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www.nuj.org.uk | DECEMBER/January 2014
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Contents Main feature
14 Death for the critics?
The decline of a once-crucial role
t’s nearly time to look back on the last 12 months and look forward to the next. And what a year it has been. Journalistic standards and ethics have been under scrutiny like never before. And with continuing job cuts and increased workloads from digital demands, journalists have been under pressure like never before. And this year, more than most, many chickens have come home to roost. People who wielded power seemingly without much regard for others or propriety are now finding themselves answerable for their actions. The age-old adage that the truth will out seems particularly relevant. It’s also a time when we look at comings and goings. Sadly, at the NUJ we are saying goodbye to Barry Fitzpatrick, the deputy general secretary. Barry is the most experienced and one of the most committed officials the union has. He has handled big negotiations with large employers and the most detailed personal grievance cases with integrity and determination. For that the union owes him a debt of gratitude. And I do personally as he pursued my case against The Times, securing a very good and, in News International terms, reasonably amicable deal. His departure will be a big loss to the NUJ. But here’s hoping Barry and everyone else can look forward to a peaceful and prosperous new year.
Christine Buckley Editor Editor Christine Buckley email@example.com Design Surgerycreations.com firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Rob Aspin Tel: 01795 542419 Print Warners www.warners.co.uk Distribution Packpost www.packpostsolutions.com
NUJ 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP email@example.com www.nuj.org.uk Tel: 020 7843 3700
Manchester office firstname.lastname@example.org Glasgow office email@example.com Dublin office firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover picture Steve Bell
03 Union’s deputy Barry to go
Fitzpatrick announces departure
04 Lights, cameras, action, bullies...
Working in media and entertainment
05 Journalists on extremists’ database Data Protection Act challenges
06 Subsidies for local papers
Minister lobbied for lifeline
07 Irish delegate conference
Issues affecting union’s Irish members
10 Let’s go to Edinburgh
A visit to Scotland’s capital city
19 Red card for reporting bans
Tackling football club restrictions
09 Michelle Stanistreet 20 Technology 21 NUJ and me
Arts with Attitude Pages 22-23
Raymond Snoddy Page 17
Union bids farewell to DGS Barry Fitzpatrick
arry Fitzpatrick, the NUJ’s deputy general secretary, a committed union negotiator and veteran opponent of Rupert Murdoch, is to leave his job. After 50 years in industrial relations in British newspapers, he will leave at the end of the year. Barry is ending his union career where it began – on London’s Gray’s Inn Road, where the NUJ has its main office. He began as a young Natsopa FoC at the Sunday Times that was then also based on Gray’s Inn Road. The print union chapel had 800 members. One of Barry’s notable triumphs came after the year-long lockout of the Times newspapers in 1978 by owners Thomson. Managing director Marmaduke Hussey thought the threat of closure would force employees to sign new working agreements. But that wasn’t
to be. Barry led the negotiating team that secured a deal to get everyone their jobs back and resolve issues over technology. Later, when Murdoch was about to buy the Times group, he told Margaret Thatcher he had a particularly tough nut to crack – Barry was on his hit list for having “extracted higher pay and a shorter working week”. When Murdoch moved technology to Wapping, sacking the printers overnight, Barry was everpresent on the often violent picket lines. He has worked as an official for the NUJ for 12 years, becoming head of the publishing division and responsible for negotiations and industrial relations across the publishing industry. He was elected deputy general secretary two years ago but was also asked to continue his former responsibilities. His career spans a time of massive change in the press and his departure comes as that change is sharply accelerating. Recently he drafted a digital charter of guidelines to help reps deal with the sweeping changes to working practices brought by digital demands. He said: “I have always prioritised serving our members and I’ve tried to achieve the best possible deals that the members can be happy with. I’ve enjoyed my work immensely. No-one can take that away from me.”
When Murdoch moved technology to Wapping, sacking the printers overnight, Barry was ever present on the often violent picket lines
Tribunal rules against the BBC
BBC journalist was probably overlooked for promotion because of his union activities, an employment tribunal found. The tribunal found that the NUJ FoC at BBC Arabic Ahmed El Sheikh was denied promotion to a senior post
for “the main, if not the sole, purpose of penalising the claimant”. Ahmed achieved a top score in the interview process to become a senior broadcast journalist and was recommended for the appointment after a six-
month attachment. But an interview panel led by former BBC Arabic editor Faris Couri overruled the decision. The tribunal said that the reasoning was “overstated, exaggerated and… provided a very thin evidential basis for a fair and genuine assessment
of his overall performance”. After bringing a grievance, Ahmed was put on another six-month attachment after which he was given the senior broadcast journalist job. The tribunal awarded £2,000 for loss of earnings and £7,000 for injury to feelings. 2013 afp
NUJ apologises to lucy adams
he NUJ has apologised to Lucy Adams, BBC director of human resources, and paid her legal costs after accusing her department of involvement in a dirty tricks campaign. The union said it didn’t intend to suggest that Ms Adams led a dirty tricks
campaign or had been involved in criminal activity. The NUJ had published a story on its website headlined ‘BBC dirty tricks including hacking NUJ members’ emails’, citing evidence from a former BBC HR employee. The BBC said that the
allegations were “false and without foundation”. The NUJ said: “It was the intention of the article to make a broader criticism of management practices at the BBC, which the NUJ will continue to address through the appropriate industrial channels.”
Mirror to face hacking trial The High Court has ruled that legal action brought by Sven-Goran Eriksson and three others over alleged phone hacking by Trinity Mirror can go ahead. Eriksson, the former England manager, with Coronation Street actor Shobna Gulati, ex-footballer Garry Flitcroft and Abbie Gibson, a former nanny for David Beckham, is suing the publisher, over alleged phone hacking. North east jobs at risk in welsh move More than 20 journalists’ jobs in York, Bradford and Darlington are at risk after Newsquest announced it is preparing to install a new subbing system. The production of all three centres’ newspapers will be switched to a central subbing hub at Newport from February. Two new news roles at the bbc James Harding, the BBC’s head of news has hired his former Times deputy, Keith Blackmore, to the new role of managing editor of BBC news and current affairs. He has also appointed a new head of news gathering – ITV News deputy editor Jonathan Munro. Dimbleby urges BBc to merge channels The BBC should ‘pull back a bit’ and merge two of its television channels, according to broadcaster David Dimbleby. The Question Time host said the corporation needed to redefine its role and examine ‘whether it is too powerful for its own good’. He told BBC Radio 5 that programmes on BBC4 are made ‘on a shoestring’ and the channel should be merged with BBC2. long-serving staff leave Newsnight Newsnight’s science editor Susan Watts and foreign reporter Tim Whewell are to leave the programme. Watts has been with Newsnight since 1995 but her role is being made redundant, as is one of two dedicated foreign reporter roles. Presenter Gavin Esler is also leaving. More changes are expected shortly. theJournalist | 3
Lights, cameras, action, bullies…
in brief... guardian censured for three reports The Guardian has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission over ‘serious overstatements’ and inaccuracies in three articles about the Queen’s Private Secretary and his role in signing off the Royal Charter on press regulation. The PCC said it was a ‘particularly concerning case’ because the inaccuracies were central to the paper’s reporting and directly contributed to its criticism of Sir Christopher Geidt. Website pays out for picture use A group of news agencies has settled out of court with a Croatian website for more than €50,000 after it re-used their pictures without credit.The 10 agencies, all members of the National Association of Press Agencies, sued www.tportal.hr after finding photographs had been lifted directly, mostly from Mail Online. Worldwide web chief edits today Worldwide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee will guest edit an edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme over Christmas week. Traditionally that week the show is edited by celebrities or worthy individuals. Berners-Lee is joined by PJ Harvey, former director general of MI5 Baroness ManninghamBuller, Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins and Michael Palin ITV ad revenues grow 11 per cent ITV reported double-digit growth in ad revenue in the third quarter. Revenues grew 11 per cent helped in part due to a ‘soft’ comparison with last year as advertisers stayed away amid the BBC’s coverage of the London Olympics.
4 | theJournalist
All survey respondents working in local papers had been bullied
reported bullying, harassment and discrimination said their gender was a factor. The survey also showed that there was almost an acceptance of the prevailing culture of bullying; an attitude of ‘if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen’. One respondent said you were expected to put up with it ‘to earn your stripes, and anything else was seen as a weakness’. The survey showed that bullying in the newspaper sector was ‘exceptionally high’. The report, by Cathy John, senior lecturer in cultural theory and policy at Arts University Bournemouth, said: “All survey respondents working in local papers had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against.” The figure for national papers was 74 per cent. The report made the
following recommendations: • Better training should be provided for workers and management in dealing with unreasonable behaviour. • Clear guidance is provided for freelances by employers. • Union recognition in workplaces so that reps can negotiate anti-bullying policies and represent victims. • Confidential hotlines for freelance and employed workers. The survey showed that where bullying was reported, being a member of a union was more likely to lead to a successful outcome.
large drop in defamation action
efamation cases against media groups have more than halved in five years, according to a Thomson Reuters study. They fell from 48 in 2008-9 to 20 in the 12 months up to May this year.
They are expected to fall further following this year’s passing of the Defamation Act in April. The study also reveals a steady decline in the number of celebrity cases over the past five years. Only seven
cases were brought compared to 11 in 2008-9. However, claims from political figures slightly increased, with six cases this year compared to just three five years ago.
Colindale turns page into history
he national newspaper archive, for 81 years housed in Colindale in north London, has moved to Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. Colindale, which challenged its visitors with user-unfriendly microfiche machines and disintegrating hard copies of newspapers, was an institution beloved by many media experts and academics. But now the newspapers are to be better cared for in their old age by a purpose built home and a low-oxygen storage area that will prevent fire. According to the British Library, the oxygen level in the building will be reduced from 21 per cent to between 14-15 per cent, which is low enough to stop a struck match from catching light. The British Library in London is offering a 48-hour service to transport hard copies from the new depository to the new reading room in St Pancras.
