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www.nuj.org.uk | december/january 2012
worstoftimes? A tough year for journalists
Contents Cover feature
16 Ghost of a future for media? Jon Slattery reviews the year
olerance is a valuable by-product of journalism. Prejudice and ignorance are confounded by the information in words and images that our members work to bring to the public. In that spirit, this issue of The Journalist offers the perspective of Romany journalist Jake Bowers on the controversy around the traveller and gypsy community and the evictions at Dale Farm. Another community within our society is a target of schoolyard sniggers and vulgar abuse from workplace to taproom. Phil Chamberlain explains on page 12 why media ignorance concerning the sensitive issue of transgender people is causing deep and even fatal harm. Elsewhere in this edition, veteran media commentator and blogger Jon Slattery looks back at a year when journalists, and their media, came under pressure. There’s a report, too, on a media innovation in the Middle East, where tolerance is in short supply. For those still harbouring a tinge of intolerance, Peter Fieldman offers a grumpy view on page 19 of what we’ve come to know as social media. If you don’t agree, there’s always The Journalist letters page, or The Platform on the NUJ website. Together with news and regular features, we hope you’ll find something of interest in this issue of The Journalist.
Eddie Barrett Acting Editor
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Cover picture Steve Bell
03 Strike threat wins BBC talks Sweeping changes frozen
04 Journalists talk to Leveson NUJ secures ‘core status’
05 Fleet Street jobs threatened Up to 300 posts at risk
06 Merseyside icon to go weekly Daily Post latest victim of cull
07 Daily Sport staff get £200,000
NUJ wins compensation for employees
08 Local Magnet seeks funds
Can Welsh service attract support?
12 Transgender issues for media Need for mature approach
22 Diversifying to stay afloat
Freelances develop new skills
09 Michelle Stanistreet 15 Unspun: the view from inside PR 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters Pages 26-27
BBc agrees to talks after strike threat
he union is preparing for critical negotiations at the BBC after suspending a ballot on industrial action following major concessions from management. NUJ reps from across the corporation unanimously agreed to pull the ballot after the corporation withdrew arbitrary dates for the implementation of sweeping changes to staff terms and conditions. The BBC joint unions balloted over concerns that the consultation process was not genuine. Management concessions mean any changes will not be introduced until 2013 at the earliest. The BBC had intended to impose new terms and conditions on a piecemeal basis throughout 2012. as part of the package, management agreed that the rights of newly-recruited journalists to ﬂexibility payments would be protected for more than 12 months, enabling detailed negotiations to take place over the coming year. The agreement also ‘reaffirms the BBC’s commitment to the redeployment
agreement’ signed with the joint unions. Meanwhile, the NUJ is to step up its campaign to reopen negotiations over the licence fee settlement. The five-year freeze to the licence fee has prompted plans for 2,000 job losses, up to 1,200 of which will directly affect journalistic coverage. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet emphasised that the fight at the BBC was far from over, with potential industrial action on the horizon next year if there was a move to compulsory redundancies or if there was no agreement over pay and conditions. Michelle added: “This deal is, of course, not the end of the battle. The broader cuts announced under the so-called Delivering quality First programme include proposals to cut jobs and services that will seriously dilute quality journalism and programming at the BBC and threaten the very future of the corporation as an internationally-respected public service broadcaster. our public and parliamentary campaign to fight these wrongheaded cuts will now intensify.”
The fiveyear freeze to the licence fee has prompted plans for 2,000 job losses
loCal raDio wins aLL-PaRTY Backing
ore than 50 MPs took part in a major debate at Westminster on BBC local radio, following weeks of campaigning by the NUJ. Parliamentarians from all parties expressed concern at the effects of BBC cuts.
Opening the debate, Conservative MP Robin Walker, said that like all the MPs attending the debate he cared passionately about local radio. Many of his Worcester constituents had expressed concern at the cutbacks.
Secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group John McDonnell, Labour, said he believed there were ‘undue inﬂuences’ from the Murdoch empire on the licence fee settlement. Liberal Democrat Stephen Gilbert said local radio was
‘fantastically good value for money’. Only around 4p in every £1 of the BBC licence fee went to local radio. Details of the NUJ campaign can be found in the ‘Fight for Our BBC’ section of the union’s website www.nuj.org.uk
Baptism of ﬁre for dominic
ominic Bascombe, new NUJ assistant organiser in Scotland, has ‘hit the ground running’. one of his first challenges was an unfair dismissal claim against a member of the Scottish government while another involved taking on the government in what could become a
high profile copyright case. Having previously worked in Headland House in the NUJ publishing department, he told The Journalist: “I was looking forward to settling into the new job and getting used to my surroundings, learning about the political and industrial outlook. However, there is nothing like hitting the ground running.”
WOMEN JOURNALISTS FACING VIOLENCE In a letter to the UN to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the International Federation of Journalists highlighted the extreme violence faced by female reporters. IFJ gender council chair Mindy Ran said some countries tend to deny women are killed because of their work as journalists, claiming that robbery or ‘personal issues’ were motives. ATROCIOUS RECORD ON HUMAN RIGHTS The NUJ joined human rights supporters last month to highlight Columbia’s atrocious record as the country’s president Juan Manuel Santos visited ministers and the Queen. The IFJ named three Columbian journalists who were killed last year, while the UN says that between 2004 and 2008 more than 3,000 people were killed by the Colombian army. BALLOT FOR ACTION BY REUTERS CHAPEL Journalists at Thomson Reuters are to ballot for industrial action in response to an ‘insulting’ 1.5 per cent pay offer. The business news agency’s NUJ chapel demanded a 7 per cent increase, pointing out that members had suffered three years of ‘real terms’ pay cuts. WE DON’T NEED NO NEWSPAPERS A poll of 150 journalism undergraduates at the University of Central Lancashire, conducted this autumn by a senior lecturer, has revealed that fewer than 10 per cent said they regularly read a national newspaper. Of the ones that did, almost all read the Guardian, the Independent, or the i. TEASING LONDON’S TUBE COMMUTERS Channel 4 has teamed up with CBS Outdoor UK in a campaign featuring ‘teasers’ of news items that will appear on the channel’s 7pm news bulletin across 100 digital screens on the London Underground. theJournalist | 3
Journalists may give evidence in secret
WAPPING HERO BUTLER DIES NUJ member of honour Eric Butler, one of the staunchest campaigners in the struggle against Murdoch’s move to Wapping and the sacking of more than 5,000 workers, has died aged 88. Eric, who is survived by his wife Ellen, joined the union sixty years ago and had served as editor of The Journalist. A full obituary will appear on the NUJ website www.nuj.org.uk . LEVESON ‘JUST A DIVERSION’ Former regional newspaper editor Neil Fowler has claimed that the current furore over phone-hacking and press standards has become a diversion from the more pressing issue of whether local newspapers can survive in the current economic climate. NEARLY 5,800 VICTIMS OF PHONEHACKING Scotland Yard revealed that the number of potential targets of phone hacking by private detectives working for the News of the World had risen from 3,870 in July to almost 5,800. A police spokesman warned that the total was likely to rise further. ‘NoW HACKED INTO COMPUTERS AS WELL’ MP Tom Watson warned at News Corp’s annual general meeting of future revelations about computer hacking.
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The stark reality was that in many workplaces there was a ‘genuine climate of fear’
he NUJ is urging members to come forward to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry. The union is working with the inquiry to identify journalists who wish to make a contribution and to grant them anonymity where necessary. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the union, which has secured ‘core participant’ status at the hearings, was keen to enable staff currently employed by newspapers to give evidence, but also to protect them from employers. In an opening statement, Michelle told the inquiry that ‘the stark reality’ was that in many workplaces there was a ‘genuine climate of fear’ about speaking out. “The reality is that putting your head above the parapet and speaking out publicly is simply not an option for many journalists, who would fear losing their job or making themselves unemployable in the future. “In our experience, that fear has been a significant factor in inhibiting journalists from defending the principles of ethical journalism in the workplace – and in media organisations hostile to the concept of trade unions there is a particular problem.” She said that editors established newsroom
MURDOCH MAN QUITS OVER ‘SCAM’ STORY Andrew Langhoff, one of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives, resigned following inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. The Guardian claimed it had evidence that the Journal had been channeling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the true circulation.
culture and the idea that he or she didn’t know what their troops were up to was ‘laughable’. She added: “In journalism, the reality is that there’s often a stark expectation from on high – Deliver the goods, get the job done, bring in the story, whatever the means. If you don’t, well the consequences are often simple and clinically brutal.” She said the answer to the Lord Leveson’s question of who ‘guards the guardians?’ was that the NUJ had a vital role to play. Those members wishing to give evidence can contact Michelle via email: leveson@ nuj.org.uk .Michelle will deal with all queries personally and in complete confidence. General secretary’s column Page 9
Now journalists among nick’s SOURCES
uardian reporter and NUJ member Nick Davies told the Leveson Inquiry that some 15 to 20 former News of the World journalists were among the sources for his revelations about phone hacking at the paper.
Nick said other informants included the victims, and private investigators who were alarmed by ‘cowboys’ in their trade. He argued that an advisory body should be set up to judge whether potential stories were in the
public interest but it would not have the power to prevent publication. He said he didn’t think the press was an industry capable of self-regulation, and that he was in favour of corrections being given equal prominence to the
offending story. Meanwhile the barrister for phone hacking victims made clear that all tabloids were on trial at the inquiry. Their techniques were used to ‘satisfy an insatiable public appetite for salacious gossip,’ he said.
Murdoch in row with ex-executives
ames Murdoch resigned as director of the companies that publish News International titles, but survived a revolt by a third of BskyB’s independent shareholders to remain as chairman. Rupert Murdoch’s heir apparent was also involved in a slanging match with two of his former senior News of the World executives after he told MPs that they had failed to
tell him the truth about the scale of phone hacking at the paper. His account was contradicted by former NoW legal head Tom Crone and ex-editor Colin Myler. During a second appearance before the media select committee Murdoch refused to rule out the possibility that the Sun would be closed if evidence of hacking emerged.
Up to 300 Fleet Street jobs under threat
he union is fighting to defend up to 300 journalists’ jobs at national newspapers amid increasing signs that senior executives are giving up the battle to maintain a viable future for print journalism. At The Times and Sunday Times around 100 redundancies are being threatened, but the NUJ’s ability to defend the jobs is restricted by News International’s insistence on dealing exclusively with the company-backed staff association NISA. Management is unwilling to give the NUJ any justification for the cuts or to provide the union with detail. The decisions have been taken in the absence of any consultation and the union is being forced to represent journalists on an individual basis at the end of the process. At The Guardian management has embarked on a huge cost-cutting programme with between 60 and 80 jobs at risk. The decision to merge a number of departments at The Independent and The Evening Standard means that the editorial workforce could be cut by up to 20 jobs. Meanwhile, some 20 or more jobs are under threat at Thomson Reuters’ television operation. The union believes there could well be redundancies elsewhere, taking the potential job losses up to around 300.
