M A G A Z I N E
T H E
N AT I O N A L
U N I O N
J O U R N A L I S T S
WWW.NUJ.ORG.UK | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012
STOPTHEROT John Pilger on building the new journalism
Contents Cover feature
16 Time for a fifth estate?
John Pilger seeks a change in attitude
here’s a strong international flavour to this issue of The Journalist, with accounts of working under fire in Libya and elsewhere, and reminiscences from journalists for whom war zone hotels became a second home. The past year has seen an increasing emphasis on foreign news, with photographers and reporters taking considerable personal risks to deliver information to comfortable, and often unappreciative, readers and audiences at home. Jeremy Dear reports on the chilling work environment for journalists in Mexico. Our cover story offers a typically trenchant assessment of the role of journalists in today’s world from John Pilger, who argues for a new compact between our members and the public they serve, combined with a more sceptical approach to all forms of authority. On the home front, we’ve some advice on managing cash flow in the current harsh financial climate, together with interesting views from our regular columnists. There’s lots of news, too, with members defending jobs and conditions, and the continuing saga of the Leveson inquiry. As always, the letters pages and the NUJ website’s Platform section are available to express your views. Over to you...
Eddie Barrett Acting Editor
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Cover picture surgerycreations
03 Bullying bosses shamed NUJ report to Leveson
04 Members act on pay freeze
Newsquest and Trinity Mirror resistance
05 Challenges facing Barry New DGS outlines plans
06 IFJ concern for reporters
UN must act to defend journalists
07 Fury over Sly’s massive pay Trinity Mirror threatens jobs
08 BBC Trust misses the point
Decisions don’t go far enough
10 Danger down Mexico way
Jeremy Dear reports from danger zone
14 In the public interest
Alternative funding for investigations
09 Michelle Stanistreet 19 Unspun: the view from inside PR 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters Pages 26-27
Bullying newsroom bosses shamed
shocking catalogue of bullying and abuse in the newspaper industry has been reported to the Leveson inquiry by the NUJ. General secretary Michelle Stanistreet carried out personal interviews with 40 journalists after she wrote to all NUJ members asking for their experience of unethical behaviour and coercion. Those who came forward were guaranteed anonymity, and an Associated Newspapers court bid to stop the NUJ general secretary from presenting such evidence failed. Michelle told Leveson: “The range of issues those journalists have raised with me include, but are not restricted to – endemic bullying, huge pressure to deliver stories, whatever the means, overwhelming commercial pressures which are allowed to dictate what is published and the overweening power and control of editors over their journalists and of employers over their editors.” She explained why the journalists had needed to give their evidence anonymously. “They feel too scared and frightened to give
evidence in a way which would allow them to be identified by their current or prospective media employers. “Those who have experienced or witnessed bullying of a vicious and engrained nature have largely been too fearful to speak out in case they lost their job or were forced out. Those who have witnessed first-hand unethical behaviour or been pressured into working in a way that is unethical are frankly terrified about being identified. “ The union is calling for a conscience clause for journalists, enabling them to cite the NUJ Code of Conduct as a safeguard against being forced to use unethical methods. The Stanistreet dossier of journalists’ testimony includes details of persistent bullying and abuse, often reducing staff to tears. Freelances were said to be particularly vulnerable, but staff in the guilty newspapers were also susceptible to intimidation and threats to their employment. General secretary’s column Page 9
The union is calling for a conscience clause for journalists
FLEET STREET’S DOSSIER OF DISHONOUR
nterviews conducted by Michelle Stanistreet revealed a culture of bullying, bias, racism, sexism and criminal activity. The anonymous journalists working on various papers told of: • Reporters reduced to tears, operating under the rule: “Never
complain publicly and never refuse an order.” One interviewee said: “I readily admit that I stole, bribed and cheated to obtain information.” • Different reporters being sent on the same story to ‘shaft’ each other. • Women journalists receiving sexually explicit
text messages from managers. • Reporters, often female, made to wear ‘totally sexist and degrading’ costumes. • Private investigators hired to bug homes, businesses and landlines. • One reporter building a Trojan computer program
which was ‘better than bugging, hacking or theft and bribery’. • A journalist denounced as a ‘token leftie’ targeted to produce anti-Muslim stories. He resigned after being made ‘responsible for the majority of the paper’s racist and xenophobic stories’.
Union looks to Irish press council
he NUJ is calling for a press ombudsman and a new press regulatory body containing journalists, publishers and members of the public to replace the Press Complaints Commission. Under the four-year-old Irish system, which the NUJ believes has been successful, the ombudsman is appointed by the Press Council of Ireland. The council aims to resolve complaints that have not been settled by the ombudsman. The current Irish press
ombudsman is an NUJ member. As he heard evidence from Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, Lord Leveson signalled that he expects the newspaper industry to undertake substantial regulatory reform.
LEVESON ‘SHOULD TACKLE SEXISM’ Women’s groups told Leveson that highly sexualised images were ubiquitous in the media and urged the judge to tackle ‘relentless’ sexism in some newspapers. The groups – Eaves, End Violence Against Women, Object and EqualityNow – called on Leveson to back a ban on sexualised images in newspapers. The Sun, Daily Star and Sunday Sport were among papers which ‘persistently objectified women’, the inquiry heard. ‘ADMISSION OF SORTS’ OF A COVER-UP A High Court judge said News Group Newspapers had made ‘an admission of sorts’ of a cover-up as it paid a seven figure sum to settle 37 phone-hacking claims from Jude Law to John Prescott. Mr Justice Vos said he had seen evidence which ‘raised compelling questions’ about whether it ‘concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot-free’. EX-MIRROR MAN: HACKING ‘STANDARD’ Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan told the inquiry via video link that he was not aware of any phone-hacking at the paper. Previously Morgan said it was ‘very widespread’ in Fleet Street. Ex Mirror financial reporter James Hipwell, once jailed for writing about shares he owned, said it appeared to be a ‘bog standard journalistic tool’ under Morgan’s editorship. SUN JOURNALISTS ARE ARRESTED The role of former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks is expected to come under fresh scrutiny after four of the paper’s current and former journalists were arrested as part of an investigation into corrupt payments to police. WAPPING EXHIBITION BACK IN LONDON An exhibition marking 25 years since the Wapping dispute is back in London. The multi-media exhibition will be at the Bishopsgate Institute Library, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH, until February 29. theJournalist | 3
Members take action over pay freeze
in brief... ‘CAUSE FOR CONCERN’ SAYS PA EDITOR Press Association editor Jonathan Grun warned that financial pressures on the regional press had serious implications for news gathering at PA. He told the Leveson Inquiry that there was a ‘genuine cause for concern’, conceding that PA’s own network of regional reporting staff was now ‘less extensive than it was’. WHY NOT SACK THE EDITORS? Union members at two Suffolk newspapers called for cuts to its team of editors as an alternative to slashing its workforce by 14. Archant Suffolk, which owns the Ipswich Evening Star and the East Anglian Daily Times, plans to change the Star from a six-daya-week to a five-day-a-week operation, in order to cut costs. PAY WALL SCRAPPED BY EXPRESS & STAR An online paywall launched by the Wolverhampton Express & Star, the UK’s biggest-selling regional daily, has been scrapped. The paper had begun charging for selected content on its website. Launched last April, it was the latest in a series of short-lived online paywall initiatives by the regional press. JOHNSTON’S FUTURE ‘LAY BEYOND PRINT’ The future of regional publishing giant Johnston Press lay ‘beyond print’, according to new chief executive Ashley Highfield. The former Microsoft vice-chairman said the company would be more of ‘a disseminator of information whether that means print, online, iPads, phones and possibly even local television’. HEADLINE FAILS TO TAKE OFF This month’s prize for the most yawn-provoking headline goes to the Peterborough Evening Telegraph for its ‘screamer’ about a Nato surveillance plane on a training ﬂight around the UK: ‘Large plane circling over Peterborough’.
4 | theJournalist
None of us want to be taking industrial action, but we feel forced to take a stand
rinity Mirror and Newsquest groups are trying to impose yet more pay freezes amid signs that NUJ members are increasingly prepared to take industrial action to defend their terms and conditions. At Newsquest’s south east essex papers staff started a ‘work-to-rule’ to force management to rethink its refusal to offer a wage increase which was due in January. NUJ members voted with an overwhelming 90.5 per cent majority to walk out and by 95.2 per cent to take action short of a strike. A twoweek work to rule started on January 30 and a three day stoppage was due to begin on February 13. The company said it would review the situation in June, but would not guarantee there would be an increase. If no pay awards are made
in 2012 it will be the third year in four that Newsquest journalists’ salaries have stood still. South east essex MoC Sally king said: “None of us want to be taking industrial action, but we feel forced to take a stand. It has got so bad that some senior journalists have had to resort to taking second jobs just to meet bills.” While thousands of staff were forced into the second year of a pay freeze in 2009, company accounts show that the pay of the firm’s chief
executive Paul davidson rose by 21.5 per cent to £609,000. Trinity Mirror’s year-long pay freeze comes just three years after the last one. Like colleagues at Newsquest, Trinity Mirror staff now face a real-terms cut in take-home pay as inflation is running at almost five per cent. The announcement was made despite a report by the group, showing increases in circulation. The Sunday Mirror benefited from a 61 per cent rise following the closure of the News of the World.
MIDLANDS FIGhTBACK STARTS HERE
fightback against savage media cuts in the Midlands was launched at a packed meeting in Birmingham. The ‘Crisis in Midlands
Journalism’ event at the city’s council house on December 8 was prompted by 50 job losses at Trinity Mirror and major cuts at the BBC’s Midlands operations.
The meeting heard that over a dozen newspapers in the region had shut since 2009. The meeting passed a motion declaring that the market was failing to deliver
the necessary quality in newspapers and commercial TV and radio broadcasting. ‘Politically-rooted’ cutbacks at the BBC threatened to undermine quality.
Pay strike at Reuters
ournalists at Thomson Reuters voted overwhelmingly for a 48-hour strike – the first in more than 25 years – after being offered a below-inflation pay deal by the company. NUJ chapel officers Mike Roddy and Helen Long said in a statement that they had tried extremely hard to reach a settlement, but the company refused to improve its offer of 1.75
per cent which had followed years of ‘real terms’ pay cuts. The company had ignored repeated warnings that members – who voted with an 83 per cent majority to go on strike – had reached a ‘tipping point’. NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick said: “This strike is about fairness. The management is proposing a belowinflation pay deal, while holding back money for a merit scheme. This is just not on.” The strike was due to start at one minute past midnight on Thursday February 9.
