David Gow, three of the young hopefuls I attempted to instruct in the rudiments of journalism when I was a lecturer at Harlow College from 1966 to 1969. I’ve occasionally bumped into all three during the 40 years since, but I contrast this casual contact with the very enjoyable reunions I attend each year with students I taught at City University (where I was director of journalism) from 1976. I am wondering whether any of your ex-Harlow readers fancy a get-together in London? If so, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom Welsh, Cumbria
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professional Training courses Non Members
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.
Sat 15 Jan
Getting Started As A Freelance
Sat/Sun 15/16 Jan
Mon 17 Jan
Writing Your First Book
Wed 26 Jan
Making Internet Journalism Pay
Sat 29 Jan
Business for Journalists
Sun 30 Jan
Economics for Journalists
Sat/Sun 29/30 Jan
Introduction to Online Publishing
Tues/Wed 1/2 Feb
Introduction to InDesign
Wed/Thur 9/10 Feb
Writing for the Web
Fri 11 Feb
Pitch and Deal
Wed/Thur 16/17 Feb
Introduction to Sub Editing
Tue/Wed 1/2 March
Build Your Own Website
Wed 9 March
Reporting the NHS
You can view course outlines at www.nujtraining.org.uk
january – march 2010 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. They will increase your technical skills, improve your writing and editing and also offer you a chance to change direction completely.
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
Build Your Own Website Writing for the web Geoff Meade Surviving riots, revolution, gunfire and guerrillas, my career has produced moments of true fear. But rarely has journalism presented such a daunting prospect as when I sat down in the NUJ’s training room to tackle the new frontier of cyberspace. Perversely, years of conflict reporting had been my comfort zone. I knew what I was doing and had the skills and experience to cope. But faced with a blank screen and challenged to create a web page triggered a rising panic I had not felt since my early days in a newsroom.
Of course, newcomers to our profession know how multi-talented journalists are now required to be. Pitching back onto the jobs market aged 59 meant I had to acquire a wider knowledge of the web and how to exploit it to sell myself in today’s highly competitive environment. So I opted for a pair of related courses. Both were run by Chris Wheale, publisher, editor and web guru who demonstrated a wealth of experience and also the patience to help digital ditherers like me. We learned that online is the ficklest audience. They click away promiscuously. Stories need to be told in the first sentence. Few readers
persist beyond four pars of an article. The result was an online presence that I have created from scratch and feel reasonably proud of. Judge for yourself at www.themeade-ia.co.uk. It also introduced me to a new way of writing to attract traffic that will determine any site’s visibility, viability – and elusive profitability. Search engines home in on popular subjects. So any intro that includes Michael Jackson, Madeleine McCann, Manchester United and Money Off in one sentence can’t fail. I’m still working on that one… Geoff Meade is a freelance writer, broadcaster and former defence correspondent for Sky News.
28 | theJournalist
FREE NEEDN’T COME AT A PRICE
Michael Cross on the latest trends and kit
n theory, I don’t do ‘free’. Partly, it’s because I’m sceptical about claims that the web has created a ‘free economy’. (Especially when publishers invite me to contribute to it.) Mainly, though, it’s because I believe you get what you pay for and anything free must come with a catch. It seems especially bonkers to risk your professional reputation on something that fell off the back of the internet. That’s the theory. In practice, I seem to be using quite a lot of free software – and not just because of the price. Top of the list is the incomparable OpenOfﬁce suite of word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software (www.openoﬁce.org). I’ve used it for years, and along the way saved a small fortune that would have gone on Microsoft applications. If you’re still paying for basic ofﬁce software, I urge you to think again. As for email, I’m suspicious of most webmail offerings like Hotmail, but can strongly recommend a service called Fastmail (www.fastmail.fm). It’s a fast and absolutely reliable email system you can use from anywhere – especially useful for dodgy connections in outof-the-way places. I’ve had it as my main email account for ﬁve years now (it can also collect mail from existing accounts). The basic service ‘Guest’ is
VIDEO PUBLISHING: WWW.KYTE.COM Predicting whether a brand name will become a generic term
like ‘Hoover’ is a mug’s game. But I reckon it’s only a matter of time before we start talking about ‘Kyteing’ video footage to a website. Kyte is the company behind a system that claims to make the loading of a video from a mobile phone onto a news website as easy as posting a message on Twitter. In the jargon, Kyte is a cloud-based publishing platform for live and
If you’re still paying for basic office software, I urge you to think again
on-demand video. According to the makers, the trick is that the system is agnostic about technical standards. The latest release can stream video live to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, BlackBerries and Android. If you’re enthusiastic about multimedia reporting, this sounds like a technical holy grail. As usual in our industry, it took a grim event, the Haiti earthquake, to show the potential. To cover the disaster with what it called ‘low cost authentic content’, Fox News equipped more than 100 journalists with iPhones loaded with a Kyte app enabling them to shoot, edit, and upload to the website Whatever you think of Fox News and ‘low cost’ content, the footage was authentic. Kyte has now named its ﬁrst UK media customer. Trinity Mirror is
free (supported by ads) but if you like it you’ll upgrade pretty quickly to full membership, at $19.95 a year. Another service that works on this kind of pricing model is the widely recommended DropBox (www. dropbox.com). It’s an online storage space you can use as a backup or to exchange large ﬁles – especially useful for sharing photos and page layouts with colleagues and clients. You get 2 gigabytes for free, which is enough for me, but people chucking around large multi-media ﬁles might quickly ﬁnd they need a professional subscription, which starts at $9.99 a month. A quick shout to colleagues for free software recommendations came up with Irfanview (www.irfanview. com), a graphic viewer, and the photo retouching/format conversion software Gimp (www.gimp.org). I’ve left the best one til last. For years, I’ve dismissed the free internet phone system Skype as a toy for teenagers and geeks. If that’s your attitude, all I can say is, sign up at www.skype.com. I owe my conversion largely to my 10year-old, who has never known a world in which long-distance phone calls cost money. How the free economy will pan out in the long term, I’ve no idea. But for the moment you’d be daft not to take advantage of it.