At the Telegraph group, management is attempting to undermine the union’s ability to represent members. Despite substantial profits, the group is scrapping annual wage negotiations in favour of a system of performance-related pay. While there is no sign of redundancies at Express newspapers, staff there have not received a pay rise for several years. NUJ’s head of publishing Barry Fitzpatrick said management seems to have given up. “Too often I hear managers talking about a ‘sunset industry’ and about ‘managing decline’. It is disgraceful that all the years of huge profits have seen nothing kept back for today’s crisis. The only way of preserving newspapers and achieving revenue from new media is through quality and content.”
It is disgraceful that all the years of huge profits have seen nothing kept back for today’s crisis
Indy to ballot on jobs strike
ournalists at the Independent and Independent on Sunday are balloting for industrial action over threatened compulsory redundancies. The redundancies are proposed as a result of merging sport and business sections of the
Independent and London Evening Standard, and merging the travel sections on the Independent and Independent on Sunday. Talks between the NUJ and management have so far failed to achieved to remove the threat of redundancies.
NO-WIN NO-FEE NO-STORIES, editors warn
eading regional newspaper editors have warned that increasing legal costs combined with dwindling revenue could lead to them spike stories for financial reasons. A parliamentary hearing on privacy and injunctions was told of the ‘chilling effect’ of soaring legal costs following the rise of Conditional
Fee Arrangements (CFAs). CFAs are, basically, no-win nofee agreements which mean that ‘aggrieved’ parties can sue for libel without fear of having to foot the bill unless they win. The system gives people more incentive to take legal action, especially as newspapers are sometimes tempted to settle out of
court to avoid the massive cost of defending cases. The joint committee, made up of MPs and peers, was told that legal fees of hundreds of thousands of pounds – perfectly possible where cases go to appeal – would have a critical impact on most newspapers’ finances, local or national.
PAYWALL OBSTACLE FOR THE TIMES Research organisation Searchmetrics has found that StumbleUpon and Facebook are the top social media tools for linking to national newspaper websites. Researchers looked at how often content from 12 newspapers was shared on six social networking and bookmarking sites. Mail Online topped the table with an average 2,908,779 links a week, while The Times website, which is behind a paywall, came last with just 256 links. COURT SHOULD BE MORE OPEN The Court of Protection, which deals with issues concerning vulnerable people in the UK, should be opened up to greater public scrutiny, according to its head. Sir Nicholas Wall called for a debate on the level of access the media has to hearings held by the court, followed by new legislation. STAFF SWITCH AT THE GUARDIAN Editorial resources from The Guardian’s axed international edition are to be focused on digital projects such as the iPad edition, according to the paper’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott. The resources include journalists who repackaged the UK paper for the slimmer international version. CHRISTMAS EXISTS – MAIL EXCLUSIVE The Daily Mail has admitted it was wrong in claiming there was a ‘politically correct’ attempt to rename Christmas ‘Winterval’. A correction of a piece published on September 26, said: “We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not replace Christmas.” FREELANCES FLOCK AT PENGUIN An informal network has been set up by freelances working for Penguin/DK. NUJ national organiser for publishing Fiona Swarbrick said: “Experience shows that when freelances work together and build better links with staff, everyone gets a fairer deal.” theJournalist | 5
Merseyside’s iconic daily is latest victim of cull
in brief... NUJ BACKS PUBLIC SECTOR WALK-OUT NUJ members who work as lecturers and press officers in the public sector joined picket lines on November 30 in what was the biggest strike for more than a generation. NUJ chapels across the UK held special workplace meetings to show solidarity with the two million workers on strike in defence of their pensions. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said public sector workers had been the victims of a ‘pensions robbery’.
he iconic Liverpool Daily Post became yet another victim of an everincreasing cull of local and regional newspapers. after a century and a half serving up news and entertainment the Post will cease publication as a daily in the New year. Trinity Mirror says it will start publication as a weekly on Thursdays from January 19 in cuts that will see seven members of staff made redundant. The jobs of the parliamentary correspondent and syndication manager were also under threat. Three weekly titles, the South Liverpool Merseymart, Bootle Times and Star will no longer be printed separately, but inserted into the Liverpool echo on a Tuesday. The echo will be cut back to two editions from four and the chapel has not
PROTEST OVER SEIZURE OF FILM NUJ organiser Chris Morley protested to the chief constable of Nottinghamshire after police confiscated videotape taken by a media student at the ‘Occupy Nottingham’ protest on November 21. Lewis Stainer, a student NUJ member studying at New College Nottingham, was grabbed by police after he filmed the arrest of a protester. UNION’S PLEA FOR A PARDON The union marched with the Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign contingent in this year’s Cenotaph parade. The NUJ has marched with the group since an ADM decision in 2002, laying wreaths of green leaves and white and gold flowers to symbolise the union’s colours. ROD LIDDLE ARTICLE REFERRED TO DPP The attorney general referred a Spectator comment piece by ex-Today programme editor Rod Liddle about the Stephen Lawrence murder trial to the Director of Public Prosecutions over possible contempt of court. Presiding judge Mr Justice Treacy instructed the jury in the case not to read the article. STARS MAY COLLIDE IN THE REPUBLIC Richard Desmond is considering plans to distribute the Daily Star in Ireland. The paper would compete with the Irish Daily Star, a paper it jointly owns with Independent News & Media, which is opposed to the plan. 6 | theJournalist
ruled out balloting for action over the issue of compulsory redundancies. NUJ northern and midlands organiser Chris Morley said: “We remain to be convinced that this format is likely to be a successful way forward in Britain’s big cities. Trinity Mirror has already carried out a similar operation with the Birmingham Post some two years ago but the jury is still out on the impact on
circulation.” He said the union would be in close contact with the company as part of a consultation process. elsewhere, plans by Northcliffe to restructure newspaper titles in kent will further weaken media in the area. The decision comes after the collapse of the proposed sale of kent Regional News and Media to kent Messenger Group. Under the proposals two weeklies were to close by December 9, other weeklies merged and free papers cut. NUJ negotiator Don Mackglew said: “We have already seen announcements of closures of regional titles across the Midlands and the North West and now it is happening in kent. How many more titles will disappear over the next 12 months?” Talks are due to take place with management.
‘lEt’s NatioNalisE THE wEsTERn MaiL’
senior member of the Welsh Assembly inquiry into the media has called on the principality’s government to consider nationalising the Western Mail if it comes under threat. Plaid Cymru assembly member Bethan Jenkins made the
suggestion against the background of serious NUJ concerns about the paper’s future. In a submission to the inquiry the union has warned that the media in Wales is in ‘serious crisis’. It estimates that more than 2,000 jobs were
axed in the last 20 years, and newspapers are in ‘dangerous decline’. The submission says that the Welsh media should be seen as ‘community and national assets’. Meanwhile fourteen more redundancies have been announced by Trinity Mirror
subsidiary Media Wales. This follows on the heels of the loss of 28 editorial jobs in July. Martin Shipton, NUJ FOC at Media Wales and chair of the Trinity Mirror Group chapel, said there was ‘a degree of panic’ at the company.
Unions are making the news
wo former NUJ presidents are confronting the belief often held by the media that unions don’t make news. Tim Lezard and Pete Murray (pictured) are putting the experience of a working lifetime in the NUJ and trade unionism to professional use with the launch
this autumn of their Union News website www.Union-News.co.uk. Unveiled at the TUC, it’s proving a major success. Tens of thousands of people have read news reports on the site, watched the growing catalogue of video stories or downloaded the site’s weekly podcasts. Tim insisted that while the site was funded by union advertising, it was politically independent.
NUJ wins £200,000 for axed Daily Sport staff
FREE SHOP WINDOW FOR FREELANCES Freelance member Nicholas Holmes has set up a website where journalists can show off their work – free of charge. The website http:://cuttings.me allows journalists to set up a profile, link in their social media accounts and add their cuttings. As the userbase grows, Nicholas says he will need to generate revenue, but he hopes the basic service will remain free.
‘vocally anti-NUJ’, according to NUJ negotiator Lawrence Shaw. “We had to draw a line. We took each case on a merit basis and there were some whom the union refused to represent. They were managers and senior managers, including people who had been involved in redundancy plans at the Sport before the closure. “And it seemed like NUJ members were being targeted specifically for redundancy at the time. There was no way we were going to help people like that.” The Sunday Sport was purchased shortly after its closure in April by founder David Sullivan, who relaunched it on May 8 after paying just £50,000 for it. The 2011 closure of the titles came when Richard Desmond (pictured) of Northern & Shell refused to continue to print them without full payment of debts.
FT VOTES FOR BALLOT ON ACTION The Financial Times NUJ chapel has voted to ballot for industrial action, rejecting a pay offer of 2 per cent and opposing a threat to collective pay negotiation. Management’s proposal to keep back nearly half of a potential award of 3.5 per cent to hand out to select individuals was seen as an attack on collective bargaining. gettyimages
he union has secured nearly £200,000 in damages for staff made redundant when the Daily and Sunday Sport were shut in April. Employees who were suddenly sacked when the papers closed will now be able to claim £3,200 each in pay from the redundancy payments office.There was no consultation over redundancies when publisher Sport Media Group went into administration, but the NUJ has won eight weeks’ pay for those fired, capped at £400 per week. The total amount to be paid is £198,400. Of the 74 staff sacked, 62 were represented by the NUJ – including non-journalistic staff who were not members of a union. Around 20 of those 62 were editorial personnel, with more than half of those NUJ members. After a chapel vote the union refused to represent 12 members of staff because of their involvement in redundancy plans prior to the closure of the newspapers and in the closure itself. Others were not helped because they were
SELL PAPERS, DON’T SHUT THEM
rinity Mirror announced savage cuts to its Midlands titles in what could be the start of a broader cull throughout the group. The cuts include the loss of more than 50 editorial jobs and the immediate closure of three weekly titles – the Sutton Coldfield News, ChasePost and Stafford Post. The NUJ is urging management to put the three popular papers up for sale instead of closing them.
As part of the plan, editorial production and features for Birmingham and Coventry are being
merged in a regional hub and staff photographers are being made redundant, further casualising the workforce. NUJ negotiator Lawrence Shaw said the only beneficiary of the closures was the rival Northcliffe group. He believed management had an ulterior motive. “We will be asking for answers and the chance for these papers to continue to serve their local communities.”
Union honour for Stephen White
riends and colleagues of the late Stephen White, a long-standing and widely admired NUJ member, joined his widow Liz and family at a special ceremony in Leicester where she was presented with the union’s gold badge by general
secretary Michelle Stanistreet. It is the first time the honour has been awarded posthumously. Stephen, who died in August 2010, was an active NUJ member and director of communications at the British Psychological Society.
In his honour the Association of British Science Writers has inaugurated ‘The NUJ Stephen White Award’. The £500 prize will be awarded annually to a journalist who makes complicated scientific ideas accessible to those without technical training.