‘Enormous challenges’ for new deputy Barry ANN-MARIe SANdeRSoN
arry Fitzpatrick has taken over as deputy general secretary of the NUJ, beating two other candidates to the post. Barry received 2,444 votes, while freelances Chris Youett and Helen Gavaghan got 1,326 and 473 votes respectively. The total number of votes cast was 4,243. Barry, formerly the NUJ’s head of publishing, said he was extremely proud to be elected with what amounted to a vote of confidence from the membership. “I want to make a positive contribution at a time when the union faces enormous challenges. Newspaper employers need to recognize that without us they won’t have a future because their business model is broken. “They need to look at positive ways of restoring revenue. They don’t have a strategy for the maintenance of quality journalism, which is the only way they can ensure their future. “Broadcasting also faces profound changes and challenges. The attack on the BBC licence fee was an attack on standards and quality. It will have consequences for all the broadcast media. “Whether or not the future of journalism lies online there’s no doubt it will be a significant factor in the industry. The NUJ
is leading the way in encouraging proper standards and training.” Barry has worked for the NUJ for 10 years, the past five as head of publishing and before that as organiser for national newspapers. Before joining the NUJ he was an official with print union Sogat which became part of the GPMU, now Unite. He was a Sogat official at the time of the Wapping dispute. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “I am looking forward to working with Barry in his new role. He is widely known and respected across the media industries, and has been a determined champion of journalists and journalism.”
He is widely known and respected across the media industries
Ministers plan fresh union attack
F MARk THoMAS
ears mounted that ministers were planning a fresh campaign against employees and their unions. The first target is expected to be paid time off for union reps in the public sector, but other attacks on employees’ rights can be expected. While Labour MPs beat off a Bill seeking to
undermine ‘facility time’ payments, the right wing Trade Union Reform Campaign (TURC), which enjoys the prime minister’s support, is determined to renew the attack. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said facility time helped resolve disputes and was essential if unions were to represent their members properly.
MAIL FORCED TO AID NUJ CHARITIES
ssociated Newspapers is being forced to pay €15,000 to charities nominated by the NUJ and €25,000 in costs after publishing an edition of the Irish Mail on Sunday masquerading as the defunct Sunday Tribune.
After a series of complaints by readers, including from NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley, the republic’s National Consumer Agency took legal action over the lookalike Tribune. The Dublin District Court
found that the marketing stunt had breached consumer law. Judge Conal Gibbons said it was ‘clear how a person could believe it was the Sunday Tribune’. The four-page Tribune wraparound covered the Irish Mail on Sunday issue of
February 6 last year and the company argued it was a legitimate marketing tactic. Séamus pointed out that Tribune was in receivership and that the stunt amounted to ‘dancing on the graves of my members facing redundancies’.
MIXED FORTUNES FOR THE INDY The Independent was the fastest growing national newspaper website in December and the only site to record a month-on-month increase in traffic, according to ABC figures. The global audience of the relaunched website grew by 16.5 per cent to 15.8m unique browsers. The printed version reported a fall of 4.18 per cent in November. CONTEMPT APPEAL DROPPED BY SUN The Sun has withdrawn a supreme court appeal against its contempt of court fine over its coverage of Chris Jefferies. Tabloid rival the Daily Mirror is pushing ahead with its challenge. In June the Sun was fined £18,000 and the Mirror £50,000 for stories published about Jeffries after the disappearance of Bristol landscape architect Joanna Yeates. AMNESTY SEARCHES FOR THE BEST Amnesty International is calling for entries to its annual competition to find the best human rights journalists in the industry. The awards, in their 20th year, aim to recognise the breadth and quality of human rights reporting across newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, digital and student journalism. Closing date for entries is March 1. PROBE INTO TORTURE OF NUJ MEMBER Eight former officials of Colombia’s defunct intelligence agency DAS are under investigation over the persistent psychological torture of NUJ honorary member Claudia Julieta Duque, one of the country’s leading investigative journalists. Claudia said she was the victim of ‘systematic persecution and constant threats’. ENFIELD GAZETTE GOES DIGITAL The Enfield Gazette, a north London weekly newspaper launched more than 130 years ago and owned by North London and Herts Newspapers, has ceased publication as a print product and is now only available online. theJournalist | 5
UN must act as reporters hunted down and killed
in brief... IT’S BAD NEWS ON SUNDAY All national Sundays dropped circulation in December, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The highest drop was by Scotland on Sunday, down 7.05 per cent to 45,652.The Guardian and the Herald were the only daily newspapers to record an increase .The Guardian’s daily circulation increased by 1.61 per cent to 230,108, although it saw a dip year-on-year of 13.11 per cent.
he UN must take immediate action to tackle the death toll among journalists who are increasingly being hunted down and murdered by the enemies of press freedom, says the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) The federation listed 106 media personnel killed in 2011 – up from 94 in 2010 – and blamed governments’ failure to uphold their international obligations. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, the IFJ calls for effective implementation of international law to combat the prevailing ‘culture of impunity’ for crimes against journalists. “It is abundantly clear that deadly violence against journalists is not just a blip due to conflicts around the world, but has become a regular cycle in many
PAPER CLOSES AFTER JUST FIVE YEARS Weekly community newspaper The Wear Valley Mercury, based in Crook, County Durham announced its closure – just five years after it was established in September 2006. While it sold fewer than 2,000 copies, on one occasion it attracted more than 16,000 signatures protesting against the closure of A&E services at Bishop Auckland hospital. PREMIER LEADS TRIBUTES TO EDITOR Irish taoiseach Enda Kenny and the country’s press ombudsman John Horgan were among those who paid public tribute to Dublin’s Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning, who died last month aged 69. Aengus – who is survived by his journalist wife Anne Harris and sons Dion, Evan and Stephen – was a member of the NUJ since the 1960s. SUSPENDED HARI SNUBS INDEPENDENT Johann Hari, suspended from The Independent for plagiarism, has rejected a return to the newspaper. The paper’s editor Chris Blackhurst had invited Hari to resume his column after four months’ unpaid leave. Hari said he planned to write a book. JOIN THE RUNNERS AND RIDERS Young writers in the UK and the Republic are invited to enter The Wills Writing Awards for creative writing – fact or fiction – around a horse-racing theme. See the ‘entry requirements’ section of the website www.willswritingawards.co.uk. Deadline February 29. 6 | theJournalist
countries where journalists are hunted down, targeted and murdered by the enemies of press freedom,” said IFJ president Jim Boumelha (pictured) in his letter to the UN.
The deadliest region in 2011 was the Middle east and Arab world with 32 journalists and media personnel killed. There were 11 deaths each in Iraq, Pakistan and Mexico and six each in The Philippines, Libya and Yemen. In both Honduras
and India five media workers were killed. French TV reporter Gilles Jacquier became the first Western journalist to be killed in Iraq’s current unrest. He died on January 11 on a government-authorised trip to the Syrian city of Homs. Five days earlier Mexican journalist Raul Quirino Garza, 30, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Monterrey, becoming the first reporter to be killed in the country in 2012. Meanwhile MPs are being urged by the NUJ to condemn the murder and mass arrest of journalists in Somalia. Threats and violence were being used to prevent news stories critical of the governing authorities, according to an early day motion tabled by Jeremy Corbyn MP. See Jeremy Dear on page 10
hOw wE BEAT THE FREElOADERS
opyright infringers will be forced to pay up when a ‘small claims’ court is established later this year, after a long campaign by the NUJ. The union began lobbying the government for such a court in 2006 as part of its submission to the Gowers review of copyright law.
A change in ‘civil procedure rules’ had meant that justice was effectively denied anyone making a claim worth less than £5000. NUJ Freelance organiser John Toner welcomed the development. He cited the case of a journalist who sued in the small claims court for £400, but
whose case was referred upwards to the patents county court. The case succeeded, but the journalist was ordered to pay the infringer’s £2000 costs. The new system is expected to start by October and will operate under the auspices of the patents county court.
NUJ veteran and brilliant cartoonist
UJ life member Ronald Searle, who has died in France aged 91, was widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading cartoonists and graphic artists. Best known in the Uk for illustrating the St Trinian’s stories and the Molesworth books, his work was recognised internationally and he won a number of prestigious awards, including the Legion d’Honneur.
during the Second World War Ronald was taken prisoner by the Japanese and was a forced labourer on the notorious Burma railway, surviving malaria and vicious beatings. Jeff Apter, Paris branch chair during many years of Ronald Searle’s NUJ membership, said: “Ronald was a much valued member of our branch. We will all miss him, and offer our deepest sympathy to his family.”
Mirror jobs cull amid fury over Sly Bailey’s pay oLI SCARFF/GeTTYIMAGeS
eventy five jobs are to be axed at Trinity Mirror’s national newspapers as NUJ members and shareholders voice fresh anger about the chief executive’s pay. Staff at the daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People were told the cuts involve centralising subbing and production across all titles and pooling features and news. NUJ officials were meeting members at the titles to plan a response to proposals which include a new seven-day rota and outsourcing more sub-editing to the Press Association. In 2010 Trinity Mirror slashed 200 editorial staff – equivalent to around one in four journalists – across the three papers. The fresh cull comes after the total directors’ pay and pensions bill for Trinity Mirror last year was £3.9million. Chief executive Sly Bailey’s package of pay and pensions was a staggering £1.7m, including a cash bonus of £660k. Trinity Mirror’s big shareholders set out their dismay about Bailey’s pay in a series of meetings with the group’s incoming chairman david Grigson. They told the Financial Times that Bailey should take a substantial pay cut to recognise Trinity Mirror was now a much smaller business than when she joined nine years ago. one major shareholder said: “Sly hasn’t got a great many supporters now – not when she
has lost so much and is so well paid.” NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the cuts represented a ‘depressingly familiar tale’ at Trinity Mirror. “Rather than invest in quality products – and continue to build on recent growth in circulation on the Sunday titles – the strategy is to cut jobs and compromise quality journalism. Where is the strategy for growth and the future? Journalists are paying with their jobs for the corporate mismanagement and incompetence of Sly Bailey and her senior executives – yet still they continue to award themselves lavish pay.”
Sly Bailey’s package of pay and pensions was a staggering £1.7m
Men and the power of pictures
esearchers have found that the media has a tendency to use more photographs of men shot from below than women, which, according to conventional wisdom, makes
the subject of a photograph look more powerful. The study led by Rotterdam School of Management’s dr Steffen Giessner concludes that the media might unintentionally – or otherwise
– increase our perception that men are more powerful and strengthen stereotyped ideas about women. Researchers analysed photographs at CoRBIS®, Time Magazine, and World Press Pictures.
30 TO BE FORCED OUT AT TElEGRAPH
he NUJ is involved in urgent meetings with staff at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph after the chief executive emailed the workforce revealing that up to 30 journalists were to be made compulsorily redundant. NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick attacked the decision by Telegraph Media Group chief
executive Murdoch MacLennan and the method of transmission: “There is no justification for the abruptness of the message or the scale of the job losses,” said Barry. He denounced the ‘insensitivity’ of transmitting such information by email and argued that there should have been a reasonable period of
consultation before any decision was taken. The Telegraph is seeking to ‘buy out’ the normal consultation period with an additional payment to those singled out for redundancy. Management claimed the cuts were needed to invest in new digital services.