Dish serves up online magazine US-based British journalist Andrew Sullivan has launched a monthly online magazine off the back of his website The Dish. Sullivan left the Huffington Post in January to relaunch The Dish as a paid-for website with seven staffers.
edia, arts and entertainments workplaces have been revealed as hotspots of bullying. In a survey of more than 4,000 people commissioned by the Federation of Entertainment Unions, of which the NUJ is a member, just over half (56 per cent) said they had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work. Those responding to the survey ranged from household names, top screenwriters and performers to those at the beginning of their careers. The results showed shocking levels of illtreatment and inappropriate behaviour and a culture of silence, with only a third of those suffering bullying and harassment reporting the incidents. Eight out of 10 women who
ournalists working on controversial stories have had their names put on a domestic extremist database, the union has warned. Comedian Mark Thomas, an NUJ member, said he had requested information held on him by the Metropolitan Police under the Data Protection Act. The NUJ is helping all members to check under the Data Protection Act if information is held on them with a template form which is on the union website. Mark said the police had a file with more than 60 individual items of intelligence. He is now, with the union’s support, taking legal action to remove his name from the domestic extremist database. Speaking at a union conference on blacklisting he said: “The result is a bizarre list of events monitored by the police, lectures given, panels attended, even petitions I have supported. One entry notes my presence at an anti-war demo, describing what I am wearing and what sort of bike I am riding; the police continue, ‘he said hello to us as he passed and seemed very happy.’ But when he looked into files on his journalism, things became more serious. Some work for Channel 4 and the New
Statesman had landed him on the domestic extremist database. He said: “If the police are keeping tabs on a lightweight like myself then they are doing the same and more to others. This is more than supposition, as I know of other NUJ members on the database. “Which is why I am asking NUJ members to take action. If your work brings you into contact with the police whether covering riots or climate camp, from Plebgate to the NSA, then the police could have you on their database.” He said the form takes 10 minutes to complete and the Metropolitan Police are obliged to respond within 40 days.
Journalists on domestic extremist database
One in five shuns papers for news More than one in five people never pick up a national newspaper to read news, a survey has shown. The research published by corporate communications consultancy Open Road found that internet search engine Google is now the second most popular source of information in the UK behind TV.
The NUJ is helping all members to check under the Data Protection Act if information is held on them
Guardian feted by civil rights group The Guardian has been named Independent Voice of the Year by the civil rights group Liberty after its articles about mass surveillance conducted by GCHQ and the US’s NSA. The revelations about online interception and eavesdropping on international politicians were based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Daily mirror sells front page to bank The Daily Mirror sold its entire front-page in November in what is thought to be a first for the UK’s third-bestselling daily newspaper. The four-page wrap-around advert was sold to the Halifax bank. It is highly unusual for UK paid-for national newspapers to carry wraparound front-page adverts, but not unprecedented. In October the Daily Telegraph sold a cover-wrap advert to Lloyds Bank.
Economic training seen as lacking
ournalists are struggling to provide quality reporting of economic problems due to a lack of training and development, according to the Carnegie UK Trust. A report by the group focuses on the lack
of ‘economic literacy’ amongst opinion formers, including journalists. It said: “Interviewees representing the journalism industry recognised that the majority of journalists are not trained in economics
or any other financial skill, but that as their role has become increasingly analytical, greater demands are placed on the depth of their understanding and their skills. The financial and resource constraints
on the sector mean that there are limited opportunities for journalists to take part in professional development courses which may assist with their understanding of the basics of macroeconomics.”
UTV to launch new Irish channel UTV is to invest several million euros in launching a channel in Ireland and has won the rights to ITV shows including Coronation Street from rival TV3, the country’s only fully commercial terrestrial broadcaster. UTV, the ITV franchise holder for Northern Ireland and owner of TalkSport, said the new channel will launch in early 2015, creating more than 100 new jobs.
Fight for Irish freedom of information to separate out and charge individually for the involvement of each section of a government department in dealing with an inquiry, thus increasing the fees charged. While welcoming the withdrawl for redrafting of the proposal , the NUJ has urged minister for public expenditure and reform
Brendan Howlin to talk with the union and other users of FoI legislation about the effect of charges, which the union wants abolished. NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley, right, said: “It is hard to escape the conclusion that the so called token charge is intended not as a revenue stream but as a deterrent.”
rish journalists have notched up a minor victory in their campaign to protect the country’s Freedom of Information process, after a government plan to charge multiple fees for information requests has been withdrawn for redrafting. Last month the NUJ Irish delegate conference condemned the proposal
The case of the missing xmas party The Crime Reporters Association has scrapped its annual Christmas drinks with police officers following a boycott last year. It is another frosting in police-media relations following the Leveson Inquiry. theJournalist | 5
news in brief... Newcastle tackled over press bans The NUJ has written to Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley to protest about the club’s banning of local journalists from its press box. The club has objected to coverage in the Newcastle Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun about protests against Ashley’s leadership. Fans are angry over a sponsorship deal with pay-day loan company Wonga. Show bans the red card, Page 19 Family courts judge offers more access A key judge has pledged to open up family courts to media scrutiny in a bid to improve public confidence in the system. Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division and the Court of Protection told the Society of Editors he wanted to open his work to the world. No more life for zest magazine Zest magazine has ended. Its last issue was published earlier this month. Owner Hearst Magazines UK said it would try to find new roles for staff affected by the closure. Zest launched in 1994 as a supplement with Cosmopolitan and as a standalone monthly title in 1996. Its circulation has fallen in line with market trends, dropping nearly 40,000 in the last five years. Future launches new science title A new monthly popular science magazine Science Uncovered has been launched by Future. Editor Andrew Ridgway said it offers “simple, in-depth coverage of science brought to life by some of the biggest names in science research and broadcasting.” Contributors include oceanographer Dr Helen Czerski, astronomer Mark Thompson and Maggie Philbin. Country life by royal appointment Prince Charles guest edited a commemorative edition of Country Life magazine marking his 65th birthday. The prince chose the majority of the content and wrote the leader column. Contributors included Alan Titchmarsh. 6 | theJournalist
A survey of NUJ reps revealed many reporters were no longer covering council meetings and court hearings
Throw a subsidy lifeline to local newspapers
he NUJ is pressing for regional and local newspapers to be given public funding in order to ensure that they can survive. It has pushed the case for subsidised papers to Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries. The move comes amid continuing falling sales, sweeping staff cutbacks along with some newspaper closures. The union quoted figures to Mr Vaizey that were given to the Leveson Inquiry by media analyst Claire Enders. She estimated that 40 per cent of regional press jobs had been lost in Britain during the last five years and that the sector had lost £1 billion in advertising since 2008. The union believes that local newspapers are community assets providing key public service information and enabling people to participate in the local democratic process. A survey of NUJ reps revealed many reporters were no longer covering council meetings and court hearings. The union said that this trend was depriving people of the information they needed to make judgments when voting in local elections. The union is urging that newspapers
should be made community assets under the Localism Act 2011. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The NUJ believes that journalists should be at the heart of their local communities, speaking and listening to their readers. “It believes there is a strong future for local papers, which enjoy high levels of trust among their readers. Yet the sector is in a precarious position. “When times were good, the newspaper chiefs squeezed profits, made unwise acquisitions, built up debts and failed to invest in journalism.” In order to be granted subsidies, the union would want publishers to commit to reporting council meetings and courts and to provide a forum for the local community.
Monty clarifies notice board vision
avid Montgomery, chairman of Local World, has tried to downplay a memo he wrote outlining a vision for the group’s future. In the leaked document, which has been described as an internal working paper, he said that a lone journalist
would fill a weekly paper by ‘skimming online content’ while dailies would be produced by a ‘handful’ of staff. Organisations such as the police, hospitals, schools and businesses would be able to publish information and articles directly on Local
World’s websites. Later in an email to staff, Mr Montgomery said: “The very essence of our business is content – local content. It drives our commercial activity and so our newspapers, our websites and our content must take pride of place in Local World’s agenda.”
Johnston Press photographers face axe
ohnston Press is expected to make 24 staff photographers compulsorily redundant. The company had been encouraging photographers to leave as part of a company-wide voluntary redundancy exercise. The NUJ believes it now has a list of staff photographers who face compulsory redundancy. The company intends to replace the work of professional photographers
with pictures from social media and those offered by readers. The union is also concerned that reporters will be made to take photographs. Barry Fitzpatrick, NUJ deputy general secretary, said: “This decision represents a wanton disposal of the local knowledge and skills of staff photographers working in England and Scotland. The notion that these roles can be replaced by social media
and multi-skilling reporters is a fallacy. This spells the death knell for the staff photographer.” Photography’s perfect storm, Page 18
conference Maxwell, Dublin
Stop pensions rot with a universal scheme
ournalists in Ireland want a universal occupational pension scheme introduced no later than the spring of 2016 with mandatory contributions from employers, workers and the State. Pensions campaigner and NUJ Dublin Branch chair Martin Fitzpatrick told delegates to the union’s Irish biennial delegate conference in Dublin that workers, most particularly in the newspaper industry, have seen pension schemes and entitlements devastated. “The past two years have been the worst two years for pensions since Bismarck, and he was the one who kicked the system off.” Martin Fitzpatrick said the NUJ had been warning for years that devastation was planned for workers’ pensions and benefits in the print industry and the predictions were only too painfully accurate. “But what none of us thought two years ago was that a government – especially a government with a vigorous Labour Party component – would conspire to steal our life’s savings. What the Irish government did with its imposition of a
The past two years have been the worst two years for pensions since Bismarck
notorious pensions levy was no better than the action taken against the bank depositors in Cyprus. The difference was that in Cyprus, the Russian oligarchs suffered. In Ireland it was the workers on small pensions who took the brunt.” “We believed Irish Labour Party Minister Brendan Howlin when he said pensions were a property right. We were subsequently to learn that they were a property right only for higherpaid civil servants and for former government Ministers. It is our obligation to tell this government and employers in our industry that we’ve had more than enough.”
bargaining promise must be honoured
he NUJ is demanding that the Irish government introduces proposals immediately to guarantee journalists and other workers the right to collective bargaining and trade union representation. Irish government ministers have joined in a national celebration of the centenary of Dublin’s 1913 lockout, a pivotal event in the world struggle for trade union rights. NUJ Irish secretary
Seamus Dooley told the union’s Irish BDC in Dublin that official involvement in the celebrations would be remembered as a hypocritical charade if the government commitment to publish legislation on collective bargaining was not honoured by the end of this year. He also called for the appointment of a Minister for Labour Affairs of cabinet rank in order to give greater priority
to the rights of workers in government discussions. Seamus Dooley said inadequate protection for workers in Ireland and the absence of the legal right to collective representation is a scandal which could not be ignored. Workers’ rights are not expendable and we can no longer tolerate the situation where the imperative of economic growth is seen as the sole priority at the cabinet table, he said.
