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www.nuj.org.uk | JULY/AUGUST 2014
rattling the cage The fight to free information
Contents Main feature
14 Freedom won or lost?
How effective FoI has been
y many measures the country’s fortunes (not counting football) are starting to look up at last after years of economic crisis and austerity. But not if you work at the BBC, where director general Tony Hall is still speaking the language of austerity long after many people stopped. He and his senior managers, all of whom receive substantial remuneration, have offered just a one per cent pay rise to staff at the corporation. The union has rejected it and is now balloting for strike action. There also looms another flashpoint at the BBC with the likely announcement of more than 500 job cuts across the news operation. It is to be hoped that there will be proper negotiation about any job losses but experienced reps fear that may not be the case. When Tony Hall took over as director general last year there was an air of expectation that he would change the culture of the BBC in the wake of so much controversy. But in terms of employment policy and practice it sadly looks a case of plus ça change. And in this edition of The Journalist we have another case of déjè vu with Newsquest. The local newspaper publisher is facing more strike action over job cuts and relocating editorial work away from the communities that work is aimed at. But at least the NUJ is experienced in fighting these familiar battles and the resolve of journalists is as strong as ever.
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Cover picture Ikon Images/Alamy
03 BBC ballots on strike
Corporation offers one per cent
04 Johnston Press refinances New move to cut debt
05 Strikes loom at Newsquest
Action over pay and relocation
06 Leicester goes for cut-price cricket Rate offered under minimum wage
08 Do no harm in health news
Special conference on health journalism
10 Let’s go to Liverpool
A visit to the north-west’s feisty city
12 Need to get out more?
Social needs of working at home
09 Michelle Stanistreet 21 NUJ and me 20 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 22-23
Raymond Snoddy Page 17
Letters 24-25 and Steve Bell
BBC strike ballot after ‘derisory’ pay offer
BC journalists are balloting for strike action after rejecting an offer of a ‘derisory’ one per cent pay rise. The ballot comes after BBC NUJ representatives passed a motion calling for an overhaul of the pay gap between programmemakers and senior management. The ballot is running to July 11th. The corporation’s one per cent offer is tied to a minimum of just £390 for those staff earning under £50,000. The ballot comes as BBC News, which employs about 8,000 people, is braced for more job cuts of about 600. BBC Radio has already announced 65 job losses. The motion also called for a ‘radical overhaul of executive pay and perks’, such as the ‘generous’ expense accounts and car
allowances that the senior managers enjoy. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, said: “The union has argued for a genuine alternative to the excessive payments to managers and the waste in the corporation. The NUJ condemns the BBC pay offer of one per cent. Unless there is a meaningful increase in the pay offer, with a settlement significantly more than the Retail Price Index, this group chapel agrees to move towards an industrial action ballot and commits to campaigning robustly for a strong ‘yes’ vote. “There are structural changes that can be made that would result in fair pay, and free up cash for programming. Our calculations show that if pay was capped at £150,000, this would free up £20 million which could be spent on journalism and programming. This would be to the benefit of the staff and licence payers.” A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re surprised that the NUJ has chosen to ballot their members whilst we are still in talks with the joint unions. The one per cent pay increase we have offered is in line with the public sector. It is structured to benefit our lowest paid staff and excludes senior managers. The reality of the licence fee settlement means that we are constrained financially.”
The corporation’s one per cent offer is tied to a minimum of just £390 for those staff earning under £50,000
Ex deputy general secretary dies
ormer NUJ deputy general secretary Eric Blott has died at the age of 85 near his home in Great Gransden, Bedfordshire. Eric collapsed from a suspected heart attack after a successful game of carpet bowls in the village hall. He had been a staunch
member of the NUJ and moved from the Oxford Mail to become its northern organiser based in York. He then became national organiser and then deputy general secretary to Ken Morgan. He left the union in the late 1970s to become the
magazine. A result is likely in November. The NUJ is the only trade union that elects the editor of its magazine. Elected periods of office last five
years, in common with other union elected staff positions. According to a timetable set by the finance committee, which needs to be ratified by the NEC,
paxman bows out after 25 years Jeremy Paxman stepped down in June after 25 years as Newsnight’s chief inquisitor. Paxman, who has made many politicians squirm with his persistent and robust questioning, said he was finally tired of working nights. He wanted to leave last year but stayed on while new editor Ian Katz was settling in. BBC sports editor moves into pr David Bond has left his role as the BBC’s sports editor to join Milltown Partners, the agency set up by the Prince of Wales former PR Paddy Haverson and ex-Google senior executive DJ Collins. Bond, the Daily Telegraph’s former sports editor, took the role at the BBC in December 2009, replacing Mihir Bose. Oldie contributors follow ingrams A number of contributors to The Oldie have quit in sympathy following the resignation of Richard Ingrams as editor. Ingrams resigned at the end of May after saying he was too old to attend a disciplinary hearing. He had been called to one by the magazine’s publisher James Pembroke
personnel manager at the Liverpool Post and then personnel director of TV Times. Eric left TV Times and took on a number of part- time roles and consultancy including editing the Commonwealth Press Union Journal.