BBC VICTORY OVER REAL IRA FOOTAGE The NUJ was still locked in battle with the police over attempts to seize footage of the Dale Farm eviction, but hailed a victory on the issue in Northern Ireland. In a landmark decision by the Belfast Recorder, the police failed to force the BBC to hand over videos of a Real IRA parade. But the union was still awaiting a decision by Chelmsford Crown court over NUJ member Jason Parkinson’s refusal to release footage of the Essex eviction. ECHO WRONG TO NAME VICTIM Northern Echo editor Peter Barron said his paper was wrong to name the victim of a care home assault. Last August the Echo reported a case which led to the conviction of a care worker for abusing a resident. Barron sad the paper ‘should have been more considerate’. A PCC complaint was withdrawn. SO WHO SHOULD CONTROL THE MEDIA? The TUC, together with the NUJ and other media unions and campaign groups, has organized a one-day conference on media ownership and regulation on Saturday March 17 at TUC Congress House, London. You can register online at: mediaownership.eventbrite.co.uk KENT AND TRENT TOP UNIVERSITIES Kent University was recognised as top of the league for undergraduate journalism education by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). Top of the postgraduate results table was the MA in newspaper journalism at Nottingham Trent University. SNAPSHOT OF THE SIXTIES The National Council for the Training of Journalists is hoping to organise a reunion of the photographers that were on the first accredited course in 1964. Were you there? http://www.nctj.com/news-andevents/news/searching-for-nctjphotographers theJournalist | 7
news in brief...
LICENCE FEE ‘ROBBERY’ Twenty conurbations were unveiled as ‘pioneers’ of new local television services due to start in 2015. They are: Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Grimsby, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Preston, Southampton and Swansea. Shadow media minister Helen Goodman said the £40m of BBC licence fee money being spent meant that the government was ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’. RADIO 5 STRENGTH IS NEWS OUTPUT A review of BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra says audiences praise its ‘strength in covering breaking news stories’ and the BBC Trust called on the station to ‘aim to raise awareness’ of news output. The review said the trust expects more spending on news as opposed to sport and opposes cuts to current affairs programming. BECTU STRIKERS WIN NUJ BACKING The NUJ sent message of support to BBC Bectu members in Birmingham who voted to strike to resist plans to move almost all network production for radio and TV away from the city. DAILY MAIL SELLS TELETEXT SERVICE The Daily Mail is to sell its Teletext service to its current management. The Mail, fined £225,000 for closing Teletext’s TV service after 17 years, will retain a minority shareholding. 8 | theJournalist
Trust fails to respond to BBC cuts concerns
he BBC Trust’s decision to reverse some of the drastic cuts to local radio does not go far enough, the NUJ has warned the corporation. The warning comes amid preparations by the NUJ for a ballot on industrial action if the corporation insists on compulsory redundancies. The union welcomed small concessions contained in the trust’s interim assessment of the so-called ‘delivering Quality First’ (dQF) proposals, the director general Mark Thompson’s plans to cut BBC funding by a massive 20 per cent. But the findings clearly showed that BBC chairman Lord Patten and his fellow trustees had not taken on board the concerns of most of those who took part in the consultation process, the union believes. Management has been warned that the cuts, which will result in 2,000 job losses on top of the 7,000 lost since 2004, will damage the BBC’s ability to produce quality programming and investigative journalism. Among the plans rubber-stamped by the trust were the 40 per cent cuts at the Asian Network, which has been a launchpad for new talent. Fifteen posts will go by 2013 and the news team will move out of Leicester to London. While the trust’s interim report largely backs
the dQF proposals, it has asked management to scale back plans to make local radio stations share afternoon shows and to review plans to cut Radio 5 Live’s weekly current affairs show. It has also asked for a rethink on plans to merge the BBC’s localised current affairs programme Inside out into super regions. It faced cuts of 40 per cent. Research by the NUJ has shown that licence fee payers are prepared to pay more to prevent a downgrading of the service. M/Focs are scheduled to meet shortly to consider the union’s response to the threat of compulsory redundancies. Management has indicated that a number of jobs are in the firing line. Among the options is a ballot on industrial action. Meanwhile the union is campaigning against the system in which the BBC is forced to pay BSkyB £100m a year so that Rupert Murdoch’s service transmits the coporation’s channels. NUJ members are asked to protest against the arrangement at www.avaaz.org
THOMPSON READY TO STEP DOWN The contest to become the next director general of the BBC has begun after it emerged that Mark Thompson is expected to step down within the next 12 months. Insiders believe he could go at the end of this year or early next year. Thompson, 54, apparently acknowledges that he is ‘psychologically ready’ to relinquish his eight-year tenure of a post that paid him £779,000 last year.
GIVE US A ‘REAl’ PAY INCREASE
egotiators on behalf of the NUJ, Bectu and Unite have submitted to the BBC a joint pay claim calling for an increase matching the Retail Price Index plus two per cent with a minimum increase of £1,000. The claim includes a demand for the reinstatement of salary appeals
and for a place on the BBC’s executive remuneration committee. The unions’ submission points out that over the years the BBC has consistently reduced staff remuneration with meagre annual pay awards which amounted to pay cuts. It warns: “A further year
of below inﬂation pay is completely unacceptable.” NUJ broadcasting organizer Sue Harris, said: “On top of the poor pay deals, our members have also suffered an increased workload caused by wave after wave of redundancies. We believe this is a fair claim.”
BBC cuts ‘dangerous and wrong-headed’
he planned cuts at the BBC will have ‘a huge adverse impact’ on the Uk’s creative industries, research commissioned by the NUJ reveals. An analysis carried out by Howard Reed of Landman economics shows that the cuts outlined in the BBC’s delivering Quality First proposals are likely to lead to a reduction in Uk
economic output of between £1.1 billion and £1.7 billion a year at 2011 prices. The report said Britain was relying on worldleading sectors such as the BBC to spearhead economic recovery. “economically, cutting the BBC by this much at this time looks like a dangerous and wrongheaded strategy,” the report said.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet on owners’ hypocrisy at Leveson
They don’t like it up ‘em
ourt 73 has certainly witnessed its fair share of drama, but there have also been plenty of twists and turns behind the scenes at the Leveson Inquiry. Following the NUJ’s decision to encourage journalists to come forward and give evidence in confidence, Associated Newspapers responded with typical fervour to challenge Lord Leveson’s use of anonymity. The Judicial Review may as well have come gift wrapped, with huge box files arriving on the eve of Christmas. As an interested party, the NUJ lined up alongside the Inquiry team to argue why Leveson must hear from working journalists, even if that means hearing evidence anonymously through the union. We produced the outraged leader columns and long running campaign for anonymity the Mail ran during the Saville Inquiry – Mail hypocrisy at its finest. No-one’s suggesting that journalists’ lives would be in danger as a result of giving evidence openly and in person, but there is a real risk to their livelihoods and a prevalent fear of ‘career blight’ amongst journalists. Understandably so. The reality is that you’d have to be a pretty brave person to stand up and spell out just what life is like working for your current employer. And the strong fear is that by blowing the whistle, you render yourself unemployable in the future and you’re marked out as disloyal and untrustworthy. If you’re working as a casual, editors don’t even have to go through the motions of getting rid of
you through a trumped up redundancy process – they can simply tell you not to bother coming back in next week. So it’s vital the experience of journalists at the sharp end is conveyed to the Inquiry in another way. Predictably, the major newspaper groups have responded with the usual howls of anguish and accusations of unfair play. The legal wrangling has been intense. The brilliant news that Associated Newspapers lost their judicial review was swiftly followed by more attempts by News International, Associated and Trinity Mirror to block the NUJ’s evidence to the Inquiry. Their argument – that there’s no such thing as career blight, and journalists are free to speak openly and publicly at the Inquiry.
Proprietors don’t want the public to know about endemic newsroom bullying
f it’s so easy – where are they all? Barring some notable exceptions, journalists have largely been absent compared to the succession of editors, proprietors and executives we’ve seen wheeled out by the major media groups. That’s why the NUJ’s role is so important. In compiling testimony for the Leveson Inquiry over recent weeks I’ve heard fascinating, but often shocking and moving, interviews with journalists and it’s clear to me what the newspaper groups want to cover up. Proprietors don’t want the public to know about endemic newsroom bullying or pressure to deliver stories, whatever the means; or sexism and degrading treatment of young journalists. Or the pressure to deliver racially inflammatory copy and to make bogeymen out of vulnerable groups in society. Journalists are being sacrificed and delivered up to the police in order to salvage corporate reputations. We’re determined to ensure their experiences are heard. Our national media groups are determined to shut these stories down. Dad’s Army favourite Corporal Jones was spot on – they really don’t like it up ‘em.
For all the latest news from the NUJ go to www.nuj.org.uk To take part in debates go to The Platform on the website theJournalist | 9
Jeremy Dear reports on the chilling background to work as a journalist in Mexico
Stay silent down Mexico way
aria Elizabeth Macias was beheaded. Her killers left her severed head next to a keyboard alongside a chilling message to all journalists. It read, “I am here because of my reports and yours.” Maria was editor of Primera Hora newspaper. Her murder took place just weeks after two online correspondents’bodies were found hanging from a bridge with a message warning people not to report on drug violence and crimes. Within days the body of radio reporter Humberto Millan Salazar was found. He was kidnapped by masked armed men as he was leaving to present his morning news programme on Radio Formula. His body was found a few days later, less than a month after crime reporter Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz had her throat cut after being abducted in Veracruz state. The message to journalists in Mexico is clear. Remain silent or be killed. The exact extent of the killings, abductions, threats and intimidation is hard to quantify accurately amid the fear and propaganda which accompanies the government’s war against the drug cartels. But all press freedom organisations agree on one thing – for the second year running Mexico has the unwanted distinction of being the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. In the last 10 years, 66 journalists have been killed in Mexico according to the National Human Rights Commission. Twelve journalists were killed in 2011 alone. It is not just the killings. The offices of daily newspaper El Buen Tono were burned to the ground. Armed men burst into their offices and set cans of gasoline on fire. In the past few months, cyber attacks have forced websites offline, including Mexican weekly Ríodoce – one of the few publications to cover crime and drug trafficking. Grenades were set off at the Televisa television station offices in Matamoros and Monterrey. The offices of the Tinta Fresca newspaper in Chiapas, were raided and robbed. Whilst the drug cartels and organised crime are behind many of the threats and killings, it is clear sections of the 10 | theJournalist
In the last 10 years, 66 journalists have been killed in Mexico
army, police and municipal authorities have also been implicated in attacks on journalists and publications as Mexico’s drug war turns ever bloodier. In 2010, The Centre for Ethics in Journalism (CEPET) documented 140 violations of freedom of speech involving 19 media outlets and 183 reporters. The police or military were involved in one out of three attacks, the organisation reported. The inevitable consequence of such rising violence, attacks on journalists and the impunity with which such attacks are carried out is what Los Angeles Times reporter Tracy Wilkinson dubs “narco-censorship”. It’s an all too accurate description of the reality of the coverage of Mexico’s drug war, where reporters and editors are being forced to write either what the drug gangs demand, remain silent or censor themselves. An editor in the state of Tamaulipas told her: “You love journalism, you love the pursuit of truth, you love to perform a civic service and inform your community. But you love your life more... We don’t like the silence. But it’s survival.” It’s not just individual journalists but whole publications which have succumbed to this narco-censorship. In the border town of Nuevo Laredo, controlled by the Zetas drug cartel, journalists admit they cannot report anything that might upset the Zetas without the real risk of being killed. And since the Zetas don’t want anything reported, nothing about them is covered in the papers, on television or radio. Such admissions led to accusations of media outlets surrendering to drug cartels, accusations which grew following an extraordinary editorial in El Diario de Juarez.