STOP DEMONIZING THE DISABLED People with disabilities are being demonised and as a result are facing hostility and physical attacks, says the NUJ’s Disabled Members Council. It urged journalists to operate within the union’s code of ethics, which calls on members to “support and sustain fair and balanced reporting of matters relating to disabled people”. ‘REIGN OF IMPUNITY’ LED TO MASSACRE The NUJ backed a series of events commemorating the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in the Southern Philippines in which 58 people were killed including 32 journalists. The events include the December 11 showing of the film “Deadline: the reign of impunity” at the Covent Garden Dragon Hall, 17 Stukely Street, London WC2 5LT. OLYMPIC SNUB TO LOCAL PRESS British Olympics Association chairman Lord Moynihan has defended the allocation of press passes for next year’s games despite admitting that its guidelines made no mention of the local press. theJournalist | 7
Hyper-local ‘Magnet’ seeks to attract funds
INTERNS ‘SHOULD BE PAID MINIMUM WAGE’ Thousands of unpaid interns could be entitled to compensation after government legal advice suggested employers are breaking the law by not paying the national minimum wage. The warning comes as companies increasingly turn to interns to carry out work that lasts far longer than traditional work experience placements, yet refuse to pay them. It could also embarrass the government, which has been promoting internships. DIGITAL TRAINING IS ‘ESSENTIAL’ Reporters should be taught vital social media skills as part of their training, say regional editors. A NCTJ seminar heard how digital journalism techniques for getting stories first and breaking the news were essential for all journalists and should be integrated into training. ANOTHER TWO TITLES MERGE Two weekly newspapers in East London have joined the lengthening list of newspapers being merged. Regional publisher Archant merged The Docklands with the East London Advertiser to form a new boroughwide title covering Tower Hamlets. The new title, the Docklands & East London Advertiser, was launched on November 10. VOTING BEGINS IN RE-RUN DGS POLL The re-run election for the post of NUJ deputy general Secretary started on November 21. All ballot papers must be received by the Electoral Reform Society by noon on January 5, 2012. The union’s NEC will receive the result on January 6. THREAT TO SOURCES IN AMENDMENT The union has expressed concern about the protection of journalistic sources under the 30th amendment to the Irish constitution. NUJ officials are particularly worried about the definition of ‘public interest’ in cases where parliament seeks to identify informants.
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The NUJ was a critical element in this
group of NUJ members has set up a ground-breaking ‘hyper-local’ website in the wake of a newspaper closure in south Wales. The on-line news service Magnet covers Port Talbot, formerly part of the circulation area of the local Guardian newspaper which Trinity Mirror closed in 2009. Launched this year, Magnet is run as a cooperative and all eight directors are members of the NUJ who work in the area and who give their services free. They hope the Magnet will be partly funded by advertising, but also by the new ‘Spot.us’ model which originated in
the United States and has not been tried in the UK, according to Magnet directors. As part of that model, stories begin as either ‘tips’ or ‘pitches’. A tip is an idea from a citizen – often a sentence or two describing an issue they would like to see covered. A pitch is an offer by a journalist to write a story, including the amount of money he or she needs. Visitors to the website can then donate to fund the pitch. Clearly the more complicated the story, the more funding is required. Local residents are also, for instance, being asked to fund a court reporter for a day. The approach emerged because journalists were frustrated by constant reports about a contracting newspaper industry. “The NUJ was a critical element in this,” says Rachel Howells, one of the Port Talbot Magnet directors. “We all met through the NUJ Swansea branch. We all accepted that the media should be improved. All we were hearing about was closures and cuts, so we decided to become pro-active.” Rachel, a former editor of Big Issue Cymru, is undertaking a PhD at Cardiff University, investigating the impact of local newspaper closures with a particular focus on Port Talbot. The university is funding the study.
Riots after equality backlash
he push to improve equalities in Britain had been ‘stopped in its tracks’ and helped create a climate leading to disorder on English streets this summer, according to Guardian columnist Hugh Muir. Delivering the NUJ’s
eleventh Claudia Jones Memorial lecture, Hugh argued there had been a ‘backlash’ since improvements prompted by the 1999 Macpherson report into the death of Stephen Lawrence. Recently there had been backward steps
in terms of policies such as ethnic monitoring and an increase in potentially divisive policies such as police stop and search. The annual lecture is part of London’s Black History Month and honours radical journalist Claudia Jones.
FREELANCES URGED TO PROTEST TO MPS
he union is urging freelances to contact their local MPs to protest about increasingly unfair – and in some cases ludicrous – freelance contracts. The initiative is part of the NUJ’s ‘Standing Up for Journalism’ campaign. As part of the fight against unfair contracts, all freelance NUJ members were sent a model letter in an email
last month and asked to send a version to their MPs. Freelance organiser John Toner pointed out that it is always better for individuals to write their own personal letters. Members can identify their MP by typing a postcode into www.theyworkforyou.com One example of an unacceptable contract was encountered by freelance photographers working for Archant
titles in London who have been asked to sign up to the document in return for £35. At least management in this case has agreed to talks on the issue, said John; elsewhere that is not the case. Archant publishes 26 paid-for weeklies and 32 free weeklies across southern England with a claimed total circulation of 2.25 million.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet leads the case for journalism at Leveson
Tell Michelle of ethics ills
hen the NUJ national executive council met in October we rightly spent a good deal of time discussing the Leveson inquiry and the fatal flaw of a process that had refused to allow journalists a proper seat at the table through their representative union. What a difference a couple of weeks makes! After a renewed application for Core Participant Status and some last minute discussions with the Inquiry team, Lord Leveson finally made the NUJ a Core Participant at the beginning of November and I presented our opening statement two weeks later. We’ve now got an opportunity to put the concerns, experiences and insights of ordinary working journalists at the heart of an Inquiry that could shape the future of our industry – vital given the huge resources newspaper bosses are ploughing into the Inquiry. The culture, practices and ethics of the press matter to every single member of the NUJ. We need to hammer home our key priorities and demands for change. We want to show how the culture in a workplace is led from the top; how bullying and pressure from editors, coupled with staff shortages and dwindling resources, puts journalists under huge pressure to deliver – a context where shortcuts become inevitable. We will demonstrate that a strong NUJ chapel is an ethical chapel – collective bargaining gives journalists a voice in the workplace and acts as a counterbalance to the excesses of the editors and owners.
We have an opportunity to put the concerns of working journalists at the heart of the Leveson inquiry
We have long been campaigning for a Conscience Clause in contracts of employment, so when journalists stand up for an ethical principle they have protection against being dismissed. And, crucially, so they have the confidence and the security to put their heads above the parapet in the first place. It’s also important that the broader media landscape is properly considered. The economic model in our industry is one of ever-growing consolidation, particularly in the local and regional press. It has failed spectacularly. We shouldn’t allow our newspapers to be bought and sold on a whim to individuals and corporations who simply want the ensuing power and the influence – a genuine public interest test should be applied, and guarantees of quality journalism and decent resources secured.
here is a growing editorial establishment clamour that the Press Complaints Commission merely needs a few tweaks, that it’s fundamentally a sound model. This is ludicrous and we need to keep up the pressure for a wholly new – and much improved – model of regulation, not a rebranding exercise that effectively maintains the status quo. Finally – it’s vitally important the Inquiry gets to hear firsthand about the reality of life at the sharp end. The difficulty is that putting your head above the parapet and speaking out publicly is simply not an option for many journalists, who fear losing their jobs or making themselves unemployable in the future. That’s why we’re working with the Inquiry to enable members to come forward and provide testimony to me, in complete confidence. Newspaper owners are predictably unhappy, and one group is lodging a Judicial Review to challenge Leveson on this. Interesting times ahead – and the NUJ will be there to put the voice of journalists and journalism at the heart of the inquiry.
If you want to share your experience with the Inquiry, contact Michelle in confidence on email@example.com theJournalist | 9
The first non-Palestinian journalist to work on a lifestyle magazine in ‘The Territories’, Kieron Monks explains the issues he faces
Challenging perceptions on Palestine
alestinians have a PR problem. Few cultures have been so successfully flattened by stereotype as the mask-wearing, Kalashnikov-carrying Palestinians. Even the favourable coverage Palestine receives invariably relates to the conflict. The underdeveloped domestic media have also failed to represent Palestinian culture beyond victimhood. After a year in the West Bank, via a chance introduction, I began working for a magazine that does challenge perceptions. This Week in Palestine is the only Englishlanguage print outlet in the Territories and is also unique for presenting a more complete picture of life and society; focusing on what is there, rather than what is missing. 10 | theJournalist
Essentially a lifestyle magazine, TWIP has survived and prospered for 13 years – a small miracle given the unforgiving climate of Occupation. Five of those years were devastated by the Second Intifada, during which outrageous risks were taken to distribute the magazine, and supply issues constantly threatened to shut it down. Today its circulation is around 15,000, covering all of the West Bank. Hundreds of issues are dispatched abroad, often to refugees. Sani Meo, CEO of the publishing company which created the magazine, says his main intention has always been to “document and promote” Palestine. He chose to publish in English to reach international readers and give them a different impression. TWIP aims to be entertaining and informative, addressing education, business, health, development through accessible, open themes like ‘colour’ or ‘communication’. There is a popular ‘limelight’ section featuring the latest cultural highlights and listings, while tradition is also celebrated through numerous articles on handicrafts and dabke dancing. The magazine has remained financially independent, avoiding one of the more debilitating aspects of Israel’s Occupation – dependency syndrome. Although there is superficial economic growth in the West Bank, most businesses survive on donor handouts with strings attached, or rely on patronage from the Palestinian Authority or political factions, which are themselves propped up by aid. Meo jokingly describes himself a “good little capitalist piglet”, because TWIP has always paid its own bills. Extensive circulation makes the magazine attractive to advertisers, which is the main source of revenue along with occasional ‘advertorials’ from NGOs and social institutions. Editorial independence is more difficult. The Palestinian
idealink/Alamy, gianni muratore/alamy
Territories ranked 150 in the 2010 Press Freedom Index – below Zimbabwe and Bahrain. As in many Arab states, the regime is intolerant of criticism. In May, Al-Jazeera published the leaked ‘Palestine Papers’, which humiliated the government by exposing their craven behaviour in negotiations with Israel. Within days, their offices were attacked by paid thugs and the network’s employees in Ramallah went into hiding.