Special ruby anniversary for union stalwarts NUJ for 40 years or more. Clodagh and Liam both joined the Irish Press group in the early 1970s, and have remained active ever since in the NUJ. Clodagh, whose dad was fervent union supporter and Bord Failte publicity manager Tom Sheehy, began her career with the Irish Medical Times.
oint mother of the chapel at the Irish Independent Clodagh Sheehy joined her husband Liam Kelly at a ceremony organised on the eve of the Irish BDC by Dublin branch. The couple and eight other colleagues were receiving life membership of the union after being members of the
But when she joined the Irish Press in 1975 she found the chapel had negotiated the then astronomic wage of
£54 for a four-day week. Sports reporter Liam recalls that before that wages breakthrough, he’d started work on £12 a week: “tax was £3, the mammy took £3 as a household contribution and she also took £3 to save for me – not trusting me aged only 18 to put any money aside for a rainy day.”
in brief... Making money work for the union The union’s Irish Executive Council underspent its budget for last year by 56 per cent, IEC outgoing treasurer Mary Curtin told delegates, but the union has agreed to maintain the budget for the coming year at about £26,000. Savings had been achieved in part by donations from Irish branch funds to the IEC, a use of branch surpluses which she recommended to the union as a whole. Pay up for freelance rights The basic right of freelance journalists to be paid for their work was underlined in a discussion on the struggle for copyright and other entitlements. The union will continue to take on the crooks and chancers who refuse to pay our members for their work, Irish assistant organiser Ian McGuinness pledged. Resist scourge of outsourcing The union is to launch a major campaign against outsourcing in Ireland after delegates heard from Irish South West representative Carol Byrne about how her chapel had resisted moves by management to shift the work of five sub-editors to a company in Northern Ireland. Stress on training chapel officers The NUJ will work with Irish health unions to develop skills to deal with stress. Belfast NEC member Bob Millar told the conference that he’d seen typewriters being thrown out of windows at one workplace, where stress-related problems were resolved eventually with management support when chapel officers were trained professionally . NUJ poet is brought to book by council If Ever You Go to Dublin , a map of the city in poetry and song has been selected as next year’s One City, One Book title by Dublin City Council. NUJ life member Gerry Smyth and fellow poet Pat Boran edited the collection, theJournalist | 7
reland’s failure to allow freelances and other socalled atypical workers the right to union representation was strongly condemned by the Irish conference. Delegates were angry that firm government promises to protect freelance workers had not been delivered upon, and demanded that this obligation must be honoured. NUJ president Barry McCall pointed out that in the centenary year of the historic Dublin lockout struggle for trade union rights, it was astonishing that unions were still engaged in this fight over a basic right. “This is the Ireland where freelance and other lone workers are regarded as dangers to the capitalist system if they dare try to collectively negotiate terms
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rish BDC delegate Kitty Holland has been named Journalist of the Year in the National Newspapers of Ireland awards. Irish Executive Council member Kitty, daughter of NUJ stalwarts the late Mary Holland and NEC member Eamonn McCann, was honoured for her work in revealing the story of Savita Halappnavar, died at Galway’s University College Hospital having been refused a medical termination. Kitty’s book on the story has just been published. Among award winners was Fiach Kelly. honoured for political coverage. He has just stepped down as FoC at the Irish Independent, to take up a post at the Irish Times.
Ireland’s freelance shame
and conditions for their work he said. But at least we’ve become more honest about it. When I started out as a trade union activist argued that trade unions were no longer necessary pay and conditions were so good and employers so nice that trade unions had lost their relevance.
“That one didn’t wash, so now they don’t even bother with the pretence. They openly declare that trade unions impede profits.” The successful motion called for government action on the issue now and praised the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for highlighting the treatment of Irish freelance workers internationally. Ireland’s Competition Authority regards freelance workers as self-employed entities and has taken action against unions representing freelance workers, regarding wage negotiations for freelance workers as price fixing. The NUJ is working through the ICTU to prepare a complaint to the Genevabased International Labour Organisation on the denial of the right to representation.
This is the Ireland where freelance and other lone workers are regarded as dangers to the capitalist system
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8 | theJournalist
Michelle Stanistreet looks back on a busy year and expects another one
A new year...and new struggles
t’s been another full-on year for the NUJ and time and again it has stood up to defend members against the many and varied grenades lobbed our way. Attacks on jobs, or fundamental principles such as the protection of sources, or the systematic undermining of terms and conditions that are leading to unprecedented cases of bullying and stress at work – when members have needed their union’s help and support, the NUJ has been there. So we go into the new year with a sense of optimism, certain of one thing – that the combined efforts of our excellent team of officials and staff and our brilliant and committed lay reps and officers will ensure that the NUJ’s fighting spirit will see us start 2014 as we mean to go on. Attending the recent Creating without Conflict conference, organised by the NUJ and sister unions in the Federation of Entertainment Unions, really brought home to me the scale of the problem of bullying and stress. A survey we carried out found that the creative industries are a hotspot for bullying when compared to other workplaces. A massive 56 per cent of respondents had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work. Shockingly, every respondent working in local newspapers had been bullied. Looking at the breakdown of bullying by sector across the creative industries showed how bad the situation in journalism really is – local papers were followed by radio, television, and then national newspapers as the worst areas for bullying,
Journalists are paying the cost of employers’ shoddy attitudes
with film, theatre and live performance forming the other groups. Many women reported particular issues related to their gender. In radio, 83 per cent of women had been unreasonably treated, 20 per cent more than their male counterparts. A culture of silence makes it harder for people to come forward and tackle the problem, and the report underlines how hard it is for freelances to stick their heads above the parapet, with the ever-present fear that work would cease as a consequence. Practical recommendations from the report’s author included the need for tougher action against perpetrators and better workplace procedures; union recognition so that reps can negotiate robust anti-bullying policies; greater security for freelances; confidential hotlines to report abuse. For its part the NUJ t will be stepping up its anti-bullying campaign in the coming year. We’re continuing to push for a genuinely independent process to tackle the entrenched problem of bullying and harassment at the BBC, and we will roll out the campaign so that members in local newspapers and elsewhere get the support and help that is clearly needed to build healthy workplaces. There’s nothing healthy about the all too often dysfunctional and pressurised environments that increasingly our members are expected to work in. Chronic staffing shortages and endless cuts to resources have made excessive workloads one of our biggest problems throughout the union, particularly in the local and regional press. Journalists are paying the cost of employers’ shoddy attitudes and poor management with their physical and mental health as they desperately try to do the impossible, day after day, their commitment and sheer professionalism shamelessly exploited by many bosses. This has got to stop, so we will be working with NUJ members throughout the industry collectively to tackle this problem head on. As the new year beckons one thing’s for certain – la luta continua!
For all the latest news from the NUJ go to www.nuj.org.uk theJournalist | 09
Linda Harrison looks at Scotland’s capital city in our series on large media centres
he journalism world that exists in Scotland is unlike any other in the UK or, indeed, the world. That’s according to Jonathan Whitelaw, a multimedia freelance journalist and author who recently moved to Edinburgh from Glasgow. “We enjoy a separate yet unified position within the media north of the border. While UK national stories are still pertinent to us, we have the advantage of having a very distinct, individual identity that is very, very different to the wider nation as a whole. And depending on the referendum next year, this could be even more different and apart!”
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From a journalist’s point of view, this can provide a fantastic set of opportunities – and offer freelances a distinct advantage. “Pitching stories to magazines and newspapers is hard but if I have a story with a particularly Scottish hue, or even the slimmest of connections, the Scottish market tends to be very open and willing to commission,” says Jonathan, who contributes to number of outlets, including The Sun and STV. “Having that distinctive voice and speciality audience already in place is a great advantage to freelances working in Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular. As the home of such a rich and vibrant artistic, historical and academic tradition and culture, being Scottish doesn’t get much more authentic than being in the capital. “A disadvantage will always be that it isn’t London and therefore a lot of work and projects will, ultimately, have to be outsourced to other titles away from the city and, as is sometimes the case, the country. But that’s not necessarily the city’s fault, it’s more a state of the industry.” The main newspaper publisher in Edinburgh is Johnston Press, which has several big titles, including The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and local daily newspaper the Edinburgh Evening News. The office is also home to a central ‘design hub’. Set up in August 2012, it employs 15 people – with former writers, editors, sub-editors and graphic designers – and processes about 700 pages a week for Johnston Press titles in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland According to Steven Chisholm, group common content manage at Edinburgh Design Hub: “It isn’t a traditional subbing operation. The hub designs up to 20 per cent of editorial pages for each title but editorial teams retain control over copy and send pages to press.” The Lanark Gazette, Belfast News and Limerick Chronicle are among the titles worked on. Online journalists for The Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News are also based in the purpose-built offices in the Holyrood area near the Scottish Parliament. The Scotsman moved from its city centre home several years ago and its former iconic building is now The Scotsman Hotel. Other newspapers include The Herald & Times Group, which has a satellite Edinburgh office along with its main Glasgow office. The city centre operation has a small staff working for titles such as The Scotsman, covering Edinburghbased stories and news from the Scottish Parliament Meanwhile, the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent, Severin Carrell, also works from Edinburgh.
words from the streets • Freelance journalist and author Mark Fisher: “Edinburgh is a beautiful city. As an Englishman in Scotland for 25 years, I really enjoy the cultural life of Scotland.” • David Hamburgh, designer at Johnston Press: “I’m born and bred in Edinburgh – it was only when I got older and travelled a bit that I realised not every city has a castle and lots of green parks nearby.” • Freelance journalist Jonathan Whitelaw: “Edinburgh is a wonderful city to live in – rich in history and fantastic architecture. It’s vibrant and exciting, I find it a great inspiration.” • Donald Reid, food and drink editor at The List: “Windy, hilly, venerable Edinburgh, with all its political and cultural importance (and self-importance)… where the almost hip and fairly historic meet on a cobbled street and exchange polite greetings, where you can cycle to work and have your tea by the sea.”