“What do you want from us?” the paper’s front page piece asked the cartels whose war for control of the border city has killed nearly 5,000 people – including two El Diario journalists – in less than two years. “You are currently the de facto authorities in this city… Tell us what you expect from us as a newspaper?” El Diario director Pedro Torres defended the editorial. “We weren’t speaking directly to the drug gangs. It was an open message. We wanted to provoke a reaction that would call attention to what’s happening…I think we met our objective.” Amid accusations of impunity and ignoring the threat to media freedom, President Felipe Calderon promised action to introduce legal reforms to protect journalists and create a security plan similar to that offered to journalists in Colombia. Under the plan the government would provide protections for journalists facing threats, including security or relocation to a safe haven. But many journalists question the government’s commitment to defending media freedom.
In too many cases the government has said the attacks are for personal reasons, not as a result of a journalists’work. Mexican journalists blame the government as much as the cartels for the intimidation they face. Zuliana Lainez, human rights secretary for the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FEPALC) said: “In Mexico the drama of crimes against journalists is worsened by the 98 per cent impunity rate in the killings. The response from the government in most cases is an attempt to dismiss workrelated motives behind the crime. “The administration of Felipe Calderon has only shown an exaggerated verbal commitment that has not become concrete actions and adequate protection mechanisms”. The violence against journalists is exacerbated by the concentration of media ownership and the dire working conditions for many Mexican journalists. But amidst the fear and despair there is also a new, growing sense of hope as journalists and citizens seek to raise their collective voices again. A group of leading cartoonists has launched a nationwide campaign – “¡Basta de Sangre!? – “No + sangre” (Enough blood – no more bloodshed). The cartoons are being run by many newspapers and reproduced by press freedom groups. FEPALC, alongside its Mexican affiliate the National Syndicate of Press Workers (SNRP) is taking action against the Mexican government at the Inter-American Court in a bid to establish the responsibility of the State in the search for justice in crimes against journalists. And active protests by journalists, whilst small, are growing. Dozens of journalists demonstrated in Mexico City and 12 other cities, demanding protection and guarantees for the exercise of their profession and an end to impunity. As part of the protests, Jade Ramirez, a television journalist from Puebla, read aloud each one of the names of reporters who have been killed and disappeared. She said: “The march was very important, it gave me a glimmer of hope. It’s good to know that I’m not alone”. theJournalist | 11
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12 | theJournalist
o you’ve finished your final piece of work for the day. You email over the invoice, sit back and wait for the cash to roll in. And you wait.
And wait. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the money within 30 days. If not, it could take months. You might get paid on publication, or your invoice could get mislaid under a pile of papers. It’s far from predictable –and can make financial planning a nightmare. Welcome to the world of handling cash flow as a freelance. It’s a different ballgame to being on staff because there’s no guarantee of a regular income at the end of every month. The money can trickle in any time – meanwhile, your bills still have to be paid. Without careful planning it can spell the end of a freelance career, even if there’s loads of work coming in. Phil Sutcliffe, who runs the NUJ course Getting Started As A Freelance with fellow freelance journalist Humphrey Evans, says getting to grips with cash flow is a necessary part of being freelance. “You’re running a business, it’s important to keep track of what payments are due and when, and of your outgoings,” he explains. “It’s totally mundane but vital. Even if you’re handling your affairs efficiently, your cash flow can still be erratic. It can be more erratic than your workflow. You have to be prudent in a way staff writers and photographers don’t.” Sutcliffe suggests keeping a record of what’s owed and when, including dates invoiced, and updating it regularly, along with expenses and outgoings. Evans adds: “A freelance should always be able to answer the question: ‘how much are you owed at the moment?’ Send invoices at the first opportunity – the day they’re late being paid, start chasing.” Having separate bank accounts also helps. Freelance broadcaster and journalist Sue Hayward advises using one account for receiving payments and another for personal expenses. She says: “As soon as you get paid, deduct 20 per cent for tax. You can use
Cheque in the post Linda Harrison offers some tips on handling freelance cash flow
A freelance should always be able to answer the question: how much are you owed at the moment?
what’s left by transferring it to your personal account. If you know you’ve got money coming in, you can borrow against that ‘tax money cushion’ – just make sure you repay it once you get paid!” Tax money can also go into a higher interest account to aid cash flow. Business Link advisor Roma Bhowmick suggests making a quarterly cash flow forecast, plus shopping around for the best deals on everything from insurance and phone suppliers to accountants. “Don’t be afraid to ask for discounts,” she adds. “And think about whether paying monthly might help cash flow.” Andy Crofts, author of The Freelance Writer’s Handbook, advises never relying on money until it’s in your account. “People say the cheque’s in the post,” he says. “Put that into your financial predictions but don’t spend it before you get it. I’ve never been able to see more than two or three months ahead
in terms of income. If you can’t live with such uncertainties, you can’t be freelance.” And if the thought of doing your accounts brings you out in a cold sweat, enlist the help of a professional. Crofts explains: “The secret is, as long as you keep all the paperwork, you can ask an accountant to sort out any mess you’ve made.”
AdviCe • Negotiate rates and payment dates at the time of a commission. For payment on publication, try to agree a date by which the editor expects it to be published • Put payment dates in a diary and follow up if they’re late. Keep a record of emails and calls chasing payments • Ask for expenses up front • Have a savings/overdraft buffer • Check bank balances regularly For more information, visit www.businesslink.gov.uk and www.londonfreelance.org
theJournalist | 13
In the public interest Lisa Jewell reports on an alternative model to fund investigative journalism
he offices of news organisation ProPublica are housed on the 23rd floor of a downtown Manhattan building. The view out of editor-in-chief and CEO Paul Steiger’s office is vertigo-inducing – glass windows reveal neighbouring skyscrapers and a dizzying view to the crosswalks below. Outside this office is a typical open plan layout where 34 journalists, support staff and interns are talking on phones and tapping away on keyboards. A typical newsroom scene, you might think. But ProPublica is, in many ways, far from being a typical news organisation. Set up in late 2007, the non-profit organisation focuses on investigative reporting – something which traditional (and most often commercial) media organisations have less time, staff and financial resources to commit to. Paul Steiger says ProPublica fills a “portion of the breach” that exists in traditional media’s investigative reporting. “Our budget is around $10 million a year; the amount of newspaper revenue that has disappeared is in the billions per year,” he says. The organisation has brought to light stories about environmental safety, teacher performance, the mortgage crisis and financial ties between doctors and medical companies, to name a few.
14 | theJournalist
On its website, it says its purpose is to investigate journalism in the public interest. “We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.” ProPublica is funded through philanthropic foundations and individual donors (anyone can donate through its website). The initial funding came from a Californian couple, Herbert and Marion Sandler. They were formerly chief executives of a major financial corporation but wanted to donate money for investigative journalism. From the outset, Steiger (who left a 16-year run as the editor of the Wall Street Journal for this new venture), was clear that ProPublica would have editorial independence, be nonpartisan and that donors wouldn’t have any influence over the stories being pursued. This was important to clarify in light of the fact that the Sandlers had a long history of donating to Democratic causes. Steiger says that the organisation is diversifying its funding – the Sandlers contributed around 50 per cent of funding in 2011 and it’s envisaged that they will ultimately contribute 20 per cent. ProPublica also differs from traditional journalism models because it’s an online news outlet and it gives away its stories for free. Every story that’s published goes up on the website (www. propublica.org) and the site even has a section called ‘Steal our Stories’ which explains how other organisations can use the stories (with some limitations – mostly concerned
While the UK and Ireland don’t have the same history of philanthropic investment, particularly in the media, there are smaller scale initiatives similar to ProPublica. The Detail, which is run by the Belfastbased production company Below the Radar, focuses on investigative journalism. The project is funded by Atlantic
Philanthropies (which also provides funding to ProPublica) and Northern Ireland Screen. In London, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism produces investigations for press and broadcast media. The not-forprofit organisation was set up in 2010 with a £2 million donation.
pro bono FOTOVOYAGER/GETTYIMAGES
with crediting the original source of the story). In April 2010, ProPublica became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism. It won its second Pulitzer frize last year. The first prize was for a 13,000 word news story by reporter Sheri Fink, which is the perfect example of an investigation that a non-profit such as ProPublica can afford to resource. The story, “The Deadly Choices at Memorial”, looked at what happened at a New Orleans hospital cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina. During her painstaking research and more than 140 interviews, mostly with hospital personnel, Fink uncovered that decisions were made to deliberately inject severely ill patients with lethal doses of drugs because judgements were made on whether they would be able to survive evacuation or not. The story was published in August 2009 in The New York Times magazine (as a partnership between ProPublica and the newspaper). Paul Steiger explains how the story “probably cost $300,000 to produce”. He says that if a story like this was sold to a media organisation, the most it could pay would be $25,000 to $30,000. “We would not recover our costs by charging fees that publications are used to paying,” he says. That’s the beauty of ProPublica – it has the funding that means it can pursue stories that aren’t going to economically pay off but are vital to tell.
nd it doesn’t do all of its stories on its own. Just like The New York Times magazine example, ProPublica teams up with media partners across all platforms – TV, print, radio and online. Steiger says that some media organisations were dubious at the beginning about entering into a partnership. “Editors and news directors have a responsibility to assure the quality of what they publish or air,” he says. “Not having produced the material themselves can raise doubts about its authenticity. “As our reputation for accuracy and fairness has grown, this has become less of a problem.”
PROPUBLICA’S BIG STORIES The Spill In 2010, ProPublica teamed up with PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) for the investigative TV programme The Spill, which uncovered how BP’s own internal investigations in the years running up to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill “warned that the company was risking major accidents by disregarding safety and environmental rules”. America’s unwatched nurses This investigation found that a board in
ProPublica became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism
California that licenses nurses was taking up to three and a half years to decide whether to remove the licences of nurses who were fired for offences such as beating up patients or stealing drugs from them. This meant that the fired nurses could simply get another job with their licences still intact. The story was splashed on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and prompted the governor to take action.