palestinian media landscape
s a lifestyle magazine, TWIP can generally avoid the risk of attacking the PA but that is not to say issues are ducked. Feature writers have the freedom to give honest appraisals in their specialist fields, and can draw attention to government failures on education, or healthcare. Criticism of Israel is typically couched in the same context; how it affects a specific issue, without allowing a Palestinian magazine to be ‘Occupied’ in the same way as the land. TWIP has evolved into a progressive, secular voice, which contributed to my appointment as its first ever nonPalestinian employee. There are no devoutly religious staff members, and although faith is respected, it doesn’t receive disproportionate coverage. The magazine seeks to reflect the times, and as it’s based in the rapidly changing city of Ramallah – with its swimmingpool bars and lingerie stores – a conservative approach is not an option. We can address topics like domestic violence, inequality and climate change. Partly through my lobbying, some swear-words are now deemed fit to print. There are obviously limits to liberalism in a largely Islamic culture and sensitivity is essential. While we were preparing the ‘colours’ issue, a proposed article on gay rights was shot down. Meo explained that ‘the office would be burned down’ if we ran it. But flexibility has been a key element of TWIP’s success, a value reflected in its bizarre editorial structure. At the time of writing, I am managing content from London – essentially conceiving and commissioning articles – with support from
The internet era has given Palestinian
media a leg-up, although it remains light years behind Israel’s. When TWIP was launched in 1998, the only widely read outlets were party newspapers such as Al-Ayyam (Fatah), Al-Hurriya (Marxist DFLP) and the largest circulation daily Al-Quds, censored by Israel because it is based in East Jerusalem. The PA now has the glossy Al Hayyat Al-Jadida title, but the most significant addition of the last decade is Ma’an News Agency. Launched in 2005 with funding
from the Danish and Dutch governments, Ma’an has grown steadily and now supplies a global roster of clients. It has TV and radio channels, and its website attracts over 3 million visits per month. Ma’an is credited with taking Palestinian journalism to a new level of professionalism but it has a reputation for spectacular mistakes, such as when it pronounced Muammar Gaddafi dead in 2009. Several websites and blogs have become popular, notably Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Initifada, one of the most radically antiIsrael outlets, and Palestine Monitor, which specialises in human interest stories. Palestine’s refugee diaspora has also established publications abroad, such as the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al Arabi, and the respected Palestine Chronicle news site in the US.
Ramallah. All subbing is performed with forensic attention to detail by a former nun living in Canada, and our layout man does great work from Turin. Articles are often crowdsourced, with pitches constantly arriving from contributors representing every demographic from teenage activists to university professors. Meo oversees the whole process and has faith that technology allows everyone to contribute without the magazine losing quality or cohesion. It is at times a haphazard operation. Resources are limited and the Occupation imposes constant inconveniences and uncertainties. But TWIP’s mission to celebrate rather than mourn Palestine should itself be celebrated. It is one of the only sources, domestic or international, that even attempts to humanise a dehumanised population. theJournalist | 11
needed to transgender issues Phil Chamberlain explains why sniggering media coverage isn’t anything to laugh about
bullied schoolchild isn’t usually news, but for one ten-year-old in Worcester it was enough to make the front pages this autumn. She had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria during the summer holidays. With the backing of the school, she was starting the new term as a girl – and being bullied by parents as a result. The Metro, for one, wrote a generally sympathetic piece; however, online comments spread through social networks quickly criticised a few inaccurate elements. The paper subsequently amended the story. Other reports in the national media were less forgiving and less willing to change. For Paris Lees, from the advocacy group Trans Media Watch, the story is symptomatic of the media’s current attitude to transgender people. “We’re still at the stage where stories are about pointing and staring,” she says. “Some progress has been made but it is very slow. You feel you are chipping away at a mountain.” There are rare examples of good practice such as Juliet Jacques column in The Guardian which was longlisted for the Orwell Prize. However, the typical news story is obsessed with at least one, and often more, of the following; crime, surgery, toilets and bodily hair. Back in March, Trans Media Watch launched a memorandum of understanding with Channel 4 backed by the equalities minister Lynne Featherstone. It aims to get accurate reporting and more positive representation that doesn’t rely on the same old images. Long-time commentator on transgender issues Christine Burns welcomed the move but pointed out: “Just four days later over on the BBC, one of the ‘highlights’ of the Red Nose Day telethon was a segment in which Peter Kay played a trans woman for laughs. “Sadder still, it subsequently emerged that Channel 4 had scheduled a repeat showing of Peter Kay’s spoof documentary, “Britain’s Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice”, featuring his transsexual ‘Geraldine’ character in a prime time Saturday night slot.” 12 | theJournalist
As the memorandum of understanding demonstrates, transgender people are less willing now to let negative coverage pass without complaint. And as the Metro story showed, they’re not relying on the regulators to act for them. Between 1996 and 2011 there were more than 120 complaints accepted by the Press Complaints Commission under clause 12 which covers discrimination. They made up 3.3 per cent of the total number of complaints. Of those, just seven were about coverage of transgender stories; the majority were not upheld. Ofcom received 22 complaints about this issue last year, though none were upheld. Drusilla Marland is one of the successes, following an upheld complaint to the PCC about a report in the Daily Mail on her employment tribunal. It was deemed resolved when a statement was placed on the regulator’s web site. However, she remains unhappy with the process and outcome. “The PCC seemed unable to accept my perspective on things,” she says. The commission itself points to a complaint upheld last year regarding an article in the Sunday Life as an important precedent. The story was headlined ‘Tranny worked in rape centre’ and described the subject as ‘strapping’ and ‘burly’. In its defence the newspaper said that no offence had been intended because “tranny” was widely used. It also said the
getting story straight The journalism ethics charity
MediaWise has handled many complaints about unfair, inaccurate or sensational stories around these issues. According to its director, Mike Jempson, invariably there are tragic consequences when the stories appear – particularly job losses and social isolation. He says the most common question asked by complainants is: “Why do they think this story is news?” Jempson, vice-chair of the NUJ Ethics Council, recalls the PCC’s reaction to the case of Sally Gross. Born intersex but assigned a male gender at birth by doctors in South Africa, she went on to become a
Roman Catholic priest in the UK. Driven out of the order and abandoned by the church when her condition became known later in life, she was subjected to a sneering ‘Sex swap priest’ story in a Sunday paper which ignored the bigger story – that the Catholic church had ordained a woman. Gross was forced to go into forensic detail to support her complaint to the PCC, which then did not pursue it. So the offending story remained on the record. After another drubbing in the press Gross went back to South Africa where she founded the Intersex Society of South Africa. www.mediawise.org.uk
ethics diana org/getty
adjectives used were relevant in the context of the story. Meanwhile The Sunday Times apologised privately to a transgender woman wrongly described as a man in a story. It explained that it was a difficult area to cover and had not wanted to confuse readers. It seems hard to believe that Sunday Life would make the same error should it have been adjectives about someone’s race. It also seems unlikely that the Sunday Times would have made such an excuse for its reporting of, say, a complicated business story.
PCC spokeswoman says: “The PCC has actively engaged with those in the transgender community in order to inform its considerations in this area. PCC staff were pleased to welcome representatives of Trans Media Watch into its offices in September 2010, when staff participated in a very helpful workshop and Q& A session. “The PCC’s public affairs director attended the launch of that organisation’s media style guide. He has also spoken at a number of events which have looked at the media portrayal of LGBT issues.” Transgender media activists see regulators as staffed by people with positive approaches but hamstrung by a system weighted towards a media which just doesn’t take transgender issues seriously. And there is evidence that this media attitude has an effect. Last year Trans Media Watch produced a report looking at the effect that the media portrayal of trans people has on
We’re still at the stage where stories are about pointing and staring
their lives. In the survey of 256 trans people, one in five said such coverage made them feel frightened and a third said it made them feel excluded. A fifth of those questioned had received verbal abuse which they believed was associated with media coverage. A third said it had led to negative comments from friends and family. Blogger Jane Fae is one of the many trans people who have turned to social media to hold the press to account. She says few journalists have had training on how to deal with transgender issues. As a result the media is trailing behind changing public attitudes and a more assertive trans community. “What we are seeing is a transgender generation now that is more demanding and more assertive and less fucked-up,” she says. Paris Lees offers a much more damning assessment and a reason why the memorandum was with Channel 4. “We’re trying to focus on TV more because they’re ahead in terms of reflecting changing social attitudes, and if we can get better coverage there the rest of the media will play catch-up.” Her view is that a generational change is needed before transgender people can expect the same generally decent coverage that, for instance, gay people have succeeded in getting.. It’s a shame because there is a wealth of stories that are simply not being told,” she says. The Trans Media Watch media guide for reporting transgender stories is available here: http://www. transmediawatch.org/guidance_for_media.html theJournalist | 13
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THE VIEW FROM INSIDE PR Name: Jake Bowers Job description: Romany journalist and broadcaster
Giving the media some Gyp for a change
t’s been a big year for Gypsies in the media. From the ratings success of the controversial Big Fat Gypsy Weddings series in February, to the 24-hour international news coverage of the eviction of Britain’s largest illegal Travellers’ site at Dale Farm this autumn, my community has never got so much attention. As a Romany journalist and a campaigner for better representation for my community in the media, 2011 has provided an enormous number of threats and some great opportunities. But have we really become any better understood as a result of it? The year started badly in February when Channel 4 cashed in on the access it had got to Irish Traveller weddings to make the Big Fat Gypsy Weddings series. By producing a series which was regarded as more of an insult than an insight by the Gypsy community, I felt as if ten years of campaigning for a more balanced representation had been a complete waste of time. Its enormous ratings were matched only by the size of its televisual porky pies to produce a mockumentary series most Gypsies believe created more stereotypes than it challenged. But this time the community was outraged and thousands of Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers
complained to OFCOM, Channel 4 and the tabloids which they read on a daily basis. I was amazed when the Sun, which recently campaigned for Britain to ‘Stamp on the Camps’, asked for a prominent comment piece on the series. www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/ features/3402592/Gypsy-Weddingsis-a-TV-ratings-smash-but-its-leftBritish-gipsies-crying-discrimination. html Primetime television programmes from The One Show to This Morning were quick to give community representatives a balancing right to reply, proving that the biggest threats can always been turned into great opportunities. Channel 4, to its shame, denied it had done anything wrong and commissioned another series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings for early 2012. In March, a front page in another unlikely ally, the Daily Star, proclaimed that a new TV show ‘Gypsies Got Talent’ was the subject of a bidding war that would give Simon Cowell a run for his money. It wasn’t true at the time, but it soon became so when Sky’s Bio Channel commissioned an eight-part series based around an annual talent contest for the Gypsy and Traveller community. The resulting series, the enormously positive and
entertaining A Gypsy Life for Me, began broadcasting for eight weeks from November 15 (www. thebiographychannel.co.uk/shows/agypsy-life-for-me.html) In August, Irish Traveller Paddy Doherty struck another blow for his community by winning Celebrity Big Brother, forcing even the Daily Express to write something nice about an Irish Traveller for once. Using his new found popularity he urged people actively to resist the eviction of Dale Farm in Essex, adding to the size of the media scrum at Britain’s biggest illegal travellers site. After weeks of legal wrangling the riot police went charging in, tasering and battering residents and protestors. In a Panorama programme I worked on in October (www.bbc. co.uk/programmes/b0170cm10), we were able to show what those Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers who refuse to abandon their way of life experience regularly. If 2011 brought unprecedented threats and opportunities to provide a real voice for Britain’s 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers, there’s little evidence as yet that it has produced much more sympathy. But the good news is that, thanks to our own Travellers’ Times website, which I edited until September, our community is more vocal and eloquent than ever before. So if there’s a Gypsy story on your patch, now there’s no longer an excuse not to give the Gypsy side of the story. www.travellerstimes.org.uk
Celebrity Traveller Paddy Doherty
theJournalist | 15
Ghost of a future for media? Jon Slattery reviews a discouraging year for journalists and journalism
t was a year in which journalists were seen more as villains than heroes. The villains were exposed by the phone hacking scandal which was broken by one journalist hero Nick Davies whose persistence in pursuing the story paid off in spectacular fashion. His investigations in the Guardian prompted Parliament to haul a humbled Rupert Murdoch and son James before a Commons committee, cost ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson his job at Number 10 and saw the departure of News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks. It also led to what some would argue was the cynical closure of the News of the World, costing 200 journalists’ jobs, and the abandoning of the bid by News Corp to take full control of BSkB. The NUJ had opposed the deal going through while the phone-hacking investigation continued. The phone hacking revelations sparked inquiries into media ethics and the relations between the press and the police and exposed the close links between politicians and the Murdoch empire. The NUJ could be forgiven for saying ‘I told you so’ and arguing that Murdoch’s decision to derecognise the union in the flight to Wapping 25 years ago had led to a bullying culture, where journalists had to do whatever they were told even if it breached the Code of Conduct. Journalists have never been highly rated by the public in opinion polls, but the revelation that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked undoubtedly harmed their already battered image. The fact that journalists risked their lives to cover the Arab spring uprisings made little impression on their standing with the public. No wonder cartoonist Matt Pritchett in the Telegraph portrayed a couple attending a party and the wife telling her husband: “Don’t tell people you work for a newspaper.