On the magazine side of the industry there’s The List – a popular arts, events and entertainment magazine. It’s published in the city every four weeks, and weekly during Festival season in August. The List was launched in 1985 as a fortnightly arts and entertainment magazine covering Edinburgh and Glasgow. The company’s activities have since expanded and now include events data gathering, content syndication and running a network of websites carrying UKwide listings and editorial covering film, eating and drinking and, of course, the Edinburgh Festivals. Online is news website Allmediascotland.com. Its managing director Mike Wilson says: “Glasgow is definitely the media capital of Scotland but there’s plenty of journalism in Edinburgh. It is a city many people want to make home for reasons that will be obvious to many.” Broadcasters in Edinburgh include BBC Scotland and Scotland’s ITV franchise STV. BBC staff contribute to TV, radio and online – TV includes news programme Reporting Scotland, Newsnight Scotland and Politics Scotland. STV News broadcasts three morning bulletins during Daybreak for the Central and North regions while the evening news programme STV News at Six is broadcast from Edinburgh (as well as Glasgow and Aberdeen). Evening news bulletins also go out during STV’s current affairs programme, Scotland Tonight, from Monday to Thursday. For Radio, the BBC’s news shows include Good Morning Scotland, Newsdrive and the John Beattie show, plus The Culture Studio and Scottish editions of Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. It produces a mix of contemporary, history, music, medicine and science features for Radio Scotland. There are a number of independent local radio stations, including Castle FM, which is based in the Leith area of
Edinburgh. Others include Forth 1 (aimed at 25-44 year olds) and Forth 2 (over 40s), owned by Bauer Media Group. Another, perhaps sometimes overlooked, employer for journalists is the Scottish Parliament. “Whether working for a specific party or as parliamentary staff, the Scottish Parliament is a wonderful outlet to work in for media relations and communications,” explains Jonathan. And of course, the perpetually thriving arts scene creates work opportunities. Freelance journalist and theatre critic Mark Fisher is secretary of the Edinburgh freelance branch and has lived in the city since 1988. He worked in the Fringe office and edited The List before going freelance. “As someone who specialises in theatre, there’s the advantage of being a specialist,” says Mark, who writes for the Guardian, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and wrote The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: How To Make Your Show A Success. “But the disadvantage is that people can forget you can write about other things too.” David Hamburgh is a staff editorial designer at Johnston Press’s central design hub. “I like Edinburgh because it’s small but it has everything you need. I live in the suburbs but it’s only four miles from the centre. I work in the city centre and it’s a brilliant atmosphere around the time of the Festival. You can walk up the street and hear 50 different accents.”
the main employers Johnston Press About 300 staff, including editorial, advertising, newspaper sales and marketing. The main titles at the company’s Holyrood Road offices are The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News. It also publishes the East Lothian News and Midlothian Advertiser. Its design hub processes pages for Johnston Press titles across Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Online includes thescotsman.com. BBC Scotland It has 56 employees based at The Tun in Holyrood. Most staff work in radio production or news and current affairs. These include senior broadcast and online journalists plus producer, editor and presenter positions . Staff also contribute to network news on TV, radio and online.
The List The events and entertainment magazine has a staff of about 25 and uses about 30 freelances Other publishing activities cover the eating and drinking sector, Edinburgh Festivals, Scottish students and music events. STV The broadcaster has 23 staff in Edinburgh, most based at its studio in Fountainbridge with the rest at its Holyrood office. It broadcasts news across the east, west and north regions of Scotland. As well as Edinburgh, it has studios in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness. STV was recently awarded the local TV licences for Edinburgh and Glasgow and the company says that 2014 will see the launch of two new city TV channels, ETV and GTV. These will be in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University and Glasgow Caledonian University.
theJournalist | 11
Turning a dream into eTim Dawson looks at the increasing opportunities from e-publishing
ive years ago, Rupert Colley was a librarian in Enfield with a long-standing dream of creating a series of popular histories that could be consumed in 60 minutes. After a decade puzzling how he might realise his plan, in the autumn of 2009 he published a 10,000 word account of the Second World War as an eBook. Today, his ‘History In An Hour’ imprint has sold over 250,000 bite-sized digests of everything from The Reformation, to Ancient Egypt and The Cold War. “There have been times when it was manic, but the level of the success of the series has been overwhelming”, he says today. “My hunch was that there was a real appetite for easily digestible histories, maybe in subject areas that people felt they ought to know about, or in anticipation of a holiday.” He is not the only person who has found ways to harness the possibilities of e-books. Literary publicist Richard Foreman and journalist Mathew Lynn launched Endeavour Press a year and a half ago. Specialising in genre fiction, history and collections of journalism, they produce e-books at a rate of eight a week. ‘Name’ journalists such as Simon Sebag-Montefiorie, Rachel Johnson and William Dalrymple are among their stable; and sales currently run at upwards of 15,000 books a month. In the US, where the market for short e-books, or long-form journalism, is more developed, several writers have earned more than £100,000 from ‘Singles’ – Amazon’s short book brand. Mishka Shubaly, for example, scored an unexpected hit with Shipwrecked, a true account of a near fatal yachting disaster that he could not fit with any of his regular magazine clients. He has now written several more successful Singles. The success of these short e-books appears to rest on three, related factors: a general thirst for shorter books; ‘cup-of-coffee’ pricing; and technology that brings writing, publishing and purchasing much closer together. Traditional publishing contracts have tended to insist on 100,000 words for works of fiction and 150,000 for nonfiction – the length of e-books is immaterial. And, a little like the market for smart-phone apps, consumers appear to be willing to pay – so long as the price is negligible. According to Amazon’s figures, nearly 75 per cent cost $4.99 or less. Authors typically receive 50 to 70 per cent of the cover price, and as the process from finished manuscript to product on sale can take less than an hour, it is easy to see the appeal. Rupert Colley’s experience suggests, however, that you can’t necessarily expect riches the second that you add your work to Amazon’s vast catalogue. “I started by putting up free-to-read articles on my website to generate some interest”, he explains. “It took four months after I published my
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Second World War book before I sold a single copy, though”. During that time he was busy building interest on his site and through social media. A year later, however, sales were so strong that HarperCollins offered to buy him out and retain him to run History In An Hour (www.historyinanhour.com) on behalf of the publishing giant. Among the more surprising ways that professional backing has helped has been in the development of audio versions of his titles; the resulting products sold tens of thousands through iTunes. “Initially I just wrote about what interested me – that is why I did a lot of contemporary history titles,” says Colley. “I also went with what people offered me – so long as they were competent writers. Since HarperCollins’ involvement, I have become more anniversary-driven, but writers still get the same basic percentage of sales revenues”. Endeavour’s (www.endeavourpress.com) ambitions are even larger. Foreman happily contemplates the day when his imprint overtakes Penguin. “We are selling to a global market – a third of our sales are in the US”, he says. “Of course there is no reason why authors should not publish themselves – but we have expertise in marketing titles and working Amazon’s algorithms to maximum advantage”. Their greatest success to date has been Foreman’s own, ‘Augustus Son Of Rome’, one of a series of Roman history novels. It has sold 12,000 copies
a cautionary tale Publishing e-books might look like an easy route for journalists to squeeze revenue from their back catalogues – but there are pitfalls. In 2010 travel writer Mike Gerrard decided to have a go at self publishing on Kindle and thought that an interview that he did with Bill Bryson in 1994 might make an e-book. He had recorded a 7,000 word question-and-answer piece with Bryson in Passport, a literary magazine, of which Gerrard was then publisher. Gerrard, by reworking guidebooks, built up an inventory and was soon selling around fifty copies a month. Then he turned his attention to the long interviews that he had conducted for Passport.Bryson seemed the most promising; Gerrard wrote a new introduction and republished the interview as ‘Bill Bryson – The Accidental Travel Writer, by Mike Gerrard’. It appeared in July 2013 and, possibly because Bryson himself has a new book out soon, it was soon selling 100 copies a week at £1.99, In September, however, Gerrard received
an email from Bryson’s publishers accusing him of publishing, without permission, words in which Bryson owned the copyright. Shortly after that, Amazon removed the book from sale. “I doubt that I will ever have the resources to challenge this”, says Gerrard. “But this creates a dangerous precedent. Bryson’s books are full of quotes from people. What is to stop them demanding that they be removed?” “UK law gives a journalist reporting current events a licence to quote what someone has said,” explains NUJ freelance organiser John Toner. “That licence does not necessarily apply when someone’s words are appearing in a book, however. Copyright law also places weight on the usual value of someone’s works – in the case of a successful author, that could be quite a lot.” Toner advises journalists who are considering republishing old interviews (particularly those that include long, verbatim answers) to seek prior permission of their subjects wherever possible.
e-book reality to date. The publisher is also actively pursuing out-of-print works into which he can breathe new life. AJP Taylor’s War By Timetable has been a recent success. And Endeavour is not the only one combing back catalogues. In the US, several publications are now actively republishing classic long-form journalism, among them the New York Review Of Books and The Atlantic. Atlantic Digital (www.theatlantic.com) has been experimenting with e-books since 2010, says general manager Kimberly Lau. “Our focus has been to leverage assets that are unique to The Atlantic – generally best-in-class writing and editing. Our audience has a seemingly endless appetite for highquality content”. Lau won’t disclose sales figures, but says that Daniel Rauch’s ‘Denial’ has ‘significantly exceeded original forecasts”. The common thread through all of these successes, of course, is Amazon, the global behemoth from which 1.5m e-books are available and through which 90% of eBook sales are sold. There are alternatives, of course – ibooks, Nook and Smashwords, for example. But whatever view you take of Amazon’s corporate practices, selling e-books without them would be a hard slog. The mechanism of self-publishing is childishly simple. Set up an account at Kindle Direct Publishing (www.kdp.amazon. com), and upload a Microsoft Word file of your words – and the job is all but done. Many of the biggest journalism-eBook success stories, however, are ‘Kindle Singles’; long-form journalism, published by Amazon itself. The series editor in the UK is Andrew Rosenheim, a novelist and former managing director of Penguin books. He advertises that he will consider any original work, between 5,000 and 30,000 words in length as well as reviewing all material that is already published via KDP, with a view to adopting it as a single. The royalties split for the author does not change, if your work become a single – generally speaking you receive 70 per cent of the sale price. Being a single, does, however, mean that an e-book is given a lot more profile on Amazon. Whether the mail-order giant will forever dominate eBook sales is impossible to know. It would require a wholly unpredictable market shock to reverse the eBook tide, however. Indeed, pretty much all publishing soothsayers predict that eBooks will be snatching market share from their ink-and-paper counterparts for the foreseeable future. That may not be unqualified good news. But for those journalists and writers who do exploit the advantages of e-publishing to sell their work, this a developing market of huge potential. theJournalist | 13
Tim Lezard reviews the prospects for a once-crucial role in newspapers
Death for the critics?