apparently using the system “to drive video creation and consumption, to increase citizen journalism and reader engagement”. It would be nice to say that cheap live video from video streaming from mobile devices will help reporters break serious stories from remote places and by the ‘sousveillance’ that showed the assault on Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests. Dream on: my guess is that 95 per cent of ‘low cost authentic content’ will be absolute trivia. And we can safely say that early adopters will be publishers most interested in the ‘low cost’ side of the equation. But the remaining ﬁve per cent should make the new way of working worthwhile. If I were starting out as a reporter now, I’d pay serious attention to my mobile video skills.
theJournalist | 29
Raymond Snoddy on an increasingly polarised battle to make money from the web
All’s fair in love and paywalls
ometimes all you need to know about the current state of the newspaper business can be summed up in a few well chosen words. The words came from Tim Brooks, managing director of Guardian News and Media. He told a recent conference that GMG was probably making more money from its online dating service than News International was from its new Times online subscription service. As a lasting piece of profundity it had its limitations. It was an obvious jibe at a rival. There is no connection between running an online dating service and trying to persuade the digital generation to pay for high quality journalistic content. Above all no ﬁgures of any kind were given – neither how much The Guardian was making from its Soulmates site, nor how much Rupert Murdoch is getting from his paywalls. Yet the phrase symbolises something important – the contrast between two different versions of the future of the industry. The Guardian has hitched its fortunes to increasing openness and increasing connectivity even with rival websites – ‘links not walls’ – picking up a little bit of wonga on the side, where possible. The arrival of former Times media editor Dan Sabbagh as head of media and technology will, if anything, accelerate this march. He plans to open GuardianMedia online to independent media sites and bloggers, offering partnerships. So, Free and Open Good – Paywalls Bad: except when you can bring together the liberal lovelorn or charge for IPhone apps. Who knows whether the free and open online approach can work over
the long-term, but for now more than two million visits a day are being attracted by The Guardian online and no fewer than 38 million a month. In fact a study of online ‘engagement’ for English language media sites recently put The Guardian at number one ahead of Slate magazine, followed by the New York Times and the BBC. Surely serious money will follow in time? It had better, because The Guardian high-ups are as convinced as just about everybody else that the traditional newspaper ﬁnancing model cannot ultimately endure. Leave aside for a moment GMG’s £171 million pre-tax loss in the year to March – the more meaningful operating loss was still £53 million. It will take an awful lot of openness and connectivity to bridge that gap.
Who knows whether the free and open approach can work over the long term?
ver at the paywalls side of the argument the news is not great – though at least it was nice to get the ﬁrst hard numbers of subscribers in November. Stripped of all public relations artiﬁce The Times and Sunday Times numbers are not exciting. Until the lights were turned out, The Times got 1.2 million visits a day. Now the maximum possible under the ﬁrst set of numbers is 205,000 – 105,000 who have paid at least once for some online service and the 100,000 who get online for free because they subscribe to the paper editions. Newspaper consultant Jim Chisholm believes the total is more likely to be around 120,000, and judges even that to be optimistic. Not many of those who have a copy of The Times are likely to spend much time online as well. The best outcome for the industry would be if both the free and the pay routes establish themselves to fund serious journalism. Yet as Tim Brooks also said: “Nobody really knows what they are doing at the moment.” But at least everybody is engaged in a burst of creativity and experimentation.
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
30 | theJournalist
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The Journalist, the magazine of the National Union of Journalists, December 2010/ January 2011 Issue/