16 | theJournalist
Risking their lives to cover the Arab Spring made little impact on public standing of journalists
Pretend you are a member of the Gaddafi family.” In the world beyond Wapping and phone hacking, quality journalism was fighting for its life in the regional press. The year began with strikes by Newsquest journalists in Southampton and Brighton against job cuts. Throughout 2011 there was a series of strikes by local journalists fighting job cuts, office closures and centralised publishing which they argued was destroying their links with their communities. It wasn’t just the big regional publishers that faced unrest from their journalists. Sir Ray Tindle’s group had its first industrial action when journalists went on strike in North London and held a mock funeral for their papers as staff levels were cut to the bone. The NUJ continued its Stand Up for Journalism campaign throughout the year and was fighting a war on many fronts. In January, the NUJ held a demo outside Bush House in London to protest at plans to cut up to 650 jobs at the World Service. In Ireland, the Sunday Tribune went into receivership when it was announced by Independent News and Media that it was withdrawing funding from the newspaper, and was closed after no buyer could be found. The NUJ organised a symbolic protest outside the offices of the Sunday Tribune in Dublin to mark the closure of the newspaper and to show solidarity with more than 40 staff made redundant. In Wales and Scotland severe job cuts in the newspaper industry have led to debates in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly and calls for inquiries. While the recession made it harder than ever for those wanting to be journalists to get traineeships, the NUJ London Freelance branch highlighted the exploitation by the media of internships and work experience to get free labour. The NUJ condemned the auctioning of work experience placements, including one at Tatler magazine for £4,000, to raise funds for the Conservative Party. The NUJ also condemned the government’s plan to push ahead with curbs on council publications which aimed to
stop local authority newspapers being published more than four times a year. In April, NUJ member Charles Atangana won his appeal against Home Office plans to deport him to his native Cameroon. The union had campaigned against his threatened deportation, warning he faced imprisonment, torture and that his life would be at risk because of his work as a journalist exposing corruption. Also in April, British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, an Oscarnominated filmmaker and photographer, was killed in the city of Misrata while covering fighting between Gaddafi’s forces and Libyan rebels in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. Chris Hondros, a US Pulitzer Prizenominated photojournalist, was also killed in the attack in Misrata, and British photographer Guy Martin injured. Before phone hacking and media ethics hogged the headlines, privacy injunctions and hopes for defamation libel law reform were in the news. The privacy debate centred on Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, who had obtained a super-injunction banning the publication of information about him. Goodwin was ‘outed’ in the Commons by Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming, protected by parliamentary privilege. The row over privacy was eclipsed by the phone hacking scandal but not before it had shown how difficult it is for judges to control content on the internet. In April, Michelle Stanistreet was elected unopposed to succeed Jeremy Dear as general secretary of the NUJ, the first woman to head the union. Dear, the first punk to become general secretary of a trade union, bowed out in style by fronting a Clash tribute band at ADM. In the wake of the phone hacking scandal, the NUJ welcomed the terms of Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into media behaviour and called for tough penalties for organisations that break the union’s code of conduct. The union repeated its call for a ‘conscience clause’
theJournalist | 17
look back for journalists which would stop them being sacked for refusing to break the code of conduct. It also stressed that it wanted the voice of working journalists to be heard by Leveson rather than have the inquiry dominated by newspaper bosses and their expensive lawyers. Relations between the police and the media were again highlighted after the English riots. The NUJ condemned the move by the Met to get court orders forcing TV companies and publishers to hand over unbroadcast film and pictures of the riots, arguing it put journalists covering social unrest at risk if they were seen to be agents for the police. The union condemned the move (eventually abandoned) by the Met to attempt to use the Official Secrets Act to force a Guardian journalist to reveal her source for the Milly Dowler phone-hacking story. In many ways 2011 was a paradox for the NUJ. It welcomed the cracks that emerged in the Murdoch empire – likened by MP Tom Watson to the Mafia when he questioned James Murdoch in the Commons – but came out strongly against some of the press freedom-threatening proposals, such as the licensing of journalists, made in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. Job cuts were relentless. The union warned that plans by the BBC to cut 2,000 posts as it faces a 20 per cent budget cut
NUJ year ended as it had begun: ﬁghting to defend journalists jobs
risked causing ‘irreparable damage to the best journalism in the world’ and highlighted the destruction it would cause to local radio services. It was also announced that The Times and Sunday Times want to cut 150 editorial posts and the Independent and London Evening Standard planned to axe 20 jobs as some editorial departments were merged. In the UK regions Trinity Mirror Midlands announced in November that 45 editorial jobs were to be cut and three free newspapers closed. The NUJ said the closure of the Cannock Chase Post, together with the Sutton Coldfield News and Stafford Post, was an example of the ‘cuts-for-profits model of media ownership’. It urged Triniity Mirror to sell the newspapers or give them away to credible local investors. A Society of Editors’ survey of its members published in November revealed that editorial staff numbers have fallen by 29% since 2007. The year ended as it had begun with the NUJ fighting to defend journalists’ jobs, at the BBC and in newspapers, as the debate about press regulation in the wake of the phone hacking scandal raged on. Jon Slattery is a freelance media journalist who blogs about journalism at jonslattery.blogspot.com
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an anybody tell me if there is a Facebook helpline for users who feel they suffer from Alzheimer’s disease? I keep receiving messages with the portraits of lots of my friends from all over the world. But the strange thing is I don’t seem to be able to recollect ever having met any of them and Facebook users seem to communicate in an unidentifiable code language. Should I try to send anyone a message it appears to find its way to dozens of internet users who don’t wish to hear from me or ends up back on my file. However, sometimes I do find friends from other countries whom I remember. During the summer I met a group of very nice Brazilians and a Polish family and we agreed to become friends. My Facebook page is now cluttered up with messages they exchange with all their friends. The only problem is that they are either in Polish or Portuguese. I am also a Twit. Not a twitter, since I am still trying to understand how I can inundate the world with hundreds of text messages, and whether it serves any useful purpose. It is, though, good practice for language students and hackers, conveying a precise message using the minimum number of words. Facebook is promoted as being a worldwide social network with hundreds of millions of people interconnecting. When I first linked onto the site I rather selfishly thought it was a fantastic means of advertising my recently published novel for free. All I had to do was mention my book and the message would go to millions who would be rushing to the bookstores or Amazon. Then I learnt that it does not exactly work like that. Each person can only contact his or her friends. And these friends first have to be invited to become friends and then agree to become friends before they are friends. Otherwise you cannot have friends. I did a quick calculation. If I could only become friends with twenty or thirty friends, and this could take years, it would neither make me successful nor rich. And since it is not a
Journalist seeks genuine friendship Madrid-based Peter Fieldman has a good old moan about social networking sites pyramid scheme I could not count on my friends telling their friends to tell their friends about my book until the whole world knew about it and I was a celebrity and would have my picture in the Sun or the Mirror – with a friend. Last year Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced an amazing new service for members who could log in wherever they were, for example in restaurants, and tell their friends where they were and who they were with. He anticipates over 500 million users but states that privacy is the key. So what is the point? But it means that DSK (Dominique Strauss Kahn) could have called his wife, Anne from his hotel suite. “Bonjour cherie, meet my friend.” In Madrid I learnt the word ilusion means both hope and illusion, which shows a better understanding of the world we live in. This applies particularly to how stock markets value internet
If anybody wants to be my friend, please give me a call or send an email
companies. Facebook doesn’t make any products, it doesn’t sell any, nobody pays to use it and personally I have yet to notice any advertisement when I log in and see messages. Yet this is now a global organization worth in excess of $100billion with massive revenues from somewhere. Linkedin and the Chinese networking company, Renren, have also been valued in the tens of billions. Are we living in another internet bubble , with much more competition from new social networking companies all cashing in on Facebook’s success? I belong to the old school when it comes to understanding or using internet social networking sites. In fact, I never even went to school in the first place. What seems very odd is that when I receive a message, Facebook sends an e-mail to tell me. So what exactly is the point of Facebook when it is so easy to communicate by e-mail, and attach photos too? If anybody wants to be my friend, please give me a call or send an e mail. Does anyone have a fax machine? A fixed telephone line? Then how about posting a card or using carrier pigeons? Is there anyone out there? Blog: www.pfieldman.blogspot.com theJournalist | 19
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Glasgow office 3rd Floor 114 Union St Glasgow G1 3QQ Tel: 0141 248 6648/7748 Fax: 0141 248 2473 Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran
Assistant organiser Dominic Bascombe Email: email@example.com
Irish Office Spencer House Spencer Row, Off Store Street Dublin 1 Tel: 00 353 (0)1 8170340/8170341 Fax: 00 353 (0)1 8170359 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley Organiser Nicola Coleman Assistant Organiser Ian McGuinness Email: email@example.com
Other contacts The Ethics Hotline For union information on ethical and professional issues. Tel: 0845 450 0864 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org For reporting the BNP: www.reportingthebnp.org Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Second Floor, Vi & Garner Smith House, 23, Orford Road, London E17 9NL Tel: 020 8521 5932 Email: email@example.com http://www.cpbf.org.uk Journalists’ Charity Requests for financial help are considered from all needy past and present journalists and their dependents. The charity has sheltered housing accommodation for retired journalists and offers a wide range of residential, nursing, respite care and care for those suffering from mental frailty. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01306 887511 or visit http://www.journalistscharity.org.uk/
Barry McCall is vice-president of the NUJ
THE NUJ AND ME What made you become a journalist? Writing was among the few things I was good at when I was at school so it was fairly natural to try to become a journalist.