heatre critic Chloe Moon sinks back into her hairdresser’s chair and waits for the drier to start up. The salon owner fusses around, putting in her curlers and, to her surprise, binding her wrists to the arms of the chair. But it’s only when he starts reciting lines from Shakespeare’s Henry VI that she shows the first signs of misgivings. “Bring forth that sorceress condemned to burn,” he menaces. Too late, she recognises the ‘hairdresser’ as Edward Lionheart, an actor she has slated in her reviews. Jamming a gag in her mouth and, turning on the drier, he recites more lines – “Break thou in pieces and consume to ashes, thou foul accursed minister of hell!” – as he slowly, painfully, electrocutes her. Thankfully Libby Purves’s demise as the Times’ theatre critic was less dramatic. Fired in October after three years in the job, her sacking has raised questions about newspapers’ commitment to the arts because, like the 1973 horror film Theatre of Blood in which Lionheart kills off nine critical critics, her industry and fellow critics are coming under attack. But rather than a vengeful actor at the helm, it’s an ensemble of axe-wielding accountants and amateur bloggers wreaking havoc on the profession. Purves’s spell came to an end shortly after the Independent on Sunday announced seven jobs were being axed from its arts section as the newspaper moved away from review-led coverage, and the London Evening Standard said its film critic Derek Malcolm would write less frequently for the paper. “I hope there is still a future for professional theatre critics in newspapers,” Libby Purves says. “Newspapers benefit by having writers who are familiar, known (with all their prejudices) and more or less trusted. “It was utterly mystifying when the Independent on Sunday decided it needed no arts critics. A Sunday paper really needs them because that’s when people have time to think ahead and plan what to see. “The trouble is that it’s an easy area to cut; there’ll always be a temptation to do so for ‘old’ media because they’re strapped for cash and have enormous overheads to meet. “There is also a faux-democratic sense that anyone’s 14 | theJournalist
opinion is as good as anyone else’s, so you might as well just quote bloggers, or vox-pop people in the street afterwards, like a soggy TV news bulletin.” This cheaper option – citizen criticism, if you like – has hit others in newspapers too; none more so than photographers, who have seen work drop off as a direct result of editors filling pages with substandard submitted photographs from amateurs. It is this boundary between amateur and professional that exercises photographers and critics alike. Yes, anyone can take a photograph or write a review, but the NUJ would argue it takes a professional to do the job well. “John Wayne once described High Noon as ‘the most unAmerican thing I have ever seen in my whole life’,” says the union’s freelance organiser, John Toner. “If an experienced, professional actor could be such a poor critic, why should amateurs be capable of better? Just as it takes more than ownership of a camera to be a professional
making room for all When I was a student, my friends and I started a music magazine (Donnacha DeLong writes). Reviews were a big part of it. We couldn’t get enough advertising for a print edition, so we set up a website. That was 1996, the site continued until 2004 – we never made any money, it was all based on voluntary submissions. If we’d started in 2004, it would probably have been a blog. For me and many of the other contributors, the site gave us invaluable journalistic experience that helped us get our first paid jobs. I don’t think I’d have gotten my first job as an online journalist without having edited that site. As a union, we fight
against unpaid internships – I recommend to students that, rather than allowing themselves to be exploited by employers, they should work for themselves, set up a blog or a website and show the world what they can do. Many will be the next generation of professional journalists. Instead of complaining about the threat of bloggers, we should be recruiting them to the NUJ and help them out – teach them about making money from journalism, ensure they understand ethics and copyright. If we don’t accept and help them now, we’ll have a far more difficult job trying to recruit those among them who build professional careers.
the arts 2013 Silver Screen Collection
photographer, so it takes more than the possession of an opinion to make someone a professional arts critic. “A professional is able to place a drama (whether stage or film) in history, and locate it in society. The ability to do this does not arrive overnight: it requires knowledge and experience. “While bloggers can, and often do, write well and express reasonably held opinions, the art of criticism requires an understanding of context. “If you expect me to trust your review of The Seagull, I expect you to know that it is not a tragedy. If you want me to believe that Blue Jasmine is a return to form, I want you to be able to compare it with Annie Hall and Hannah and her Sisters. “Arts criticism is not a frippery: it is a vital part of our social discourse. We cannot afford to leave it to amateurs.” Libby Purves agrees. “Professionals get to see a great deal of material, maybe five or six shows a week for years and years,” she says. “And because they are being paid, once they are in a seat they have a duty to focus, concentrate, take notes, give reasonable context, and get things right. Some bloggers do all that too, but they don’t have to.”
But considering that the work of bloggers might have contributed to her losing her job, Libby is remarkably generous about them. “Some are good, some are very funny, some fiercely opinionated, which is enjoyable,” she admits. “All I can say is that good, clear, honest, well-expressed criticism from any direction deserves to beat dull, rambling, uninspired or dishonest criticism from any other.” William Russell, secretary of the Critics’ Circle – founded 100 years ago to protect the interests of theatre and music critics – is less diplomatic. “Bloggers are a huge problem for theatre critics – the profession is in a parlous state because of them,” he says. “Of course people are entitled to express their opinions, but that doesn’t mean what they say is criticism. “You may go to the theatre, have a good night out and write about it afterwards, but that is based on none other than your opinion. The critic reviews the quality of the production, they have experience of past productions, so they have something to compare against. “You can’t just say ‘This was a wonderful performance’, you must say why it was a wonderful performance. theJournalist | 15
“A blogger might say ‘This is the best West End show I’ve ever seen.’ Well, how many have they seen? If it’s the only one they’ve seen, then of course it’s going to be the best!” His comments receive short shrift from Tonnvane Wiswell, an American expat who blogs in London under the name ‘Webcowgirl’; her Life in the Cheap Seat site gets 1,800 hits a week. “My opinions are both justified and yet still my opinions,” she says. “I’m quite clearly able to say what I like about a show, and not just that I like it. “As a review reader, I’m looking for help in making a decision about whether or not to see a show, not to have plays put into historical context or summarised. There are many different writers out there with different opinions, which is helpful for the public seeking to make an informed decision.” While journalists argue bloggers are unaccountable, Tonnvane, who describes herself as “theater-crazed”, sees this as a positive. “What I bring to the table is completely unbiased reviews,” she insists. “I don’t have any advertisers to make happy. The only people I am responsible to are my reading public.” She finishes on a conciliatory note, saying: “I really hope this movement away from providing newspaper readers with professional arts criticism will die a death quickly.”
The internet, rather than causing a collapse in quality, has been a very severe judge
NUJ activist and The Scotsman theatre critic Joyce McMillan, while worrying the industry is under attack economically, does not think it will die. “I was told theatre criticism was dying when I started thirty years ago,” she says. “There are lots of people who want it to die because the persistence of critical discourse is not something the forces of neoliberalism want. They want people to be uncritical of whatever’s in front of them, and to neuter the reviewers.” She believes that, far from posing a risk to the profession, bloggers add vibrancy to criticism. “The internet, rather than causing a collapse in quality, has been a very severe judge of quality,” she says. “Because there’s so much out there, people don’t have time to read everything, so if you write a crap blog, nobody will read it. If you’re no good, you can’t get a following.” She can envisage a future when the curtains come down on full-time theatre critics, but hopes there is enough interest for freelances to earn a living. “It would be a shame if it became a hobby for people, that you had to be rich to be able to afford to become a critic,” she concludes, “but although we might not be full-time, we will never die. After all, we’ve been around since ancient Greece!”
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Raymond Snoddy on why smaller may not be better for the corporation
Big choices for the BBC’s future
he battle lines are being drawn for the debate over the future of the BBC. A Conservative agenda is once again taking shape, advocating a smaller BBC that represents, as they see it, less interference with the free market. A variant sees the BBC lose exclusive use of the licence fee. That idea was controversially run up the flagpole recently by Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, with the knowledge of Downing Street. The possibility of a smaller BBC was surprisingly supported last month by Roger Mosey, former editorial director of the BBC, only a month after taking up the post of master of Selwyn College, Cambridge. His article appeared in The Times which, with the enthusiastic support of Rupert Murdoch, has been campaigning for a much smaller BBC for decades – for obvious reasons. Even more surprisingly, top BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby took to the corporation airwaves to advocate similar ideas, including merging BBC Four and BBC Two. Then Steve Morrison, chairman of leading independent production company All3Media, entered the fray. He suggested the BBC could keep its licence fee but that independents should be able to compete for an extra 25 per cent of BBC production on top of the 25 per cent already open to competition and the 25 per cent guaranteed to independents. As a result the BBC would only have direct control of a quarter of its own production. You don’t have to be paranoid to realise that people really are out
to get a BBC still reeling from multiple scandals and managerial ineptitude, to the detriment of viewers, listeners and employment at the corporation. It only takes a moment’s thought to realise such ideas are as close to bonkers as makes no difference. The BBC is, in effect, already smaller, with £700 million in cuts and the loss of 2,000 jobs, while taking on more responsibilities including the World Service and Welsh Fourth Channel. In relative terms it is getting smaller all the time with the continuing rise of Sky and its £1.2 billion annual profit, the dramatic expansion of BT in broadcasting and the arrival in the UK of new well-funded players like Netfix.
Such ideas are as close to bonkers as makes no difference
roadcasting minister Ed Vaisey was at Viacom recently to toast the news that commercial multichannel broadcasters had doubled jobs in a decade and had revenues of more than £5 billion. Congratulations to them, but a smaller BBC in such circumstances? It would also be daft to, in effect, close Four, by merging it with Two. Four is one of the best things the BBC does. As for top-slicing the licence fee and giving some of it to others for public service programmes it seems like a reasonable idea – but isn’t. The concept was well aired and rejected in the context of Channel 4 funding last time around. Who would award the money for what productions and where would they be aired? Do you impoverish the BBC to boost profits of existing commercial broadcasters? The danger is that the Government, after freezing the licence fee in real terms for six years, will continue the freeze or actually cut the amount leaving the BBC to take the decisions to axe programmes or channels. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. It’s time to make the public case, as director-general Tony Hall argues, that at 40p a day the BBC represents excellent value.