Each partnership works differently – in some cases, ProPublica has the full story ready to go and wants to reach a larger audience through its media partner. In some cases, reporters from both ProPublica and the media outlet work together on the stories. And as its reputation has grown, ProPublica is in a good bargaining position to get media partners. If one newspaper, say The New York Times doesn’t want a story, it knows it runs the risk that a competitor may be offered it and could publish it. When it comes down to it, it’s a win-win situation for both partners in the story. And most of all, it’s a win-win for the public interest. Lisa Jewell is a freelance journalist based in Dublin. She visited ProPublica as part of the Emerging Voices: Millennial Journalists in a Changing Media Landscape programme, organised by The Irish Institute at Boston College and funded by the US State Department. www.propublica.org
theJournalist | 15
Time for a Fifth E John Pilger argues that journalists ought to be agents of people, not power
he Guardian’s exposure of the hacking scandal was a journalistic tour de force. But hackgate was a sideshow to a scandal so ingrained in mainstream journalism that it almost never speaks its name. We journalists love the notion of bad apples. Murdoch is a bad apple. Blair was a bad apple – sort of. Gaddafi was a very bad apple – unlike the Saudi tyrants. They’re good apples. We also love the idea of worthy and unworthy victims. In Libya, the revolutionaries – our revolutionaries – were worthy victims. But the people of the city of Sirte were unworthy victims. They were ‘pro Gaddafi’, we said. So it was OK to rain down fragmentation bombs on them, and kill countless men, women and children. That Colonel Gaddafi’s crimes pale against those of ‘our’ governments throughout the world is unmentionable, along with the undeclared role of our free media in minimising the culpability of our rapacious political culture, and to cheer them on: to beat their drums. The American human rights lawyer Richard Falk describes how we in the West are trained to see the world. The essence of this training is ‘our’ benevolence. We see the world, wrote Falk, “though a self-righteous, one-way, moral and legal screen with positive images of Western values and innocence always portrayed as threatened, and validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence.” As a reporter, I have been a witness to much of this violence: I have glimpsed the overthrow of some of the 50 governments dispatched by the United States with British support, many of them democracies. In Latin America and elsewhere, I have seen those tortured by forces approved and backed by ‘us’. Murdoch’s unrecognised crime has been his media’s unanimous support for the modern holocaust that has enveloped and destroyed the lives of millions of people. When Murdoch appeared in parliament it was great theatre. But why wasn’t he asked about the invasion of Iraq? This is what Murdoch had said about that bloodbath: “There is going to be collateral damage. And if you really want to be brutal about it, better we get it done now.” The making of more 16 | theJournalist
Hackgate was a sideshow to scandal in mainstream journalism that almost never speaks its name
than 750,000 widows, the poisoning of the environment, the criminal razing of Fallujah, the destruction of the health and education systems – “better get on with it now”. Why wasn’t Murdoch asked about three phone calls he made to Tony Blair in March 2003 including the day before the invasion – each call followed by warmongering front pages in the Murdoch press? This collusion is not unusual. Murdoch is not a bad apple. Consider the two studies of the BBC’s coverage of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq – from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and the European monitoring organisation Media Tenor. They were barely reported. They found that the BBC’s coverage overwhelmingly reflected the Blair government’s propaganda, such as the lies about weapons of mass destruction. Regardless of the Gilligan episode, less than two per cent of BBC reporting in this critical period allowed dissenting voices – even though a majority of the British public were opposed to that invasion. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the world’s leading centre for measuring great disasters, now estimate that more than a million people died as a result of Blair’s and Bush’s invasion of Iraq. That’s higher than the Rwanda massacre. The Johns Hopkins work was first reported in The Lancet in 2006. The mainstream media, notably the Murdoch media, sought to discredit it – even though the Blair government’s chief scientific adviser described the study approvingly as “sound methodology”. Journalists
Estate? almost instinctively preferred the gross under-estimates of civilian deaths based on press reports: a sort of Catch-22. Today, as repetition beckons in Iran, the British people have little idea of the sheer scale of this crime committed in our name. Dan Rather, America’s most famous television news anchor, told me that he and others now believed that had journalists done their job
and challenged and exposed the lies of Bush and Blair instead of amplifying and echoing them, the invasion of Iraq might not have happened. When will we as journalists consider this is our responsibility, too? The most important propaganda rarely comes from the least credible sources – such as The Sun – but from those who enjoy the public’s respect, like the BBC and other broadcasters. A remarkable document published by WikiLeaks supports this. It is 2,000 page report by the Ministry of Defence on how to prevent leaks – which was leaked. It says there are three main threats to ‘national security’ policies (war). Russian spies and terrorists come second; by far the greatest threat is from investigative journalists. Perhaps no greater compliment has been bestowed on those who do, or ought to do their job independently and fearlessly. Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked
theJournalist | 17
in free societies when I reported from totalitarian countries. During the 197Os I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group knows as Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek. This is what he told me: “In dictatorships we are more fortunate than you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in our newspapers and nothing of what we see on TV, because we know it’s propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West, we’ve learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is almost always subversive.” Until journalists begin to understand this, the forces that are enveloping our societies will become ever more powerful. In the US and Britain, military planners write about a state of perpetual war in which the most valuable weapon is the media. The message is war by media. In Britain, the justice system is to change radically, with secret courts protecting the adventures and crimes of the secret state. Dissent is being criminalised. An historic shift is taking place: social democracy is being drained of its life force and replaced by corporatism; the convergence of the main
Young journalists should be taught to read between the lines
political parties is part of this momentous change. And its façade a media in which the distinction between journalism and information control is being eroded. So what do we do? It was Edmund Burke who described the press as a ‘fourth estate’ whose job was to check the pillars of power. Instead, the fourth estate became an extension of vested interests. I would like to see a ‘fifth estate’ in which journalists break from the masonry of their institutions and join with the public and those responsible for training journalists in a grass-roots movement that develops a new freedom of the press, a new notion of independence and new ways of accountability. Young journalists should be taught to ‘read between the lines’ and that a cynicism about their readers and viewers does not ordain them as journalists: they should reserve their scepticism for authority in all its forms. In other words, they should be taught to see the world from the bottom up, not from the top down. “Never believe anything until it is officially denied”, wrote Claud Cockburn. We journalists were never meant to be the agents of power: always the agents of people. www.johnpilger.com
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or years the mantra of every comms office was ‘presentation, presentation, presentation’. Get rid of unwieldy columns of print and brighten up layouts with pictures, graphics, signposts, fillers, standfirsts, pulls and the like – or so we were told. And after years of harassing our non-comms colleagues, in my case negotiators at a medium-sized trade union, we eventually persuaded them to move away from the dreary journals that used to be the bread and butter of trade union comms. Then along came the internet. Write a story and try to liven it up with a picture or any of those essential ingredients that once were gospel and it’s almost impossible without an army of developers and researchers at your elbow. There has to be a template prepared by an IT expert to accommodate anything different, and woe betide anyone who dares to run up against the wishes of the user focus group (sorry, gods) consulted by the designers. The result? All too many sites consist of pages of formulaic text, often in unintelligible fonts that make the average 1960s wallpaper look interesting. But it’s the internet, so that’s
alright. And nobody has anything to say about such dangerous territory as actually trying to engage the reader with the content on screen. For an old lag like me, all this is puzzling in the extreme: but like the Japanese tsunami, pointless to resist. Go with the flow, I say. And so we have, installing a brand new alldancing website at the end of 2011. But getting there was an exhausting,, depressingly and longwinded process. More than three years ago the comms team worked out that we needed to upgrade and redesign our union’s site. While no-one would have even blinked at a journal redesign, the website proposal first had to be approved by a review group (time: 12 months), then by two committees (time: 6 months), then go to web designers (time: 6 months) and finally be created by the developers (time: 6 months). Roughly the time taken for the world to fall into recession after the credit crunch, recover and then fall back into crisis. When decision-making processes are so grindingly slow, is it any wonder that a new generation weaned on iphones at the breast finds it all too tedious and prefers to push buttons instead of participate in what we fondly call ‘democratic structures’?
The other turn-off for youth must surely be industrial action. Trends and gadgets may come and go, but most of the media remain tiresomely obsessed with the idea that the only interesting thing that trade unions do is strike, just so the rest of us can hate them a little bit more. At a time when jobs and money are short, it’s understandable that anyone under 30 fears they will be dragged into 21st century class war if they even think of joining. The fact is, getting anything about trade unions, other than strike action, into the media remains fraught with difficulty. Saving people from death and injury? Boring. Winning a decent pay rise? Greedy. Preserving a company pension scheme? An insult to anyone without a pension. With PR like that, even Aung San Suu Kyi would struggle. Yet today it remains the case that 7 million people wilfully ignore the strictures of the leader-writers and remain fully paid-up members of trade unions, still the biggest voluntary movement in the UK. It goes to show how out of touch with the real world so many commentators are, even as they struggle to explain that ‘novel’ concept, the Big Society. Which is why, ultimately, all that matters is that trade unions talk to and listen to their members, however they choose to do it. Just don’t expect the mainstream media to do it for you.
theJournalist | 19
Newsroom service S
arajevo’s Holiday Inn and Belfast’s Europa were more than just hotels for the journalists who stayed there. These establishments were effectively taken over by journalists and used as newsrooms, offices and press bureaus. This has become a common scenario whereever journalists have reported on conflict and civil unrest over the past few decades. In some cases, hotel staff became trusted colleagues of journalists acting as fixers and even researchers. This has ranged from offering outstanding service to acts of bravery, which has helped hotels like Beirut’s Commodore achieve almost legendary status amongst journalists. The Europa in Belfast at one point claimed to be the most bombed hotel in the world because of its location in an area targeted by Republican paramilitaries. Yet staff and management wore this status almost as a badge of honour. Built in the late 60s for a tourism boom that was killed off by the troubles, the hotel became home or workplace for many journalists in the early 1970s. Channel 4 News’s chief correspondent Alex Thomson has set up his editing suite in many hotels over the years including abandoned beach resorts in war torn southern Lebanon and microhotels in tsunami-hit Japan. But one of his earliest experiences staying in a hotel as a journalist was at the Europa in Belfast while reporting for the BBC in the 1980s. He remembers that the staff had a “fantastic attitude”, despite the regular bombings. “You would draw the curtains only find that on the other side is a large piece of hardboard because there weren’t any windows, which they would always assure you was a temporary measure.” As Northern Ireland correspondent for the Times, Robert Fisk preferred to live in a house amongst the people of Northern Ireland. But he did have an office at the hotel while based in Belfast during the early 1970s. “All it was was a bedroom with a TV set and a telephone.” he says. “I used the telephone, there were no mobile phones then, you see.” “All the journalists tended to stay at the Europa,” says Fisk, now Middle Eastern correspondent for the Independent. “So anyone who wanted to give a press conference would put up a notice in the hotel. Anyone who wanted to make a statement or speak to journalists would arrange to meet at the Europa. Although it was often bombed, it was comparatively safe – nobody was going to be shot dead in a sectarian killing there. So for that reason it appealed to me.” In contrast to the Europa’s central Belfast location, Libya’s Rixos couldn’t be more inconvenient. It was nowhere near the 20 | theJournalist
More than 10,000 people died in the four-year siege of Sarajevo, covered by journalists seen (below) in the city’s Holiday Inn
centre of town, in the middle of parkland with a fence around. “A perfect place for journalists if you don’t want them to see what you don’t want them to see,” Alex Thomson recalls. Thomson visited the Rixos after the fighting in Tripoli was over, but he didn’t stay there under Gaddafi’s regime when the dictator’s spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim kept a close eye on journalists. Instead, he reported from Misrata, the heavily shelled coastal town close to the front line of the Libyan conflict and now admits that he “carefully avoided the Rixos”. But Thomson’s colleague, Channel 4 News’s foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller, was there and experienced an atmosphere that he describes as “claustrophobic”. Journalists’ moods were not helped by Ibrahim’s regular announcement of press conferences over the hotel PA system – even in the early hours of the morning. “Some days journalists would turn up wearing pyjamas and dressing gowns to press conferences,” he reveals. “Everybody describes the Rixos hotel as a gilded cage and I can’t think of a better description,” continues Miller. “On the face of it, it is very comfortable and everything you would expect from a classy hotel. But this time we could not leave it. We found ourselves under complete lock down with government minders and armed security people.” Miller was present at one of the most memorable episodes of the conflict – the moment when Libyan Iman al-Obeidi burst into the hotel accusing Gaddafi supporters of raping her. Whilst Miller was interviewing al-Obeidi in the restaurant, a security guard known as ‘Scarface’ and waitresses came and dragged her away. “It turned out that the hotel waitress and catering staff were part of Gaddafi’s staff,” says Miller. “Until then I had no
Rosie Niven has been hearing from journalists fondly remembering their second homes, hotels in war zones
Belfast’s Europa became Euope’s most bombed hotel
inkling. We already had an idea about the minders hanging out in the café giving us dirty looks. The hotel staff had been replaced by government agents which probably explains the dodgy service.” The presence of the minders meant it was virtually impossible for journalists to leave the hotel without officials chaperoning them. But at one point, Miller and his crew managed to give their minders the slip and meet with a rebel fighter in Tripoli who claimed that armed rebel cells were attacking regime checkpoints by night. Miller says it is “one of the most frustrating things in the world’ for a journalist not to be able to corroborate what one suspects is happening. We were there essentially to report what the government told us and inject a certain amount of scepticism in our reporting to challenge the government.” Tim Lambon, who worked as a freelance cameraman/ editor for ABC America during the Balkans conflict, has more positive memories of Holiday Inn Sarajevo. He remembers a sense of camaraderie amongst its diverse clientele which also included Indian guest workers and international human rights lawyers. “It was pretty atmospheric,” he adds. “We spent hours talking by candlelight – there were wild parties and a lot of drinking.”