What other job might you have done? When I was a young teenager I wanted to be an astrophysicist but I didn’t have the brains or the work ethic to get there.
When did you join the NUJ and why? I joined the NUJ as soon as I got my first staff job in journalism way back in 1979. I joined because you weren’t a real journalist in Ireland unless you were in the NUJ. I was enormously proud of myself the day I got in.
Are many of your friends in the union?
PHOTOS BY: MARTIN JENKINSON, GETTYIMAGES, MARK THOMAS
I have lots of friends in the union and all of my journalist friends are members, of course.
What’s been your best moment in your career? I’ve been very lucky to have many enjoyable moments in my career. If I have to single out one it might be winning an award for a magazine which I conceived and created.
And in the union? Presenting former Irish Secretary Jim Eadie with Membership of Honour at ADM 1993 in London. He is a giant in the history of the NUJ. Jim is a socialist and trade unionist to his fingertips and an inspiration to generations of trade union activists.
And the worst ones? Telephoning my workplace one day to find the company had gone bust with the loss of more than 20 jobs.
a 21 year old cashier with a major Irish supermarket in 1984 when she took the decision to refuse to handle South African fruit. Her amazingly courageous decision led to Ireland’s only anti-apartheid strike.
And villain? There are so many. Looking beyond the current crop of mendacious media barons I’ll go for the successive Tory governments which attempted to destroy British trade unionism and the last few governments at home in Ireland which tried to go one better and destroy the whole country.
What is the worst place you’ve ever worked in?
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite to a dinner party?
Again I’ve been lucky to not really have ever worked in very bad places. Being out of work was definitely the worst.
Patti Smith, Jim Larkin, Brendan Behan, Mary Wollstonecraft, Barbara Castle, Bob Dylan.
And the best?
What are your hopes for journalism over the next five years?
I’ve been a freelance for most of my career but I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some really great people in places like Jemma Publications, the features department in the Irish Independent, special reports in The Irish Times, the hugely talented and fairly mad newsroom in the now almost forgotten Century Radio, the subs desk on the Evening Press. I think I’d better stop now.
What advice would you give someone starting in journalism? Join the NUJ. After that, get yourself a reputation as a hard worker who does good research and never misses deadlines.
What advice would you give a new freelance? As above. Also, always treat your colleagues well and help them out when you can. That’s what being part of a collective is all about.
Who is your biggest hero? I have lots of heroes in different fields. One who is in my thoughts at the moment is Mary Manning who was
...NUJ giant Eadie and dinner guest Dylan
I hope that we will see a resurgence of local independently owned newspapers and media spurred by a demand from the people for quality journalism which is relevant to them. I also hope that the current welcome debate about media standards brings about positive changes to media ownership rules.
And fears? That the dumbing down of media will continue as owners look for more ways to reward shareholders at the expense of workers and consumers.
What one thing would you most want to change in the next 12 months? The NUJ bank balance; we need a financially strong union if we are to fight the battles which lie ahead.
Who would you most like to see in the NUJ? Every journalist who isn’t already in the union.
How would you like to be remembered? Not badly. theJournalist | 21
Diversifying to beat the down
Helen Clifton examines how developing new skills can keep journalists afloat
22 | theJournalist
“I have learnt so much from doing it. I really have to work through whether or not a story is worthwhile. I’d worked a lot with television and radio; but I had never had anything to do with actual broadcasting before.” For some, taking the plunge into the unknown has resulted in a whole alternative career. Former oil trader and scientist Louise Murray (www.louisemurray.com) has always had adventure in her blood. But now, several times a year, the science, travel and conservation journalist treks up to the frozen wastes of the Arctic to organise camps for film and documentary crews with Canadian company Arctic Kingdom. The 53-year-old also leads divers out to swim with walrus – ‘far more unpredictable than swimming with great white sharks’. And it all began ten years ago with an invitation to write about the region for the Finnish Tourist Board.
BOOSTING CONFIDENCE Last April, the government agency
Creative Partnerships commissioned Manchester-based journalist and photographer Ciara Leeming to teach a class of 15 Year Five pupils at St Anne’s RC Primary School in Ancoats how to be journalists. “It has given me more confidence in my skills. And apart from broadening my skill set, it’s made me think more about what I am capable of doing. “It helped me explain more what I do – it’s made me appreciate what I do, and understand that what I do is actually quite interesting. I don’t normally talk to many people about my work because I feel it’s a bit boring; a bit worthy.
“Trying to find a way to make journalism more interesting to young people made me think more deeply about what I do and why I do it. It fits in with my values. “I want to stay in journalism very much, but I had wanted to broaden out my offer for a while now. It definitely fits in with my work too – I am interested in anything that is community or people-based. “I really miss the newsroom environment, and I think it is healthy to mix with different types of people, not just journalists.” www.ciaraleeming.co.uk
f you scan though popular freelance forum journobiz you’ll find journalists moonlighting as tour guides, hula hoop instructors and bed and breakfast landladies. The economic downturn has forced freelances to broaden their skill set in ever more imaginative ways to make money. Yet although teaching and comms work have always provided a financial backup, sole traders are increasingly finding that diversification, rather than being a necessity, can actually enhance journalistic skills and add to that allimportant self-esteem. One of those for whom a portfolio career has delivered more than anticipated is Gemma Briggs. The 3 1-year-old mother of one lives in Towcester, just round the corner from Silverstone – handy for someone who spent eight years working for a range of motor racing titles. But in 2008, long hours and a desire to broaden her wings set Gemma off into the freelance world. A weekly motorsport column for guardian.co.uk plus regular subbing shifts for the Observer kept her going. But as budgets started to shrink, commissions dried up. By chance, her work live blogging motor sports events on the Guardian site led to an offer to teach undergraduates web journalism at City University – a job she did even while eight months’ pregnant. Teaching not only improved Gemma’s writing, her confidence also grew enormously. “I did have some confidence – but only with small groups. I’m naturally quite shy, so having to teach larger groups of people has really helped me come out of my shell.” Another unexpected sideline has been PR for racing drivers. Notable successes include one of her clients – 16-year-old Sarah Moore – being shortlisted in the final ten for the 2009 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award. But Gemma agrees that, traditionally, those who take PR work were seen by some colleagues as scraping the barrel. “Yes, I did it for the extra cash, and to fill up my week a bit more. I would never have thought of doing it before. “A lot of drivers had asked me to do it, and I didn’t like mixing the two. But I said yes for financial reasons. And now, the majority of work I turn down is PR.” She says PR has actually helped her become a better journalist in general.
“I do love it – it’s amazing. But it’s a job that I sorted out for myself, really,” Louise explains. “As soon as they asked me to come along on the trip, I thought, I want to work with you. So I made myself indispensable, I was very keen, and I did a lot of extra work on the organisational side of things.” Although Louise’s exploration earnings pay less than journalism, the work has yielded more commissions. Her most recent trip saw her write for a men’s magazine launch about walrus diving, while the military fitness training she does as preparation led to a feature for the People newspaper. Laura also syndicates her photographs with Rex Pictures. “You’ve got to be flexible, or die,” she says. “You can’t say, ‘I only do real life women’s pieces’. I am writing, I am taking pictures, I am doing the exploration stuff...you’ve got to do as much as you are comfortable with. The more flexible you are, the more likely you are to get work. “I love the Arctic and the Inuit people. I have a lot of friends there, and that is something that I value immensely. I would never want to give it up. You’ve got to get on with it, and not whinge. I just wish I’d started this earlier.” Phil Sutcliffe, a freelance of thirty years’ experience and committee member at London Freelance Branch, agrees. “Freelances by their nature have to be optimistic and resilient people able to deal with the bad times. There are a lot out there who don’t have enough work and who aren’t earning as much as they used too. “Diversification will often come up in branch meetings – everybody understands and everybody knows what it’s like. That is a proper union function, to support people and say we are right behind you.”
I love the Arctic and the Inuit people. I have a lot of friends there, and that is something that I value immensely
Former teacher and now full-time freelance and assistant editor of the NUJ Freelance magazine Matt Salusbury explains that the NUJ is always there to support journalists with portfolio careers, even if the majority of their income may come from cat-sitting. “As an FE college lecturer, I could join the UCU (University and College Union), which has a dual membership agreement with the NUJ. “If you’re forced into such a portfolio career, bear in mind there are such dual union agreements with some unions that let you keep one foot in the journalism camp.” He says it is crucial that HMRC are informed of any change in circumstances if extra work no longer fits into the self-employed bracket; and emphasises that those who have to take a day job should ensure it’s one that will be useful in journalism. Phil says the mere act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is an important skill for any journalist – and that any prejudices about portfolio careers are slowly disappearing. For Gemma, diversification means she couldn’t be happier. “I really love my work now. With my staff job – and the long hours – I had become jaded. But now I never know what is round the corner. Once you are willing to take on different areas and different jobs, you never know what is coming. Which is great.” www.journobiz.com www.poynter.org/how-tos/leadership-management/ what-great-bosses-know/94647/ten-reasons-youshould-hire-a-journalist/
theJournalist | 23
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
INDEPTH SHAFTS OF HUMOUR IN A TALE OF WAR ‘A city in Wartime: Dublin 1914-18’ by Padraig Yeates Gill and Macmillan Euro 19.99 www.gillmacmillan.ie
24 | theJournalist
A plethora of books including those by NUJ members, political posters, mining painters, Churchill’s three days in May 1940, comedian Bill Bailey and what are you going to do on New Year’s Eve? Books Just My Type – A Book About Fonts By Simon Garfied. Published by Profile £14.99 Typefaces are 560 years old. We all have favourites. Yet why did the typeface Gotham help Barack Obama become President of the US or why is the T in the Beatles logo longer than the other letters? Just My Type explains why we are still influenced by type choices made more than 500 years ago but looks at people like Neville Brody who threw out the rulebook. The book reveals what may be the best and worst fonts and what your choice of font says about you. www.simongarfield.com Hate, My Life in the British Far Right By Matthew Collins £13.50 Hope Not Hate is Searchlight’s campaign to counter racism and
There was little to raise a smile during
the so-called ‘Great War’ when the rivalry of the imperial powers convulsed Europe and beyond from 1914 to 1918. Yet NUJ veteran Padraig Yeates manages frequent shafts of wry humour as he outlines the impact of the war on Dublin, then one of the major cities of the UK and the empire. His first reference to the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo June 1914 sets the tone: “The archduke, heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had been the victim of bad timing and poor traffic management,” he observes, remembering that Serbian student Gavrilio Princip managed to kill Ferdinand after the archduke’s cavalcade took a wrong turn. Yet ‘A city in Wartime: Dublin 1914-18’ is a serious work, as befits the distinguished social and labour historian Padraig Yeates. Best-known within the NUJ as a an activist and founder member of the union’s Irish Industrial Council some 35 years ago, Yeates is a former industrial correspondent of the Irish Times and a notable left-wing investigative reporter. His magisterial ‘Lockout: Dublin 1913’ is seen as the definitive history of the titanic struggle between organised labour and the forces that oppressed it.