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy theJournalist | 17
Philip Wolmuth on the challenges posed by picture agencies, online digital imagery and falling fees
aves of redundancies and pay freezes over recent years have hit photographers and writers alike. Both have suffered as revenues from sales and advertising have failed to follow the shift from print to web – but photographers have had additional difficulties specific to their trade. The most obvious is the collapse in the value of archives – until recently a crucial income stream for many freelances, who make up around two-thirds of the NUJ’s 2,300 photographer members. Prices have fallen dramatically, largely as a result of the growth of the big picture agencies, which swallowed up the many small outfits that couldn’t manage the expensive switch to digital. Getty, PA, Alamy and the few other global brands have gained market share and profits from subscription deals and radical price cuts that are ruinous for contributing photographers. And the sheer hyper-abundance of online digital imagery, available cheap from agencies, or free from social media sites, has encouraged some editors to become desensitised to the power and purpose of quality photojournalism. Repro rates have fallen so low that freelances can no
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longer count on making a significant part of their income, or financing indepth stories, from shot-on-spec sales. The FT, for instance, now pays a flat fee of £30 for freelance photos on its arts pages, whatever the size; 10 years ago a half-page picture would have commanded £210. Such catastrophic price drops are commonplace. Copyright theft and proposed copyright and orphan works legislation, both slated for urgent consideration by the NUJ Photographers’ Council, are further threats to freelances. Staff photographers have also been badly hit. On the nationals they’ve almost disappeared, replaced by contract freelances and a greater reliance on agencies. According to Neil Turner, ex-Times Education Supplement staffer and member of the British Press Photographers’ Association, there are now fewer than 20, down from more than 60 in the 1980s, plus around 30 at the agencies. Many posts at regional titles have also been axed. Martin Argles, who took redundancy from the Guardian this year after 30 years as a staffer, believes that newspapers will regret the loss of distinctive visual identity. Speaking to the London Photographers’ Branch, he said: “The Independent which was
The transition to digital will only work if the quality of content is the primary objective
known originally for its rather classy imagery, is no longer known for any kind of imagery at all. The Guardian had a humane, rather askance, look at the world, the Telegraph and The Times a more classic look. That has gone completely. That sense of difference between newspapers has been eroded”. NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick thinks that the massive cost-cutting is shortsighted: “The transition to digital will only work if the quality of content is the primary objective. Without that you’re not going to get subscribers and readers. “And people are slowly realising that without quality pictures and video, and if you rely on social media or volunteers for pictures, you’re going to get a product that is poor.” An optimistic take is that there will always be a market for quality, and for indepth or bespoke specialist work. Commission rates have not fallen in the same way as reproduction fees, and there is still plenty of work out there. According to Antonio Olmos, contract freelance at the Guardian: “When I became a photographer in the 1980s people were saying ‘photojournalism is dead’. Photography has never been healthier! There are so many good photographers out there, if you want to make a living, you just have to be really smart – if you’re surrounded by other photographers, you’re in the wrong place!” But optimism is not enough. A positive outcome also requires collective resistance to cost-cutting; the prioritising of price over content, unpaid increases in workloads, threats to intellectual property rights, and ever-diminishing reproduction fees.
Show the red card to reporter bans
he Newcastle Chronicle hief sports writer Lee Ryder has been covering the Newcastle United football beat for almost nine years, not missing a single match since 2006. But that record came under threat in October when the Premier League club banned Ryder and his colleagues from their media facilities. Matters came to a head at a press conference after the team’s defeat by local rivals Sunderland, when a Newcastle official stepped in to prevent the manager, Alan Pardew, answering a question from Ryder. Newcastle’s simmering war against their local newspapers – the Newcastle Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun was out in the open. The club had served the three Trinity Mirror titles with a ban from their St James’ Park press box in the week before the Sunderland game, citing unhappiness with coverage of a supporters’ protest march against Newcastle owner Mike Ashley before the preceding match against Liverpool, but the paper delayed making it public while the team prepared for one of their biggest matches. The club accused the titles’ reporting of being “antiNewcastle United”, yet there had been no editorialising in the coverage of the protests. “It was balanced reporting,” insists Ryder, “we weren’t taking sides, but we said this is happening, this is what fans are unhappy about, and we had done our jobs.” At the time of writing the paper’s journalists remain banned from the press facilities at St James’, their correspondents filing reports from the stands, while the club’s draconian stance prompted the NUJ’s North and Midlands Organiser, Chris Morley, to seek – and receive – public guarantees from the club’s next away opponents, Tottenham, that they would allow access to the papers’ journalists, though Pardew would still not answer
s Tom Davies tackle the issue of how are some football clubs ns imposing restrictio on journalists just because owners or e managers don’t lik ed what’s being report
questions from their reporters. Newcastle has previous form for this. Earlier this year, the club temporarily banned the Daily Telegraph’s Luke Edwards after he broke a well-sourced story about discord within their squad, but they are not lone offenders. In the past year, journalists have been banned or barred from asking questions at Port Vale, Crawley and Nottingham Forest. Worrying trends are emerging. The Telegraph’s Edwards feels some clubs want only “media partners”, not journalists: “They want local papers to be an extension of their official club publications, then they will give out nice fluffy interviews in return. Clubs want to direct everything to their own websites where they can make money.” The intense commercialisation of the game has increased the desire of clubs to monetise and control their media profile. The Guardian’s investigative football writer David Conn, who was barred from Leeds United four years ago following his reports of the club’s opaque offshore ownership structure, says some clubs don’t understand the value of their local media. “They don’t perhaps appreciate what amazing free coverage they get in newspapers,” he says. However, he acknowledges that most clubs have improved the way they deal with the press: “Media relations are much more grown-up than before. Most of them roll with the journalists, and have a genuine appreciation of the journalists they work with. It’s the exceptions that stand out. So what’s to be done? Conn believes that the football authorities should take more responsibility. “I do believe there should be a code of conduct that all clubs should abide by and that the FA and Football League adjudicate on.” The NUJ’s northern organiser Chris Morley, urging Newcastle to think again in an open letter, wrote: “When rich and powerful interests seek to ban those things they don’t like, it will almost certainly be viewed as bullying and overbearing by the wider public. In the meantime, NUJ members at the Newcastle titles will carry on doing their jobs. “If Ashley thought we were going to come to a standstill because of this,” says Ryder, “then he’s very much mistaken.” theJournalist | 19
turning journalists into scientists
Rosie Niven on the latest trends and kit
newsgathering technique currently being explored is the use of electronic ‘sensors’ to collect raw data to turn into stories. Cheap, user-friendly, opensource hardware such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi, sometimes linked up to smartphones, now offers tech-savvy journalists the opportunity to create devices that measure variables found in the world around them. In the US, radio station WNYC has been using sensors to predict when a plague of cicada insects will arrive at various locations on the eastern seaboard. Inevitably, this sort of experiment has attracted the tag ‘sensor journalism’. Sensor journalism helps journalists to get round the problem of data not being available for a particular story. Journalist and science writer Kelly Tyrrell describes sensor journalism as ‘the first cousin of data journalism’. “If data journalism relies on taking the data that comes from others and turning the information into stories,” she writes, “sensor journalism means generating that data in order to tell stories. It’s turning journalists into scientists.” We could be forgiven for finding this prospect somewhat overwhelming.
preview soundnote synchroniser The dullest part of my job is writing up interview notes, whether deciphering notebook scrawl or transcribing an hour-long recording. However, there are occasions when all you want from a long recorded interview is a pithy line or two. And as you would expect by now, there is an app that helps you to hone in on that killer quote SoundNote is an iOS application that synchronises notes and recordings. Available for either the Mac or the iPad, it allows you to take notes using either your touchpad
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Many of us are already doing things that are far removed from traditional journalism
or a stylus, while you record an interview. When you finish the recording you can play it back from the beginning if you wish, or click or tap anywhere on your notes to play back from the corresponding point in the recording. You can also export the M4A recording to a Mac or PC via iTunes, email or Dropbox. I tried this app for a one-hour discussion typing notes on my iPad’s Bluetooth keyboard during the recording. Instead of comprehensive notes, I typed in keywords at major points and prompts from stand-out quotes. On playback I was impressed how tapping on my notes would allow me
Many of us are already doing things that are far removed from traditional journalism – and now it seems we have to be scientists too. But Matt Waite, who founded the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska and is an advocate for sensor journalism, says in his experience engineers may be better placed to apply this technology than journalists. So before we all rush out to buy lab coats and learn how to use Raspberry Pi, perhaps we should consider a more collaborative approach. While journalists cannot and must not be expected to be the ones who deliver sensor journalism, they are best placed to work out what they want to measure and how to make sense of the data that they collect. Sensor journalism could become a powerful tool if journalists and media organisation can get these collaborations right. For Kelly Tyrrell, sensor journalism is doing something science has long tried to do – engaging more people in science. “And it’s creating a new paradigm in journalism by turning the oft passive news consumer into a news generator,” she says. “It’s engaging more people in journalism too.”
to quickly identify the right quotes to transcribe for my article. The downside is that there is no meter to monitor your sound levels, which can mean nervous moments during recording. In fact, the levels were quite low when playing back on my iPad and the mic had picked up the keyboard sound. Using the touchpad or a stylus to take notes or an external mic to record with would get round this problem. However, I found listening to my exported desktop recording improved the playback volume. SoundNote is not a free app but its US$4.99 AppStore price tag won’t break the bank. S-PEN Voice is the nearest Android tablet equivalent.
David Hencke is a freelance investigative journalist and a former Guardian correspondent
the nuj and me What made you become a journalist? Discovering at Warwick University that being a student journalist meant that you could legitimately investigate all sorts of embarrassing things where normally people would tell you to sod off.
What other job might you have done? As a child I would really have loved to have become the Astronomer Royal but my mathmatics and physics are dire. But I still get excited by discoveries on Mars.
When did you join the NUJ and why? 1969 when the chief reporter of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph told me that you join the union to protect your working conditions. I agreed.
What’s been your best moment in your career? I hope it is still to come.
And in the union? Finding out a 10 minute walkout at edition time on the Northants Evening Telegraph worked wonders with a recalcitrant management.
And the worst ones?
Panicking when you know you have made a big factual error and you can’t do anything about it because it is in print.
And the best?
John Wilkes of Wilkes and Liberty fame, the author Tom Sharpe; actor Judi Dench; Marlene Dietrich and Tom Watson MP.
The Guardian and where I am now at Exaro News for a good atmosphere and dedication to proper journalism.
What was your earliest political thought?
What advice would you give someone starting in journalism?
Embarrassingly, the fear of socialism as a young Tory.
Don’t give up even if it is difficult to get started.
What are your hopes for journalism over the next five years?
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job? Get a thrill out of telling millions of people about a scandal or wrong doing that was only known to a handful of insiders and then seeing it sorted.
And the most frustrating... Knowing something to be true but not having enough evidence to prove it.
What advice would you give a new freelance? Try and get as many different outlets as possible and be flexible.
Who is your biggest hero? Max Rose, my Jewish refugee grand uncle who as a 16-year-old kid diverted rivers and turned part of the South African veldt into a successful ostrich farm.
And villain? Dodgy and self-important politicians of any party who use their positions to feather their own nests – Tony Blair for example.
What is the worst place you’ve ever worked in?
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite to a dinner party?
The Western Mail in Cardiff in the early seventies..