ambon says that back in the mid-1990s the city was like a shooting gallery. The hotel was halfway between the TV station and the centre of Sarajevo and had an underground garage, Lambon says. “You could drive in and out under protection so snipers could not get you,” But the building was not immune from shelling, especially the side which faced Pale, the Serb HQ during the siege. Lambon says that the winter of 1994 was particularly cold with just two sheets of plastic protesting guests from the elements. “The windows never had glass in them,” he recalls. “They were always blown out.” Lambon has stayed in many other hotels over the years in a career that has included working at ITN, Australia’s ABC and Channel 4 News where he was deputy foreign editor. He says hotels full of journalists can feel incestuous but adds that they can offer a sense of protection and reassurance. “One of the great things about being in the same hotel as your competitors is you could keep an eye on them,” he says. “If you thought it was too dangerous to go out, it was encouraging to know that they weren’t going out either.” Back in the days of the Balkans conflict, newswires would set up bureaux in hotels. Lambon says that mobile technology is making these sorts of facilities less important. “Now it is becoming a laptop affair,” he says. But as journalists start to desert the hotels in favour of homestays and apartments, they could be in danger of losing assistance from the great unsung heroes of conflict reporting – hotel staff. Alex Thomson says that there is a symbiotic relationship between journalists and hotel staff. “These people are great sources of stories,” he says. “They become like journalists effectively. They will get you your meal, but they also might get you a motorbike to ride around and buy you petrol when none is available. They become part of the team.” theJournalist | 21
Aris Messinis’ picture showed a man in combat fatigues playing a guitar and singing as fellow fighters engaged in a gun battle
Under fire in Sirte T “ wice I have narrowly missed covering the capture of a dictator. In 2003, a week before I was to arrive in Tikrit, the US army pulled Saddam Hussein out of a hole. Last year I spent a month in the Libyan city of Sirte and left just a few days before Moamer Kadhafi came to his sticky end. But I did bring back a souvenir: a small piece of shrapnel lodged in my back. As war wounds go, it was pretty minor and will leave only small scars. A young fighter standing a few metres away died on the spot, his head blown open. At first, I wasn’t even sure I had been hit. It hurt no more than a wasp sting and I had to ask a colleague if I was bleeding. We were in Sirte’s District Two and, unbeknownst to us, Kadhafi was hiding just a few blocks away. I had joined a bunch of journalists who hitched rides on the back of rebel trucks and waded through streets clogged with stinking water from burst mains and sewers to get to the front line to watch fighters staging a ferocious assault on Kadhafi positions. In their ill-disciplined way, the fighters were blasting buildings with anti-aircraft guns, rockets and Kalashnikovs. Most of the fire was outgoing, but Kadhafi 22 | theJournalist
Rory Mulholland recalls how he picked up a war wound in Kadhafi’s back yard loyalists responded with sporadic, but accurate, sniper fire. Every so often a National Transitional Council fighter would be hit and his bloodied body would be carried off. We thought we were in a safe spot. Between us and the Kadhafi position was a wall and a row of houses. Then there was a dull thud. I felt the sting in my back and looked round to see a small cloud of smoke and dust. We decided to take refuge in a garage a couple of hundred metres away. I took off my flak jacket, helmet and T-shirt, and Daily Telegraph stringer Ruth Sherlock whipped out a first aid kit and cleaned and bandaged the wound. The shrapnel hit just under my right shoulder blade, sneaking in through my armhole. As I was getting cleaned, my AFP colleague, photographer Aris Messinis, came running in. It was only then he learned that I had been hit; and only then did I learn that the young fighter, who had been hidden from my view by a pick-up truck, had died. Aris had been between me and the young
The shrapnel hit just under my right shoulder blade, sneaking in through my armhole
fighter but was somehow unscathed. A few days earlier he had taken a photo that created an internet buzz and appeared in newspapers across the world. It showed a man in combat fatigues playing guitar and singing as fellow fighters engaged in a gun battle. That summed up the often surreal atmosphere in Sirte, where every day rebels displayed great courage but a shocking lack of military nous. After my initial clean-up, we jumped on a pick-up to find an ambulance. Colleagues insisted I lie on the floor and piled in on top to protect me. Local medics sent me to the field hospital where they checked to see if the shrapnel had pierced any organs. It hadn’t, but they sent me on to the main hospital in Misrata. The Libyan doctors left the shrapnel in, but when I got back to Paris two days later the doctors in the military hospital removed it, leaving a second scar and bruising after they poked around to remove bits of my T-shirt and other stuff that might have caused infection. The shrapnel, which looks remarkably like a little lump of hash, now sits in a jar on my mantelpiece. Rory Mulholland is Father of the Agence France Presse NUJ chapel
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) at the Daily Mirror
THE NUJ AND ME Why did you become a journalist?
And your best moment in the union?
I was interested in current affairs, so to be paid to find out what’s happening and then tell others was a great idea, particularly when I discovered ill-discipline and a weakness for mischief were part of the trade. It may sound conceited but I still don’t know anybody with a better job.
I went to a couple of ADMs in the days I had black hair. Electric politics, great fun and a chance to meet legends. Not sure, though, I ever fully understood what was going on.
What other job might you have done?
KEYSTONE PICTURES USA/ALAMY, JAMES VELLACOTT
Tax inspector or physio. I’d applied for both(and passed an initial Inland Revenue interview) while toiling as a porter in a London school of music and drama. At York University I applied for 60 newspaper jobs and got a single, abortive interview. It was the early ‘80s, unemployment hit three million and a Tory PM was reckless. Sound familiar?
Which six people, alive or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
The couple of times, once on the Western Morning News in Plymouth and the other when Chief Reporter at The Guardian, I was given the slip on doorsteps because I didn’t, ahem, recognise the individual.
What’s the worst/best place you’ve ever worked?
When did you join the NUJ and why? In 1983 as a journalism student on the post-grad course at Cardiff University. I believe in the kinship, security and voice that trade unions give individuals.
Give some advice to someone entering journalism?
Are many of your friends in the union?
Don’t give up, stick at it and remember everybody needs a lucky break.
A fair few, but I’m constantly surprised and exasperated at the number of hacks who aren’t in the NUJ.
What advice would you give to a new freelance?
I’ve won a few awards and had some half-decent tales but my best moment was becoming Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph. I’d made it to Fleet Street, or anyway Docklands where the paper was then based.
Rupert Murdoch. He proved that an Aussie-American tycoon shouldn’t exercise so much influence: the Dirty Digger was undermining British democracy.
The worst career moment?
Best: press box at footie matches. We pay sports reporters?! Worst: Stormont in Belfast for the Good Friday Peace Agreement. Up early, bed late, freezing weather, portable toilets and little idea what was happening.
What was the best moment of your career?
Specialise by area, either geographically or by issue.
Name your greatest hero? George Orwell. Ok, he was an Old Etonian, but it has to be said that Eric Arthur Blair got his hands dirty and was a tremendous writer.
Nye Bevan, Charles Dickens, Emily Davison, George Orwell, Martin O’Neill and Sarah Millican. Of course, Nelson Mandela’s always round our house anyway. NHS pioneer Bevan
What are your hopes for journalism over the next five years? I hope that we can shape news digitally instead of being shaped by the medium.
And your fears for journalism? The media is cowed by regulations and draconian libel laws.
What one thing would you most wish to change over the next 12 months? Sunderland for the Double
Sunderland win the Premiership and FA Cup Double in May.
Who would you like to see join the NUJ? All those journalists too indifferent or hostile to sign up.
How would you like to be remembered? Remembered? I hope to be here a bit longer, thank you.