fascism. Formed in 2005 as a positive antidote to the BNP, and has the support of the Daily Mirror, trade unions, celebrities and community groups across the country, as well as artists like Eddie Izzard and Billy Bragg. All proceeds when bought through Hope Not Hate go to the Searchlight Educational Trust. A true story of one man’s journey from the darkness of British fascism to become a dedicated anti-fascist. Available from www.hopenothate.org.uk The Greater Bad By Alan Cork. Published by Palmedes. Download from Amazon as an eBook £5.74 After 50 years of full-time work and half a lifetime of writing on business and technical subjects, NUJ life member Alan Cork wanted to have some fun with fiction. The Greater Bad is a high-tech, action packed conspiracy thriller where “you sometimes hear of people described as psychopathic but this is the first time I have come across a psychopathic corporation,” claims its character Martin Lock whose editing
In examining how the First World War, which began a year after that labour-management confrontation, affected the working people of Dublin at a time when nationalist and socialist sentiment were creating new aspirations in Ireland, Yeates is characteristically loyal to the contribution of his own trade. “The newspapers of the day, primarily the Irish Independent and the Irish Times, provided the narrative motor for this book,” he writes. ”I delved down various byways as my attention was drawn to them by the newsmen (and handful of newswomen) of the day. “I am glad to see that much of the academic snobbery surrounding reliance on newspapers as a historical source has evaporated over the years. They certainly have agendas, sometimes pursued quite shamelessly, but they have the great advantage of operating in a public arena where their version of events is open to scrutiny and challenge.” Yeates tells a fascinating tale of the lives of ordinary people during an extraordinary time of political and social change. And he tells it in such a readable form that it cannot fail to interest those with even the faintest curiosity about the conditions which marked the early years of the 20th century.
arts job is on the line when a shady company take-over threatens his livelihood and his life. www.amazon.co.uk Private Pictures – Soldiers’ Inside View of War By Janina Struk. Published by I.B. Tauris £14.99 For more than 100 years soldiers have been taking photographs of war. In Private Pictures, photographer and author Janina Struk tells stories that reveal how soldiers’ pictures were used by the British press to thwart official censorship during the First World War as well as the controversies caused by pictures taken by German soldiers of Nazi crimes during the Second World War. She tells of how British soldiers faced a court martial accused of taking cruel images in Iraq, and how former Israeli soldiers are exhibiting their own snapshots taken in occupied Palestinian Territories to raise awareness of the corruption of occupation. If ordered before January 1, 2012 Private Pictures can be obtained at a discount price of £9.00. www.ibtauris.com The Smile On The Face Of The Pig By John Bull. Published by Chaplin Books £8.99. NUJ life member John Bull couldn’t believe his luck when he got a Saturday job covering football at Gosport Park for the local paper while still at school. It led to an apprenticeship as a junior reporter. And the rest, they say, is history. John leads us through his early life in 50s Britain when ‘life was great if you had the guts to live it.’ He brings us murder, lurid courtroom drama, gypsy horse fairs, eccentric admirals, child brides, and falling in love. It’s an amusing memoir as he jumps on his motorbike looking for the big scoop that will get him to Fleet Street.www.chaplinbooks.co.uk Theatre The Pitmen Painters Duchess Theatre, London. Until January 21, 2012 In the 1930s a group of Northumberland miners decided to broaden their horizons by hiring an art teacher, Robert Lyon, to teach them art appreciation. As the years
Marking nearly six hundred years of typefaces
Pitmen painters: art world cause celebre
go by they turn theory into practice and start to paint. The work gets appreciated but their origins beckon them to return and ultimately they must decide on the lives they want to lead. Written by Billy Elliot author Lee Hall, it tells the poignant and funny true tale of working class men who became a cause celebre of the art world. www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
Exhibition Picturing Politics – exploring the political poster in Britain. People’s History Museum. Until 17 June 2012 During elections, despite digital technology, political posters wallpaper our streets, providing politicians and their parties an opportunity to persuade the public to vote for them. www.phm.org.uk
Three Days In May Trafalgar Studios 1, London. Until March 2012 Formidable television actor Warren Clarke plays Winston Churchill as the new prime minister in a coalition government, trying to convince the rest that they must continue their battle against fascism. Their decision in 1940 was crucial and was to change the face of the free world forever. www.trafalgar-studios.co.uk
Album Bill Bailey In Metal – available now to download on iTunes Anarchic comedian, TV entertainer and all-round oddity Bill Bailey, has turned some stage classics into nine solid rock tracks blending his genrefusing and foreign language frolics with meaningful whimsy. Bill is also an outspoken feminist and supporter of the Fawcett Society, the organisation in the UK that campaigns for women’s rights. www.billbailey.co.uk
PREVIEW Let your hair down It’s getting to the end of the year and, although Art Attack likes to
Bill Bailey: comic anarchy in metal
bring you events of a political, social or cultural nature, New Year’s Eve is a time for letting your hair down and forgetting about the doom and gloom of the economy. Whether you’re in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales and you’re not sure what to do to celebrate the arrival of 2012 either in the open air, a sports location, a bar or pub, restaurant, hotel, concert venue or stadium, here’s a brief guide. In London Mayor Boris has his fireworks display on the banks of the River Thames. Join the 250,000 but you’ll need to get there early for a good view. Scotland shows the world how to party in Edinburgh with a torchlight procession, a street party, a concert in The Gardens, headlined by Primal Scream, a ceilidh and the annual Loony Dook, where you cheer on the brave as they take a splash in the freezing Forth River. Ireland has so much going on in Dublin from traditional music, choral performances, to top class events and gigs with the Guinness Storehouse with Ryan Sheridan, Rattle and Hum and the Knights of Leon in the line-up. In Wales they call it Callenig with the big celebration in Cardiff at the City Hall. It’s a real family event with free local transport, an ice rink and a fun fair with the acclaimed Affinity Star Ride. Check out all areas around the country by going to: www.new.yearseve.org
theJournalist | 25
howzat for journalism As a British Pakistani living in London, i just wanted to commend the good journalistic work which was instrumental in exposing corruption in the Pakistani cricket team, whatever our views may be about the late News of The World. It’s highly regrettable and upsetting, the slur these players have brought on cricket and on us Pakistanis and they should feel the full weight of the law. We can not, nor will we, tolerate such immoral behaviour. Thank God I live in Britain where the rule of law prevails and all are equal. So thanks to journalists, yet again, a wrong has been righted. Dr Noor Ahmad Family Doctor, Wandsworth.
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Supporting members’ resistance The letter from joint Halifax Courier FoCs Brian Coates and Michael Peel (Journalist, October/November) does no justice to the work our officials and active chapels perform on behalf of our members in the regional and national Press. Brian and Michael’s letter misunderstands the union’s work at News International. We constantly campaign and support our members’ resistance to attacks on the quality of their journalism and the terms and conditions of their employment. Our rank and file members in the chapels affected set the agenda for our work; we respond to the real workplace need rather than offer ‘empty rhetoric’. The locations Brian and Michael mention in relation to the move from daily to weekly publication are all Northcliffe-owned newspapers; a notoriously anti-union company 26 | theJournalist
whom we regularly confront as we did successfully over their plan to sell off the Kent Titles to Kent Messenger Group recently. If Brian and Michael have suggestions to make for an action plan to head off future plans to decrease frequency, then they are very welcome to get in touch and we can discuss them further. At present our plan is to continue to build strong and active chapels. Without that, as experience shows, employers like Northcliffe will refuse to discuss even the most creative action plan. We have many members at News International, and journalists are not given legal representation unless they are members. Numerically, we probably have more journalists in membership than NISA, the staff association the company uses to block independent recognition for the NUJ, and which has been so detrimental to previous attempts to recruit journalists at the company to the NUJ.
The events at News International will have far reaching consequences for the whole of our industry. It is essential that the union devotes its resources both to supporting members under threat and also to increasing our membership, thereby further exposing the hypocrisy of the denial of union rights at News International. It is this refusal to allow independent representation for its journalists that has made such a contribution to the culture that is now bringing the company down. Barry Fitzpatrick NUJ head of publishing
Go for Green In the October Journalist, David Hencke found there was little for trade union members to cheer about when he attended the Tory, Lib Dem and Labour conferences in the autumn. I’ve got a suggestion for him – visit Liverpool, from February 24 to 27, when the Adelphi Hotel will be hosting
the Green Party conference. He’ll be able to hear from Caroline Lucas MP, who joined the picket lines in Brighton in solidarity with her public sector worker constituents in June this year in the protests against pension cuts. He’ll hear about the GLA campaign that’s making as one of its foci a call to make London the ‘Fair Pay City’, starting with a 10:1 maximum pay ratio for employees of organisations within the GLA group. And he’ll see union speakers being warmly welcomed and supported. Sadly I can’t, however, promise that he’ll see any more newspapers being read. Natalie Bennett NUJ member and Green Party London Assembly candidate
Taken short Rosie Niven’s ‘On the Move’ (October/ November Journalist) gives some interesting information on social media, especially for those of us developing media strategies in this area. But you say in the section on Twitter that it allows postings of 140 words or fewer. As anyone who has struggled to summarise a pithy news message on Twitter will know, it’s 140 characters, not words. You try doing that, and including the Bitly (https://bitly.com/) shortcut link to your organisation’s website, within that character count! Yet another new challenge for us all. Lynn Eaton Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Celebrating union success Delighted Julieanne Sheridan won substantial compensation for a breach of her right to breaks. (October Journalist) Working into the small hours, in court first thing in the morning – that was par for the course on my regional daily/evening in the ‘60s. No compensation; no complaints. How times change! And well done Jan Murray for
taking on an apprentice. That takes commitment – and courage. Derek Drew Director, Focus for Change (Training & Retirement) Ltd
What did they ever do for us? Larry Herman writes (October/ November Journalist) “We call upon the NUJ to issue a statement of support for the Dale Farm Travellers’ campaign defending their community” I feel I have missed something. What have gypsies, now disguised as “Travellers”, ever done for Great Britain, except break the law, steal, cheat, pollute? What gypsy ever received a medal for any action in any world war, or commendation from any recognised national group? I know of none – but perhaps Mr Herman does. It is said that many of the Dale Farm residents have been arrested. I do hope they are not charged and imprisoned, despite their lawbreaking. If that were to happen, they would again be a cost to the honest British taxpayer. These parasites must be exported. Bob Rodney
The writer probably hasn’t heard of Private John Cunningham VC, posthumously decorated for bravery in the First World War. Presumably he is also unaware of the contingent of gypsies and travellers who took part in this year’s Cenotaph ceremonies commemorating those who gave their lives in the war against fascism. Nor heard of the (estimated 500,000 to 1.5 million) gypsies and travellers murdered by the Nazis. Nor of… But then, one can’t know everything. The people who swamped the village at Dale Farm demonstrated a complete disregard for the laws of the land and were oblivious or cavalier to the impact their unwanted squatting had upon the existing community. Travelling was the one thing they did not do. Their presence heralded the virtual end of a perfectly good school and cost honest taxpayers a fortune. Most contributed nothing to the local community and most lived on benefits, allowing children to play truant almost daily. Had they been allowed to stay it would have created a precedent that would have resulted in universal anarchy, as
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
if we didn’t have enough of that with which to contend today. They are opportunists cashing in on impotent laws that are much more stringent in Ireland, from which many had come. I’m ancient enough to remember real gipsy families roaming the countryside to places where the seasonal work awaited – hop picking in Kent, pea harvesting in Essex, potato gathering in Norfolk and so on. They were vital to the rural economy, hard working, friendly and honest; and while they were there they integrated and contributed to the social life of the countryside. Larry Herman and his team, along with NUJ members everywhere, would be better occupied lobbying the government for stronger laws preventing squatters moving in en masse; and they could encourage local authorities to use damaged land such as that at Dale Farm for the provision of affordable housing for countless local families who are struggling to get on to the housing ladder. David Hoppit London Freelance
Email your letters to: email@example.com Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
Not so flash In common, I guess, with the vast majority of the population I dismissed the TV newsreaders’ warnings about reports containing flash photography as well-intentioned but probably politically correct health and safety stuff. That was until I was diagnosed recently with a brain tumour and brain cancer which required major surgery and now ongoing radio and chemotherapy. Those flash lights can trigger in me an instant wince of pain, occasionally a bad headache and certainly fear of another seizure. For epilepsy patients the effects are possibly worse. Flashing lights from emergency and other vehicles trigger the same effect for me. There is no solution, as I know photographers need those flash lights to get the best quality pics. But those warnings give me, and others, a chance to avert my eyes. Perhaps next time you hear groans about politically correct health and safety advice please do bear this little tale in mind. Andrew Dodgshon P and PR Branch
theJournalist | 27
professional Training courses Non Members
To book a place on any of these courses or if you would like some advice or have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 020 7843 3730.