Matthew Bourne, a brilliant and funny ballet choreographer; the radicalist
Inspiration from Mars and an ostrich farm
That it is able to cope with the communications revolution – and importantly that it is able to keep to its age old principle of trying to expose the truth.
And fears? That it collapses into little more than an adjunct of the public relations industry.
What one thing would you most want to change in the next 12 months? The collapse of this miserable coalition government which seems intent on making ordinary people’s lives as difficult as possible while ensuring those at the top have never had it so good.
What would you most like to see in the NUJ? A bit more zest and campaigning to ensure what is good in journalism triumphs after a particularly murky period.
How would you like to be remembered? That’s up to others but it would be a bonus if anybody remembered me. theJournalist | 21
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 national theatre reflections How Sir Nicholas Hytner held a mirror up to the nation
ich Another Ipsw Photograph
on Road. igation in Lond police invest ner
by Helen War
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Nelson Mandela, a feminist Peter Pan, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the fight for women’s rights and World War II from two very different perspectives – it’s not all about panto this season. These top tips will see you through Christmas, the New Year and beyond. Film The Railway Man Lionsgate Released nationally from January 1 Based on the autobiography of the exceptional British soldier Eric Lomax, this film tells a lesser-known story of World War II: of the abuse endured by British prisoners of war captured by the Japanese army and working on the Burma railway, of whom Lomax was one. Four decades later and Lomax, played by Colin Firth, still suffering from post-traumatic stress, sets out on a mission to confront his torturer. The film had its premiere at
2013 has been a year of nostalgia for the Royal National Theatre. A plethora
of events has marked the 50th birthday of this much-beloved theatre company, originally founded by Sir Laurence Olivier. The announcement earlier this year that artistic director Sir Nicholas Hytner would be stepping down in March 2015 increased reflection on the most recent history of the nation’s theatre. A successful director but having never before run a theatre company or building, Hytner joined the National Theatre in 2003 with the aspiration that the building would produce plays to enable Britain to hold a mirror up to itself, as he explained to Mark Lawson in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row at the time. It’s an ambition he has undoubtedly fulfilled, and through a variety of artistic approaches he Included in his first year of programming was Elmina’s Kitchen by Kwame Kwei-Armah. The play, which boldly conveyed the challenges of being a black Briton in the 21st century, was met with reviews that praised it for being simultaneously entertaining, provocative and urgent. Evening Standard critic Nicholas de Jongh said of the production, ‘Elmina’s Kitchen does just what the best contemporary theatre should. It urges people with half-closed minds and averted eyes to confront the ignored and evaded problems of our time.’ In 2009 a new play by David Hare, The Power of Yes, opened in the Lyttleton theatre. It was the
the Toronto Film Festival, where one critic described it as ‘meek and deeply felt, a mature and moving exorcism’. www.lionsgate.com Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Pathé Released nationally from January 3 Starring British actor Idris Elba – famous for his roles in The Wire and Thor – as the legendary politician and campaigner for black rights, this film celebrates Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary journey from his childhood in a rural village to his election as President of South Africa. It seeks to explore the Mandela unknown to most of the world – the lover of cars and women, the boxing enthusiast and skillful lawyer who became the freedom fighter. The Nelson Mandela Foundation has announced that the film will be used as an educational initiative for millions of school students across the United States. www.pathe.co.uk
political playwright’s response to the financial crisis, in which he gave flesh to theories about the collapse of capitalism. The technique of selecting speech from real-life interviews for inclusion word-for-word in a script – a kind of theatrical journalism known as verbatim theatre – was also used in another state-of-the-nation drama, this time about local events, and in musical form. London Road, staged in 2011, was an innovative production by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork that gave a voice to the Suffolk town of Ipswich, devastated by the murders of five women in December 2006 for which Steve Wright was eventually convicted. It was directed by Rufus Norris – who happens to be the incoming Artistic Director who will replace Hytner. In the same year, the multi-authored Greenland tackled the controversial debates around climate change and included a recreation of the 2009 Copenhagen conference. And opening in December 2013, Rhys Ifans will perform Protest Song, a monologue about the Occupy movement, in the theatre’s temporary stage, The Shed. All eyes will be on Norris when he is handed the reins in 2015. The initial intentions he has outlined – to strive for gender balance and diversity – certainly sound like a promising start to ensure that the National continues to hold up a mirror to the nation. www.nationaltheatre.org.uk Amy Powell-Yeates
arts The Monuments Men Sony Pictures Released nationally from January 9 2014 From the team behind Academy Award-winning Argo, The Monuments Men focuses on an unlikely World War II platoon made up of museum directors, art historians and curators. They are tasked by Franklin D. Roosevelt with entering Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their rightful owners. www.sonypictures.co.uk Theatre Wendy and Peter Pan Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratfordupon-Avon 10 December 2013 – 2 March 2014 JM Barrie’s classic tale is adapted in a new provocative version with a feminist slant by up-and-coming playwright Ella Hickson, who questions why Wendy must grow up so quickly while the Lost Boys stay forever young. Jonathan Munby directs this family show. www.rsc.org.uk
Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Books A Rogues’ Gallery Peter Lewis Quartet Books, £25 The most piquant discoveries in a journalist’s life are those that don’t get into the newspaper, says the author, NUJ member Peter Lewis. A Rogues’ Gallery is a journey through half a century from 1950, charting the ups and downs of leading writers, actors, thinkers, entertainers, politicians and public nonconformists. www.quartetbooks.co.uk
Previously unheard anecdotes from familiar faces in A Rogue’s Gallery
Word in Progress: Hunger for Trade Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester 8 January 2014 Global food security is facing a crisis as climate change, population growth and diminishing resources contribute to catastrophic outcomes. Award-winning punkish playwright Simon Stephens is working with four emerging playwrights – Miriam Battye, Brad Birch, Alistair McDowall and Kellie Smith – to explore the commodification of food. This event is part of a series in which the Royal Exchange Theatre presents works in development. www.royalexchange.co.uk We Will Be Free! The Tolpuddle Martyrs Story UK tour, Townsend Productions From January 2014 This is a new drama set in 1834 that follows the extraordinary true story of George Loveless, the leader of a group of farm labourers, in his fight to form a union following a succession of wage cuts inflicted by a local landowner. Fusing original live music by John Kirkpatrick with political cartoons, animation and puppetry, the production aims to raise questions about present-day
political issues through experiences of the past. The play opened at the Tolpuddle Festival in July 2013 and played the Edinburgh Festival in August, before being performed at the TUC conference in September. An extensive UK tour including venues off the normal theatre-show beaten track is planned for 2014. www.townsendproductions.org.uk
Telling it at a Slant Joe Neal Pen Press, £6.99 In this collection of poetry, NUJ member Joe Neal weaves tales of love and loneliness, nature and nostalgia,
endings and eccentric uncles. ‘Neal’s poems are warm, graceful and keenly observed. Nostalgic and often hilarious, they should be required reading,’ says author Eoin Colfer. The poems have also been recorded and can be heard on Neal’s website. www.penpress.co.uk www.joenealtellingitataslant.com Exhibition Spotlight: Sylvia Pankhurst Tate Britain Until 23 March 2014 Free entry Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) had a profound impact on the fight for women’s rights as both an artist and campaigner. This free exhibition shines a light on how Pankhurst used her artistic skills as a tool in her fight for women’s rights. She designed badges, banners and flyers for the Women’s Social and Political Union, and her artworks depicting the working and living conditions of women industrial workers made a powerful argument for improvement in working conditions and pay equality with men. www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-britain
preview Mark Steel’s in town Comedy Tour (London) Booking until 12 February 2014
A celebration of the quirks of modern life in a country of
The RSC’s Wendy and Peter Pan is a twist on the traditional tale
increasingly homogenised high streets, Mark Steel’s In Town’s live show is based on his award-winning BBC Radio 4. Steel has committed himself to performing a routine about the history and culture of each of the towns he performs in. He has been inspired by numerous towns across the UK. Now it’s London’s turn to be observed and commented on, with dates including Croydon, Hayes and Blackheath. ‘The elements of a town that make it unique are what make it worth visiting. But also, any expression of local interest or eccentricity is becoming a yell of defiance,’ says Steel in his book based on the series. He argues that this expression counters the capitalist influence on society that aims to make every city centre look identical. On his website, Steel requests that you buy his book from his local independent bookseller, Bookseller Crow On The Hill, which also sells online. www.marksteelinfo.com www.booksellercrow.co.uk
Writer, broadcaster and political activist Mark Steel is in London Town theJournalist | 23
being a life member shows “the linguistic inflexibility of old age” There is not any authoritative research that I know of for any such an impediment. And a good job too, as it is older people on whom our society depends to keep it oiled. Mr Cockburn made a cheap jibe and a monstrous suggestion! Roy Jones North Wales Coast Branch
[Square bracket] horror
with us or against? Chris Proctor’s “Damian’s dark arts master class” in The Journalist, Oct/ Nov, was all very amusing – and well written, just like everyone says of the literary skills of Damian McBride (his subject matter). But, as night follows day, it was yet another example of our magazine’s obsessive negative spin against PR practitioners, a sizeable number of whom are NUJ members.
In the same edition, ‘past notes’ talked of public relations having ‘a huge – and, many would argue, negative – effect on journalism’. And The Journalist started 2013 with ‘Spinning out of control’ quoting US research saying 86 per cent of press articles were PR-inspired. Was that condemnation of news desks grabbing at a reasonable story in a press release, or praise for the skills of PR professionals? And why is it OK to bash a PR, when you’d surely be loath to do the same to a national reporter or photographer?