theJournalist | 23
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
INDEPTH THE RESEARCH SEARCH MADE EASY Look back in time through the British Library’s treasure trove of stories
Millions of pages of newspapers are being digitised. Bound volumes currently held in the storage stack at the British Library, Colindale, North London. Photo by Chris Close
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The Cultural Olympiad, fact, fiction, cartoons and dancing books, drama and comedy at the theatre and, of course, don’t forget to book early for the Isle of Wight festival Exhibitions It may seem a while to wait for the Olympics but the Cultural Olympiad, celebrating artistic elegance, featuring heavy names like David Hockney, whose exhibition A Bigger Picture at the Royal Academy of Arts until April 9 showcases landscape paintings inspired by the East Yorkshire countryside, including a display of his iPad drawings and a series of new films produced using 18 cameras. www.royalacademy.co.uk Hirst, Freud, Picasso and Turner will be at the big galleries like but numerous other artists and galleries are involved in the countless exhibitions in the run-up to the Games. Among them is Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller who has helped rewrite the rules of contemporary art. In particular, The Battle of Orgreave is a large-scale performance re-enacting
For journalists, research is the backbone for creating a news story, a feature or writing a book. Historical facts can often take numerous hours of time while a deadline looms. In the run-up to this year’s Olympics there’s already no shortage of doom and gloom stories of strikes, traffic chaos, how trade will be affected. The archives of the British Library show that little has changed since the Great Exhibition of 1851, which is now remembered as a triumph of Victorian enterprise and creativity. However, reports from the time bristle with complaints about strikes, delays and the devastating effect on trade in the capital during its run. Those facts are part of four million pages of historical newspapers now online at www.britishnewspapersonline.co.uk. The British Library and online publisher brightsolid launched, in 2010, a digital Aladdin’s Cave with 65 million stories available online and 120,000 a day being added. Featuring more than 200 newspaper titles from every part of the UK and Ireland. The newspapers – which mainly date from the 19th century, but which include runs dating back to the first half of the 18th century – cover every aspect of local, regional and national news. “The British Newspaper Archive website opens up the British Library’s newspaper collection as never before,” says Ed King, the Library’s head
a confrontation between the police and striking miners from the 1984-5 miners strikes. Jeremy Deller: Joy In People, Hayward Gallery. £10 is on from February 22-May 13. www.southbankcentre.co.uk Theatre The London Spring Etcetera Theatre, Camden Town, London March 6 – 25. £12. People will get poorer; the gap between rich and poor will get bigger. The latest bleak comedy by former NUJ president Francis Beckett looks at what London is like in the near future, how Londoners are forced to live, and how they decide to deal with the problems of the world aroiund them. Michael, a prosperous American doctor, is in the capital for the first time. A girl steals his wallet, a tramp sells him a square of toilet paper and dangerous drugs are stolen from him. Trying to get them back, he’s plunged into the darkness and despair of London in the 2020s. www.etceteratheatre.com
of newspapers. “Rather than having to view the items on-site at the Library, turning each page, people across the UK and around the world will be able to explore the gold-mine of stories and information contained in these pages. They’ll be able to search across millions of articles that might previously have been the work of weeks and months in a matter of seconds and the click of the mouse.” The Library’s archive at Colindale has been digitising up to 8,000 pages of historic newspapers every working day. This monumental undertaking is expected to scan up to 40 million newspaper pages over the next 10 years. Up to now, the project has concentrated on out-of-copyright material pre-dating 1900 but the intention is to obtain permission to digitise more recent newspapers. The Library’s newspaper strategy aims to secure the future of this unique resource by moving the hard-copy collections from the current building at Colindale to a purpose built storage facility in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire. Access to the collection will still be provided via microfilm and digital copies at the main site at St Pancras, Colindale and Boston Spa. The archive is free to search. To view the content in a newspaper page image, there is a time limited pay per view or subscription package. See: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
arts Books Dance Craze – Rude Boys On The Road By Garry Bushell. Countdown Books. £9.99 This is a funny, informative and affectionate history of the rise and fall and rise again of the Rude Boys and finishes with an up-to-date epilogue of where and what the artists are doing now. The book is a fond memory of bands like the Specials, Selecter and Madness who took the pop world by surprise and created the 2-Tone Records revolution. Available from HMV record stores and through www.acidjazz.bigcartel.com Then They Came For Me – A Story of Injustice and Survival in Iran’s Most Notorious Prison By Maziar Bahari. One World Publications. £12.99 Journalist and film-maker Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, believing he would return to his pregnant fiancée in a few days. In fact he spent four months in Iran’s most notorious prison. Maziar’s account of his arrest, imprisonment and interrogation is an account of contemporary Iran and also a moving story of courage and an important reminder of the dangers faced by journalists around the world. To obtain the book at a 40% discount, enter NUJ as the discount code at checkout. Go to: www.oneworld-publications.com 80 Years Gone In A Flash – The Memoirs of a Photo Journalist By John Jochimsen. MX Publishing. £12.99 From presidents to royalty, war torn regions to stunning scenery, the camera of John Jochimsen has captured it all. Perhaps the last person left alive today who was with Queen Elizabeth the day she became Queen. John is one of the last remaining old school photojournalists. He provides an honest, witty and touching account of a colourful career spanning more than five decades. www.mxpublishing.com Boyling Point 2 By Frank Boyle. Argyll Publishing. £8.99 Political cartoonist of the Edinburgh Evening News since 1999, this is Frank
Boyle’s 3rd collection of his daily political and social comment. No one is safe. An exhibition of Frank Boyle’s cartoons will be at the Netherbow Arts Centre in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh from April 13 – June 5. To buy the book, go to https//bits.ly/tFMAwx
Remembering more than five decades as a press photographer
Frank Boyle’s collection of political and social comment
The Moon At The Bottom Of The Well By Justin Stares. Revel Barker Publishing. £9.99 Ennio Iacobucci, an illiterate Italian boy, spends his childhood as a slave in a monastery. Escaping to Rome, he works as a shoeshine boy and male prostitute. But a chance meeting with Reuters news agency correspondent Derek Wilson opens the door to a new life as a photo-journalist. Diaries and correspondence by both men were passed to the author, who chairs Brussels NUJ branch. His book reveals the intimate details of a turbulent relationship that could never be. www.themoonatthebottomofthe well.com
Music Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, IOW June 22, 23, 24. Three days non-camping £160. Camping £190 Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are this year’s headliners with other major acts like Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Elbow, Madness, Tinie Tempah, Joan Armatrading and a whole host of top name acts appearing over the three days. They are working with the EcoAction Partnership in aiming to make the event a Greener Festival award winner and by recycling drinks cans in their Make Every Can Count campaign to raise money, which will help fund a local disabled charity called Haylands Farm. A special wrist band is needed when ordering tickets for the festival, and those who fancy visiting the event can check out details through www.isleofwightfestival.com
PREVIEW Close The Coalhouse Door goes on tour Close The Coalhouse Door Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne. Starts April 13. £12.50 – £24
Going for green at Isle of Wight festival
One of the most successful stage shows ever created in the north east
of England is about to tour the UK. Actor and director Sam West directs Close The Coalhouse Door. Written by the late Alan Plater, it’s based on The Thin Seam by Durham pitman turned writer Sid Chaplin with music by songwriter Alex Glasgow. The show celebrates the spirit of the North East and is a ride through the strikes, victories and disappointments in British mining history from the formation of unions in 1831. Structured around joyful and heart-tugging songs inspired by working men’s’ anthems plus triumph over adversity. Playwright Lee Hall, who wrote Billy Elliott, the Pitmen Painters and co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, has been commissioned to revisit the piece with a new ending and a new song to bring it up to date. Dates after Newcastle upon Tyne: Richmond Theatre, Surrey, May 9-12; Lowry Theatre, Salford, May 15-19; Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, May 23 – 26; Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, May 29 – June 2; Gala Theatre, Durham, June 12 – 16; Playhouse, Oxford, June 19 – 23; Theatre Royal, York, June 26 – 30. www.northernstage.co.uk
theJournalist | 25
check out aspiring press barons So far, the idea of impeding obnoxious ownership of newspapers seems not to have engaged the Leveson Inquiry. Why should spivs or rascals be free to take over our organs of information? Aside from R. Murdoch, some dreadful characters have dominated (contaminated?) the print medium, among them Maxwell, Black and Desmond. The phenomenon is not new. In his recent book on World War ll All Hell Let Loose, Max Hastings reminds us that Lord Beaverbrook’s newspapers ‘denounced as provocative’ Warsaw’s defiance in the face of Hitler’s threats. Should we not, therefore, be seeking a turnstile that might preserve our industry from people of dubious character and venal ambition? I realise, of course, that governments will consort with scoundrels in return for favourable propaganda. (Remember Mrs Thatcher’s refusal to send Murdoch’s takeover of Times Newspapers to the Monopolies Commission). Yet I do think alternative turnstile ideas should be studied, involving assiduous background checks on would-be newspaper owners. That would be truly worthwhile journalism. Cal McCrystal (formerly Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday and Observer)
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Stop demonising gypsies Bob Rodney wants to know (Journalist December/January) what gypsy ever received a medal for action in any world war. He obviously hasn’t heard of worldfamous evangelist Rodney ‘Gypsy’ Smith (1860-1947) who was awarded the OBE by King George V for preaching and singing to British troops in trenches in France and Flanders during the First World War. Mr Rodney also wants to know of any gypsy who has been honoured by national groups. Has he never heard of John Bunyan (1628-88), tinker and author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, who penned his monumental work in Bedford Gaol, where he was imprisoned for his religious and political beliefs? Or ‘Romany Rye’ George Borrow (1803-81), author of Lavengro, which portrays rural life and working conditions in Victorian Britain. 26 | theJournalist
Today thousands of British and Irish gypsies and travellers are commited Christians belonging to religious denominations ranging from Catholicism to Methodism. They are human beings. They and their ancestors have contributed immeasurably to the cultural heritage of the British Isles. They do NOT deserve to be demonised. Nor should they be. Derek Parker Glasgow
Watch your language I note that in the December-January edition of The Journalist Jake Bowers refers to himself as a “Romany journalist.” I was puzzled therefore by his use of the term “Gypsy” in his otherwise excellent column. My understanding is that this term, despite its widespread use, is derogatory and offensive and to be avoided. I should also add that the column’s headline – Giving the media some Gyp
for a change – is incomprehensible to this non-British reader. Nathaniel Harrison Paris Branch
Hate speech against gypsies I was shocked to read the letters by Bob Rodney and David Hoppit in your latest issue (Dec/Jan 2012). Their remarks about gypsies were ignorant and prejudiced, and constitute hate speech. Would The Journalist consider printing similar views about Jewish people? I think not. And yet gypsies are still considered ‘fair game’ by far too many people in the media. I would urge Mr Rodney, Mr Hoppit and the staff of The Journalist to read ‘Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey’ by Isabel Fonseca – a groundbreaking piece of work which set out the gypsies’ troubled history, and explained many aspects of their current lifestyle and behaviour.
Perhaps becoming better-informed will make them ashamed of their past views. I certainly hope so. Kate Allen, London Magazine Branch One hopes the writer also managed to read the piece by Jake Bowers and the editorial comments in the last issue of The Journalist
Making the link The NUJ’s linking agreements with other unions are proving valuable, as I discovered when my post was declared redundant. UNISON, the recognised union for non-academic staff at my university, helped me negotiate a severance package and provided an independent financial advisor at no cost. And now that I’m setting up as a freelance PR consultant, the NUJ is helping me to create a website for the new business with a free training course. With more attacks on public sector jobs and conditions in the offing, it’s vital that PR and comms staff get whatever protection they can – and belonging to two unions for a single fee makes a lot of sense. Find out more about linking agreements from Publishing@NUJ.org.uk Nic Mitchell Chair, PR and Information Industrial Council
Avoid cliché images in Palestine I enjoyed the feature on the Palestinian press, especially when it alluded to censorship of content-gay rights. However I was amazed that your two images are of men and one with a gun. The text was complex yet one image was the usual cliché. Julia Pascal London Freelance
Keep those clichés coming in If you’ve got a good old ol’ cliché flaunt it; don’t be ashamed. You don’t need to put it in quotes and pretend it isn’t yours. “Hit the ground running”
(December Journalist) is such a good one you used it twice within about 60 words under another tired old favourite – “Baptism of Fire.” Contact me for a list of 150 cliches, which, if you string them consecutively, will help you avoid writing anything original or interesting. Fabian Acker London Freelance Watch out for more observations from Fabian in our next issue.
Pride in the NUJ It was good to see the Journalist carrying Phil Chamberlain’s article (December issue) on the media’s coverage of transgender people and the way poor reporting can affect lives. We have seen some improved attitudes to Lesbian, Gay and Bi-sexual issues, but transgender people still face massive prejudice and this happens at every stage of their lives, from school to the workplace. Recent official figures show that 88 per cent of transgender employees experience discrimination or harassment at work, and that hate crime against transgender people has risen in the last year by 14 per cent, with 357 recorded incidents.