Reporting the NHS
Writing your First Book
Business For Journalists
Economics For Journalists
Build Your Own Website
Introduction To InDesign
Getting Started as a Freelance
Social Media For Journalists
Writing for the Web Pitch and Deal
You can view course outlines at www.nujtraining.org.uk
january-march 2012 London
The NUJ offers a wide variety of short courses in professional subjects. Whether you want to learn the best way to video blog or sell your services as a freelance, you can get to grips with the techniques you need over one or two days. The courses will help you increase and refresh your skills whether you’re at the start of your career or further along the professional path.
Lost Your Job? If you’ve lost a staff job you could be entitled to a free course. Bookings must be made within three months of losing a job and are free at the union’s discretion and subject to availability.
Weds 11 Jan London Thur/Fri 12/13 Jan London Fri 13 Jan London Mon 16 Jan London Tue 17 Jan London Mon 23 Jan London Tue 24 Jan London Thur/Fri 26/27 Jan London 31Jan/1 Feb Tue/Wed London Sat 4 Feb London Fri 10 Feb London Wed/Thur 22/23 Feb London Sat 3 Mar
*For Students and members in their first year of employment
28 | theJournalist
The NUJ Pitch and Deal course Cath Harris The ordeal of ringing editors when you’ve little or no track record is one every new freelance faces. What to say, how to say it, when to call and how long to speak for are all conundrums you can only learn through practice and mistakes. The NUJ’s Pitch and Deal course, which I attended in July, helps us negotiate this minefield and arms us with the skills to earn the best possible fee. The intent of tutors Humphrey Evans and Phil Sutcliffe is to boost our
confidence, hone our phraseology and ingrain winning tactics for optimum deals. The one-day course tackles these issues head on. Like it or not, and most of us hate it, role playing is central to the task. You’ll need a good patter at hand for your chosen pitch and you’re unlikely to get far without interruption. Humphrey and Phil are long-time freelances with a wealth of pitching experience behind them. And when it comes to asking for money – it’s as blunt as that – they permit no hiding places. As hard as it
is to spit out the question, the tutorial duo will make you do it. Key to selling your story, they stress, is its likely appeal to an outlet’s audience and proving that you’re the one to provide it. You’ll be forewarned of questions and armed with answers, and shown ploys to recoup expenses and protect your copyright. And on top of that, you can try Humphrey’s ‘Sunday Times test’ – finding a different angle from the same story for each ST supplement – making facing that ordeal even more worthwhile.
SANTA CROSS BRINGS GIFTS
Michael Cross has been looking at some free stuff
et’s face it, in the current climate we need all the help we can get. So as it’s Christmas I thought I’d share some must-have online tools and services that make life easier or more interesting for working hacks. And, by the way, they’re all free. Let’s start with a basic workhorse: the Openoffice suite of software, downloadable for Windows or Mac (www.openoffice.org). Openoffice is the free equivalent of Microsoft Office – word processing, presentations, diagrams, databases and spreadsheets. Another near essential service is Google Documents – basically a space on the web where you can park documents for sharing with colleagues, editing or just as a back-up. I use Docs less than I should, mainly because I worry about losing copy into the ether. But I’ve recently come across a rival service called Writeboard which has transformed my attitude. Just go to www.writeboard.com, paste your text into a new whiteboard, give it a password, and share the document with anyone you like for editing or comments. It’ll even highlight the changes that have been made – with far less faff than Word’s ‘track changes’ feature – and let you revert to an earlier version if you don’t like them. The only
ASUS Eee PAD SLIDER As an iPad owner since day one
(yes, I queued up at the Apple Store) I’m sold on tablet computing for viewing information. But I’ve never really got the hang of typing on a touch screen rather than a keyboard. It’s a choice between painfully slow two fingers or Russian roulette with the predictive text. The obvious solution is a tablet with a keyboard that pops out when you need it. That’s the promise of the Eee Pad Slider tablet from innovative Taiwanese firm Asus, which I’ve just been trying out. Out of the box it
Let’s face it, in the current climate we need all the help we can get
looks, feels and works like a 10-inch tablet computer. But if you need to enter serious text, out flips a proper five-row keyboard. Thus deployed the tablet sits on a desk like a small laptop, waiting to take your copy. The tablet bit is great: the Slider runs the popular Android mobile operating system, which has the crushing advantage over the Apple equivalent of coping with Flash websites. The screen is big, bright, and with a wide viewing angle. There were two weak points. One was the keyboard, which I found tricky to use mainly because of a disconcerting ridge where I normally rest my hands. Fine for bashing out a news story – certainly better than
snag seems to be that it doesn’t have a word count (not that a real pro should need that anyway). Brilliant stuff. If you’ve not yet got around to creating a website to showcase your journalism, you might like a new service called Cuttings.me (http:// cuttings.me). It allows you to ‘create a beautiful portfolio’ online by posting clippings as PDF documents or web addresses. Although I suspect it’s really aimed at bloggers, it’s probably worth journalists registering their bylines, just in case. Finally, two hot ideas making use of Twitter. First is the sweet and simple Who Re-Tweeted Me? (www. whoretweetedme.com) which will throw up a list of people re-tweeting your twitter comments – ranked by audience. Almost irresistible. Last but not least, even if you don’t use Twitter yourself I strongly recommend looking at a service called Storify (www.storify.com). It’s a tool for assembling quasi-journalistic narratives from posts on Twitter, YouTube videos and URLs of news stories, interspersed with a running text commentary. Storify doesn’t talk about writing or editing stories, but “curating” them. The future of journalism? I hope not – but worth trying anyway. Enjoy.
a touch-screen – but I wouldn’t fancy writing a feature on it. The other slight disappointment was the weight – 960 grams is heavy for a tablet nowadays, especially if you’ve tried the iPad 2. Both drawbacks reflect the fact that the Eee Pad Slider is a compromise between a laptop and a tablet. So why not buy one of each? Two reasons. One is that, after a couple of times picking the wrong gizmo for a job, you’ll end up lugging both around. Trust me, this is a bad idea. The other reason is price. The Eee Pad Slider starts at £429.99. If you know a better deal for a tablet and a laptop, please pass it on.
theJournalist | 29
Raymond Snoddy defends the reputation of journalists
Time for us to stop flinching
t’s time to batten down the hatches. The press is in for a very stormy passage. Forget that the vast majority of journalists are totally innocent of anything more serious than bad taste. We are all in the dock now. Lord Leveson has opened the floodgates and orchestrated a litany of all those who have ever been badly treated by errant tabloids. They range from ‘celebrities’ to people who have suffered outrageous treatment such as the McCanns, Millie Dowler’s family and Christopher Jeffries. To adapt a favourite Kelvin MacKenzie-ism, it is the press which is being monstered this time. A YouGov survey found that 58 per cent of adults said the phone-hacking scandal has had a negative effect on their perceptions of the British press. Estate agents and politicians everywhere can expect a relative boost to their reputations. The current mood was best summed up by Charlotte Harris, the solicitor who represents phone-hacking victims, when she said the public is ‘looking for a hanging’. Lord Justice Leveson has also made it clear he wants his inquiry to mean something. “I am very concerned that it should not simply form a footnote in some professor of journalism’s analysis of the history of the 21st century while it gathers dust,” said his Lordship. It’s time to run for cover when judges and politicians want to make things happen. There is however an unresolved paradox at the heart of the current debate.
30 | theJournalist
There is a tide outside the industry running against self-regulation as a mechanism that has supposedly failed, and yet there is an almost equal and opposite force opposed to statutory controls on the press. Prime Minister David Cameron has declared himself against statutory regulation, as has the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge. Justice Secretary Ken Clarke represented this vein of argument very well at the Society of Editors conference in November: “Any civilised society must have a totally free press. The press we want has got to be irreverent, critical, campaigning, annoying. I don’t know any significant person who would not agree that a free press is absolutely essential to the kind of society we want.”
Estate agents and politicians everywhere can expect a relative boost to their reputations
reat, but where does that leave the press now, as the industry wilts under the tongue-lashing meted out by barristers such as David Sherborne, representing the 51 victims? Individual journalists, instead of flinching from the blows, will have to speak out and defend the honest work that thousands of them do in the local, regional and national press. The disgraceful behaviour of the few should not be allowed to stand as the reputation of the majority. The industry will also have to come up with a plausible, agreed plan for a Press Complaints Commission Mk II, including greater independence from the industry, better funding, investigative as well as reactive powers, and a series of carrots and sticks to solve the Richard Desmond problem – publishers who think they can opt out of a comprehensive system of selfregulation. Even then there will always be tension between concepts of press freedom and regulation. Tom Stoppard said it best in Night and Day, nearly 30 years ago: “ I’m with you on the free press. It’s the newspapers I can’t stand.”
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
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4/12/2011 10:53:35 AM