We say we’re the voice for journalists in all sectors of the media, including PR. So, let’s have a bit more balance in how we report different sectors, including PR and Communications. After all, there are plenty of people outside the NUJ happy enough to denigrate all practitioners of journalism, without us doing so! Nic Mitchell and Phil Morcom Co-Chairs, NUJ Public Relations and Communications Council
“Obsessive negative spin against PR practitioners” is not something the magazine conducts either by accident or design. You mention three articles, two of which were written by former PR practitioners. You omitted to mention the column devoted to PR that we ran for three years until recently. No other area of NUJ work has had such dedicated space during my editorship. Disappointingly, and a little surprisingly, in those three years not one PR professional offered an idea for it. We are always glad to have ideas. Christine Buckley, Editor
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Look to lobbying, not to Labour Party donations
The wit and wisdom of Waterhouse lives on
Why would any union wish to donate money to Labour after being treated with such contempt by Ed Milliband? (‘Milliband gets a roasting over unionLabour plans’ The Journalist Oct/Nov) I’m proud that the NUJ has no formal political affiliation, and would much rather union funds are committed to lobbying all the major parties, particularly whichever one(s) may be in power. Owen Ralph Manchester
I enjoyed the letter from Roy Jones (Journalist, October/November) in praise of the late Keith Waterhouse, and I agree with Roy that journalists can still learn a lot from the wit and wisdom of Waterhouse on Newspaper Style. I quote two gems from Waterhouse in my book (For Who the Bell Tolls: One Man’s Quest for Grammatical Perfection): “Facetiousness is not witty, for all that a well-honed pun may cause mock groans of appreciation among
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readers as far away from Fleet Street as Ludgate Circus.” And “Verbal does not really mean the same as oral, although it has been said that verbal sex means talking about it.” David Marsh Joint FoC, the Guardian
What a monstrous jibe against older age It’s a pity that Paul F Cockburn (Letters, Oct/Nov: Oxford Dictionary not afraid to be monstered) thinks he has to press his case against Barry Seddon with an ageist comment in that Mr Seddon
Square brackets are the modern scourge of the reading classes. Sports pages of newspapers are the worst offenders – The Guardian worst of all – rendering the reading of some reports halting, puzzling and above all extremely irritating. For example, the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, quoted after a match with Tottenham, may say: “We should have beaten Spurs [squarely].” Did he say that or not? If not, did he say ‘hollow’ or ‘five-nil’, and if so should we not be told? Has the reporter, for the sake of the delicate reader, toned down some vile French imprecation or perhaps failed to read a shorthand note and quietly confessed in code? Maybe, like the interpreters of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the reporter has recognised a responsibility to posterity by proposing a modest answer to a teasing lacuna. Perhaps the subeditor, showing off the most elementary skills, finds a moment’s satisfaction while grinding through a tedious, cliche-ridden report by inserting brackets because they tempt on the keyboard. That must surely equal the pleasure of attaching an unnecessary cedilla to Provence, as not infrequently happens. Whatever the reasons, let’s rid the pages of our newspapers of this plethora of square brackets, not (round brackets) “a lot” but “too many” – but don’t get me started on that, Let’s edit properly and make life easier for the long-suffering reader. Consign square brackets to the [scrap heap]. Graham Noble [London]
Musing on commodifying and content aggregators
Get organised now for National Dignity Day
I was impressed by the words you gleaned from News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson (Journalist Oct/Nov p4) on the subject of paywalls. ‘Content aggregators would like to commodify our content, while data scrapers would like to aggregate our audience.’ In nearly 40 years in the industry, I can’t think of a quote as perplexing... or revealing. Thank goodness he isn’t in the communication business. Tim Harrison Surbiton
The National Pensioners Convention is targeting `National Dignity Day” – Saturday February 1 2014 as the focal point for campaigning for its Dignity Code document’s message to all who deal with older people. National Dignity Day has been organised by the Social Care Institute Excellence and is a nationwide awareness day – with the NPC planning activities across the country to highlight the issue. Crucial to this is what each of its regions can do to support this effort. Some suggestions and indeed activities already planned are for community choirs, public meetings of pensioners and care workers etc, street based petitioning and leafleting, lobbies of local MPs , MSPs, AMs and the Northern Ireland parliamentarians, and demonstrations outside hospitals and care homes where dignity is a concern. So please start now to see what actions can be organised and make contact with local TUCs,and local authorities.
Impartiality, analysis or irony from Ray Snoddy? Re Ray Snoddy’s column in October/ November issue. “With the weight of the Indy and the Evening Standard behind it [the London Live TV station] can there be any doubt of eventual success?” Is this what passes for analysis and impartiality now? Or was the irony too subtle for me? Iain Millar Beckenham
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
To find your correct NPC Region go to the NPC website http://npcuk.org/ and go to Get involved. Monica Foot, Chair, 60+ Council
Rara Avis Prompted by Lillian Malki’s report (August/September Journalist) of the honouring by Dieppe of NUJ life member and Francophile Peter Avis, I joined a group of NUJ ne’er-do-wells in October on a visit organised by Lillian and Jeff Apter of Paris Branch to the French coastal town. The extent of Dieppe’s affection for Peter – who had divided his time for many years between the town and the city of Brighton – had certainly not been exaggerated by Lillian. From the newly-named Place Peter Avis with its inscribed bench from where vistors can gaze upon the frontage of one of his favourite cafes, along the stupendous Saturday market and across the town, Peter is remembered with admiration and respect. We met Dieppe’s communist mayor and his independent left deputy, both
Email your letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
of whom spoke warmly of Peter’s commitment to France and Britain and his work to bridge any gaps between his native and adopted countries. They were fulsome, too, in their praise of the NUJ, to which Peter had been committed for so many of his 83 years. Peter’s witty and perceptive guidebook to Dieppe – for example, he observes of the nearby town of Eu that “we have to call it Ville d’Eu to avoid uttering the embarrassing verbal juxtaposition ‘Maire d’Eu’ when referring to its mayor” – is a gem for any NUJ members who will, I hope, stop off in Dieppe and pay homage to Peter Avis. Eddie Barrett London PR & Communications
Freelance green shoots? Maybe times aren’t that bad for freelances. I contacted four through the NUJ Freelance Directory asking if they would be interested in some work and only one bothered replying. Eamonn Rafferty Barnet
A century of extra help for NUJ members For more than 100 years NUJ members and their dependants have been helped by NUJ Extra and its predecessors. Now NUJ Extra needs extra help from the next generation of journalists. We’re asking members to sign up to make regular donations of just £5 a month to continue our work. During this time of austerity and cutbacks NUJ Extra must continue the level of support needed by journalists and their dependants. In addition to helping a small number
of long-standing beneficiaries, we also help members in tight spots, sometimes a result of accidents and sudden illnesses. We can help out short-term and provide advice and support to come up with a long-term solution: for instance, we once paid for an advert in a major UK national newspaper to help sell a remote Welsh cottage at a price much above the local estate agent’s suggestion, and we bought a freezer for a member with Crohn’s Disease so she could
stock up on special dietary food for when she felt too ill to shop or cook. Now we need an army of NUJ members to sign up to give £5 a month. You can do this through direct debit or through Payroll Giving. By adding Gift Aid, your £5 would be worth £5.25 to us. It’s easy to do – just go to our website (www.nujextra.org.uk) or contact Lena Calvert on email@example.com and she will send you the appropriate forms and information.
NUJ Extra has been doing that little bit extra for 100 years. Please, we need you to do that little bit extra now.
theJournalist | 25
Don’t take what i say literally... is not literally true’. ‘to acknowledge that something n’t necessarily does on’ ‘mo that It’s like discovering sky. the in g mean that thin ting how Our great family treat involved coun in an hour, ’ rally many times my mate Alf said ‘lite ally’. Both ‘actu said rew and how often my in-law And into a pair the got we if bets are prolific. We had side point is lost. Why single room. Now I feel the whole plex eing a journalist becomes more com aps not literal? add up ‘literalies’ if they are perh ies by the day. It used to be just the stor ry about. A And there are other things to wor own that changed. Now it’s the devil’s had seen was she whippersnapper told me a film of cities job to keep abreast of the names ally if not literally actu ed over ‘well bad’, a phrase I disc that and people, not to mention the fact k’. Book? Yes. ‘boo also was it And meant ‘very good’. larity of regu the with ning mea r thei ge e text on a mobile. words chan This word emerged from predictiv s. tive laxa on with book. Rather flies People keyed in cool and came up me Beijing? Who book. How come Peking suddenly beca ted than explain a mistake, they adop Bombay decided ally actu is authorised that? And how come ally liter And then I am told that to mention St if ally liter to become Mumbai on a whim? Not not only is It al. literally if it is form d, and then de deci to Petersburg, which opted for Petrogra have you ns mea ch Whi ding, with sparking it’s informal. deci re befo d ngra Leni to is ched for swit ing whether the magazine you’re writ rg. Quite apart to be originality, to call itself St. Petersbu seem ld wou test The not. or al form postmen. from journalists, it must be hell for if it is literary. If it is, then their names And then there are people changing your literals are literal. er own its point in all over the place. I can see some Unless, of course, you are at but hite klew Mic seeking an alternative for Morry subbing, when literals are Chairman Mao least that was his decision. It’s old plain wrong. d for decades want I feel sorry for. He’d been brown brea But I come back to the fact that I to from Tse-tung it says so ‘Oh, before people revised his surname gs. thin e to know who decides thes t know himself. so what? , Zedong. If he came back, he wouldn’ Well ry.’ iona Dict lish in the Oxford Eng ed to have known now. ess Incidentally, my uncle Harry claim proc the gine ima can I ? Who are they who changed his om bott Side ur Arth d desk calle the chap on a The proofs for the new edition are with in name to Peter. ders when some bleary-eyed sub wan y rigid Yet in the midst of these seemingl osition. A a tepid coffee and a malignant disp f itsel reveals r literal is impositions, a cavalier nonchalance you and ion edit quick addition to the also be spelled rule. New in the case of Al-Qaeda , which can ted. tera obli ning mea un-actual, its . Given that it is in a’ida al-Q y, fanc you if or, aida and al-Q If we were all French, lord preserve k there could be the news a fair amount, you’d thin ld be a national scandal. aps this imprecision protect us, this wou consensus on the point. But perh ry is the preserve of 40 if it exists. Former Their official dictiona reflects the fact that we’re not sure admit, a ‘immortals’, which is, you have to a wise fellow, says bers of CIA officer Marc Sageman, clearly mem are y The . title ive pretty impress e important for elieu Rich it’s a ‘mythical entity’. It is far mor inal Card h whic e, çais fran L’Académie have in-depth g ndin hou a journalist to spell it correctly than established in 1635 when he wasn’t it exists. and bers num e information about it. Like whether thes musketeers. I’m sure that with ntly was to ges chan But what especially shocked me rece to lied app is ght traditions, more thou Dictionary had discovering that the Oxford English . the French language word ‘literally’. version, even casually decided to re-interpret the I’d put my name forward for a UK this nt, sme sses re-a need ’t didn d wor a ever If aldi. if it was just to upstage Peter Cap al. Thank you. you?’ I could must be it. Literal. You know: actu are , ‘Oh, you’re just a Time Lord .’ Discussion over. rally Lite elf. scoff. ‘I’m immortal, mys seems, be used It seems not. ‘Literally’ can now, it
Chris Proctor takes a wry look at the workings of journalism
26 | theJournalist
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The Journalist magazine, December 2013 / January 2014 issue.