Self-organisation amongst LGBT NUJ members has long been something to be proud of and so I am pleased to be able to report that we now have an online LGBT forum – NUJ Pride – which can be found at www.nujpride. org.uk. This forum aims to celebrate and support our LGBT members, providing a safe place for members to discuss issues which impact on their professional lives and their activity within the NUJ. The site also allows members to submit articles and news on LGBT issues and to find out more about NUJ activities. Registration only takes a few minutes and the forum is completely confidential. Lena Calvert NUJ Equality Officer
Root and branch reform? The North Wales Coast Branch membership viewed with alarm a warning from within that poorly attended branch meetings lacking the young and working journalists made for its uncertain future. A hardly functioning branch meant that ‘thought should be given to the branch’s sustainability’ (i.e. closur).
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
There was, it was said, a ‘general feeling’ from ‘current working journalists that the branch is stale’ with branch officers reappointed ‘on the nod’ and other ills.Thus, if nothing were done and life took its course ‘the need for the replacement of the present officers put the branch in peril by default’! In discussion (among the few attendees) this judgment could not really be gainsaid. But, what to do? Our Branch has distinctive difficulties: it caters for newspapers, PR, photographers, freelances and staffers et al along the 100 miles north coast, a ribbon of about 40 miles depth. I all makes things difficult; others will have different problems. Trade union branches stem from the tradesman’s guilds of the 18th century which organised to protect skills, paid benefits and expenses to journeymen from the members’ subscriptions; most of these functions have now ceased, leaving fewer reasons for branches to exist. They are still, though, part of a democratic process of the union, linking members to the union
Email your letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
leadership and bodies in the wider world, from students to pensioners, and are valuable as a contact point. The question; Can branches regain some of their former glories and attract members back to their midst or are we “Doomed.” Answers on a postcard. Roy Jones North Wales coast branch.
Interesting letter? The last Journalist had the top three letters from the NUJ Head of Publishing (flim-flam), a Green Party London Assembly candidate (Londoncentric agenda-driven flim-flam) and someone from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy telling us how to twitter. Then offerings from the Director of Focus For Change, two strange and mildly upsetting Daily Mail-esque rants about why travellers should be moved on,,and a final, and fair enough, letter warning of the health dangers of flash photography. Is that all there is for us to talk about? Really? Then God help us. Alan Cameron Glasgow Branch
theJournalist | 27
training Non Members
professional Training courses Members
Fri 10 Feb
Social Media For Journalists
Wed/Thur 22/23 Feb
Writing for the Web
Sat 3 Mar
Pitch and Deal
Thurs/Fri 15/16 Mar
Introduction to Subediting
Wed 21 Mar
Making Internet Journalism Pay
Mon 2 April
Business for Journalists
Tue 3 April
Economics for Journalists
Mon/Tue 23/24 April
Introduction to InDesign
Fri 27 April
Reporting the NHS
Wed/Thur 16/17 May
Build Your Own Website
Wed/Thur 13/14 Jun
Writing for the Web
Sat 16 Jun
Getting Started as a Freelance
Tues 19 Jun
Making Internet Journalism Pay
Fri 29 Jun
Develop a PR Strategy
To book a place on any of these courses or if you would like some advice or have any questions, please email email@example.com or telephone 020 7843 3730. You can view course outlines at www.nujtraining.org.uk
february-june 2012 London
The nuJ offers a wide variety of short courses in professional subjects. Whether you want to learn the best way to video blog or sell your services as a freelance, you can get to grips with the techniques you need over one or two days. The courses will help you increase and refresh your skills whether you’re at the start of your career or further along the professional path.
Lost Your Job? if you’ve lost a staff job you could be entitled to a free course. Bookings must be made within three months of losing a job and are free at the union’s discretion and subject to availability.
*For Students and members in their first year of employment
28 | theJournalist
Writing Your First Book Samantha Newsham When I was 21 I got an idea for a novel. But it wasn’t a very welldeveloped idea, and after six chapters of hardly any plot I gave up. Then I had another idea, which rambled on for 200,000 words before being scrapped. So with a third, (hopefully) semi-decent idea in mind, I jumped at the chance of a place on the ‘Writing Your First Book’ course. It didn’t disappoint. Admittedly, this wasn’t a course to teach you how to write. The assumption was that one could already do this as a journalist, somuch of the focus was on adapting journalistic skills to a different market. There were parts relating to structure and style of writing, but they
concentrated on how to make the most of the time you have available to write. Course tutor Brendan Foley shared the useful tip of breaking a book down into a series of 1,000 word chunks to make it easier to tackle. The main focus, though, was selling your draft: making it marketable and breaking into the publishing industry. We looked at the Amazon bestseller lists and were encouraged to fit our own ideas in there. Foley, himself a bestselling author, stressed the importance of being able to place a book somewhere specific in the bookshop and of comparing your ideas to something else that worked – ‘the same but different’ was the motto. As an exercise we jotted down a
few sentences summarising our book ideas and the reader demographics we would be targeting. They were shared with the group and Foley gave individual feedback on how best to target each one. Journalistic backgrounds were clear here as at least half the ideas sprang from topics people had already researched for features. I was the only one out of nine with an idea solidly based in fiction. I found this very instructive, both listening to others’ feedback and receiving my own – to my delight Foley pronounced my idea ‘very marketable indeed’. I came away equipped with a firm idea of where to go next, how to sell my idea and, most importantly, the belief that I could actually write a book after all.
NO TWITTER TWITS IN COURT
Michael Cross on the latest trends and kit
t looks as if the biggest revolution in courtroom reporting in my career is on hold. Thanks to the alleged actions of a so-called journalist, tweeting in court is back on probation just as we had assumed it was becoming the norm. In December last year, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, published guidance allowing the media to send textbased messages from English court hearings. The use of handheld devices is important for open justice, he said, and journalists and members of the public were welcome to ‘tweet as much as they please’. However individual trial judges have the power to ban Twitter at any time. The guidance was welcome for clearing up the rules, but it contains one anomaly. While the rules apply both to journalists and to ‘members of the public’, tweeters in the latter category must ask permission first. This distinction raised hackles among the likes of legal bloggers. It worries me a little, too. Famously, in English law journalists enjoy access to courts not as insiders but as the eyes and ears of the general public, of which we are members. To me, privileges just for accredited journalists is a step towards official licensing of the press. Lord Judge way possibly swayed by
CHECKING IT OUT My news-editing desk has two
books permanently open. One is the Oxford English Dictionary, the other Who’s Who. Yes, weighty and expensive paper volumes. Also on the shelf in front of me is The Guardian and The Economist style guide, along with McNae’s (20th edition). At least three of these titles are available online, and one of them, Guardian Style, is free. Why am I still shelling out for dead tree products? Two answers. One is convenience – I’m much more likely
The use of handheld devices important for open justice
to check whether it’s home-owner, homeowner or home owner if the answer is there at a glance on paper, rather than if it involves a database search. The other answer is that when a paying subscription runs out, you have nothing. An out-dated reference book is some use. My Who’s Who is the 2008 edition, and it’s still good for checking the names and dates of birth of the people likely to pop up in my news stories. Of course, some online accounts are indispensible – the Companies House database www. companieshouse.gov.uk and the person-finding 192.com (which also taps details of company directors).
practical considerations. In most courts it’s easier for the judge to keep an eye on the press bench than the public gallery. Presumably the Lord Chief Justice also assumed that journalists would be more reliable than members of the public in matters like contempt. Alas, that assumption has been blown out of the water in the highest profile trial to take place since the new Twitter rules came in to force. Reporting restrictions are still in place as I write, but it seems a journalist has been responsible for tweeting evidence that had not been admitted and – incredibly – the name of a juror. (The juror was replaced and the attorney general notified of the journalist’s behaviour.) The judge in the case banned further tweets from inside the courtroom. It was not a good day for professional journalists. I’m not going to pretend that zipping 140-character updates directly from the press bench to your newspaper’s Twitter feed is great journalism. But it does help fulfill one of our most important roles, ensuring that justice is open. That’s all the more vital as traditional court reporting dies from lack of resources. But if we’re going to use this new medium in the most archaic of settings, let’s do it right.
Who’s Who is available online by personal subscription, but at £43 for three months I’ve chickened out every time I get close to placing an order. (A print and online set will sting you for £315.) I suspect however that the future is online and print working in tandem. I’m impressed with the extra material available online for McNae’s at the Oxford University Press online resource centre. Journalists should certainly test that their knowledge is up to date with the online flashcard glossary of legal terms. It’s free, by the way. Whether that is a good thing in the long term is another question entirely.
theJournalist | 29
Raymond Snoddy suggests a surprising alliance in the print industry
Here’s a modest proposal
he gloom surrounding the local newspaper industry is all too visible and real. Optimism usually means pointing out that not nearly as many titles have closed as the pessimists predicted. But if you look carefully enough you can find occasional shafts of sunlight. They can be seen in the form of two unusual people, both very different from each other. One is an expert in television and communications technology and the other is an octogenarian. No, not that octogenarian. This one is even older than Rupert Murdoch. The television technologist is, of course, Ashley Highfield, former head of technology at the BBC, who now runs Johnston Press without having had any previous experience of newspapers. Why did Johnston choose him and why, apart from the pile of currently undervalued Johnston Press shares on offer, did Highfield accept. He was already condemned for not unveiling a perfectly formed digital strategy on arrival in Edinburgh. Highfield’s main task is to move Johnston beyond its current heavy reliance on print. And here’s part of the good news. The new Johnston chief executive believes there is time to plan carefully and get the transformation right. On a cash-flow basis Johnston titles are decently profitable: the company is meeting repayments on the overhanging £350 million debt from the acquisition spree which happened to coincide with the top of the market.
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The company just looks like a basket case because the shares, which once soared to 480p, are now penny shares trundling along the bottom in the 5p to 6p range. That could all change if Highfield can turn Johnston into a disseminator of local news in all forms, and on all available devices.Failure to pull it off doesn’t bear thinking about. The other beam of sunshine comes, of course, with Sir Ray Tindle, owner of more than 200 mostly very small local community newspapers. He must be a Keynesian at heart because he has decided to launch his way out of the recession in the economy and in the newspaper business.
Every few weeks Sir Ray seems to launch, or buy, yet another newspaper
very few weeks Sir Ray seems to launch, or buy, yet another newspaper. Thanks to Tindle Newspapers the people of the Welsh border town of Chepstow and the outlying villages of Caldicot and St Arvans now have their own paid for paper. The Tindle launches have also included the Chingford Times in Essex and more are promised. Tindle titles tend to be deeply traditional with ads rather than news still surviving on a number of rural front pages. But how many other people in the developed world are actually launching newspapers at the moment rather than running as fast as possible in the opposite direction? The really interesting thing is that there is a rather tangible link between Sir Ray Tindle, aged 85 and the 46-yearold Highfield. Sir Ray, convinced that Johnston Press shares are undervalued bought around 6 per cent of the company more as a punt rather than trying to soften-up an acquisition target. The two should get their heads together with Highfield passing on his knowledge of the digital world and Sir Ray unveiling the alchemy of how you can launch newspapers in 2012. Together they could add up to more than the sum of the parts. firstname.lastname@example.org
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
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TheFebruary / March 2012 issue of the Journalist, the magazine of the national Union of Journalists