Countdown for the editor’s election
he NUJ’s ruling executive council is soon expected to endorse a timetable for the election of the editor of The Journalist, the union’s
Glastonbury beats world cup staffing The BBC sent more staff to cover the Glastonbury Festival than the World Cup in Brazil. Some 300 staff went to the Somerset festival compared with 272 who went to Brazil. The BBC said it was trying to keep numbers down wherever possible, but each member of staff had a ‘clear and accountable role’ to bring hours of coverage from the festival.
applications are due by September 3rd. Ballot papers will be sent on October 1st. The ballot will close on November 5th, with the result due the day after.
E-books steal a march on print E-book sales will overtake those of printed books by 2018, according to the accountancy group PwC. The British consumer e-book market, which excludes professional and educational publications, is set to triple from £380 million to more than £1 billion over the next four years. theJournalist | 3
Johnston Press refinances to cut its debt by a third
in brief... Uncut editor goes after 17 years Allan Jones has stepped down as editor of monthly music and film magazine Uncut. He launched the magazine for IPC in 1997. He has been a music journalist since 1974, when he joined Melody Maker as a staff writer. He was editor of that now defunct music weekly from 1984 until he started Uncut. Investigative group chief leaves Christo Hird, editor of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism is leaving later this summer. Under Hird, who joined in December 2012 as interim editor, the bureau has seen several of its investigations aired on the BBC and published in The Guardian, The Independent and New York Times. EX lib dem pr edits two london papers Former Liberal Democrat PR Matt Withers is the new editor of the Islington and Hackney Gazettes. He joined the papers’ publisher Archant as executive editor of digital for London in March. Before that he worked as a media and PR officer for the Lib Dems for a year and a half. Withers started his career as a trainee reporter at the Liverpool Echo in 2002. Mail pays damages to farage’s wife The Daily Mail has paid damages and legal costs to the wife of UKIP leader Nigel Farage after wrongly reporting that he began his relationship with her whilst still with his first wife. The paper said: “We are happy to clarify that they met only after the divorce was finalised and apologise for any distress caused. digital mag for ‘serious gym-goers’ Jon Lipsey, former editor of Men’s Fitness, has launched a new digital fitness magazine for men. Lipsey is publishing director of IronLife, which is aimed at “serious gym-goers who want to train smarter” and includes films and features about training, nutrition and supplements. 4 | theJournalist
In the past two years it has shed almost 1,600 staff
ohnston Press has established a £360 million refinancing package to cut its debt burden by more than a third. The publisher has also agreed a regional advertising partnership with Sky, which is also taking a 1.6 per cent stake in return for a £5 million investment in the publisher. Under the deal local businesses will be able to run highly targeted TV ads. The refinancing, which has been backed by shareholders, includes a £137.7 million rights issue; new bonds to raise £220 million and a £25 million revolving credit facility. The arrangements are expected to cut debt from £311 million to £197 million with substantial reductions in annual interest payments. Under the terms of the advertising link-up, Sky will
make its AdSmart local TV adtargeting product available to Johnston Press’s sales team. Local businesses will be able to book ad campaigns that run across the newspapers supported by TV ads which
payments for top-level management. “Worryingly, the company has stated its intention to extend the target-driven culture by introducing performance related pay for
are aimed at local markets. But the publisher has come under fire from the union over bonuses paid to managers. NUJ Johnston Press group chapel said: “These bonuses will be hard to swallow for our members, who continue to face unmanageable workloads and stress. The bonuses are linked to performance targets, so it seems that the hard work of staff at the company will be used to secure huge
editorial staff, a system we feel would be unworkable and unfair. It is also worrying that the JP management is being incentivised to introduce editorial policies which undermine quality journalism and photography by increasing ‘user generated content’.” The newspaper group reduced its staff year-on-year by 13 per cent to 4,188. In the past two years it has shed almost 1,600 staff.
Go Forth, New journalist apprentices
orth Valley College in Stirling has launched Scotland’s first Modern Apprenticeship in Digital Journalism developed by the NUJ, working with the Sector Skills Council, Creative Skillset and facilitated by
Skills Development Scotland. Scottish industry is expected to recruit up to 50 digital journalism modern apprenticeships across Newsquest, Johnston Press, Scottish Provincial Press, BBC, STV and Romanes Media
Group.NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: “The news industry is not dying, but it is changing. We are doing our bit to help the industry adapt and adopt new ways to deliver the news.”
Future cuts 200 jobs after £30m loss
uture Publishing is to cut more than 200 jobs after reporting a £30.6 million pre-tax loss for the six months to March. It is to cut more than 170 jobs in the UK and 40 roles have already gone in the United States. The cuts came as it announced plans to sell its sports and crafts titles to Immediate Media in a £24 million deal. The losses were recorded after Future wrote down the value of print assets by £26 million. Overall revenues fell 11 per cent year on year but digital and nonadvertising sales rose nine per cent to £16.8 million. Peter Allen, Future’s chairman, said: “In the UK we are currently consulting with staff on a transformative restructuring programme which the board believes will simplify our business, allowing it to thrive in an increasingly digital and mobile age, with a renewed focus on revenue and margin growth in core sectors.”
Strikes loom at many Newsquest UK titles
nion chapels at many Newsquest titles have balloted for strike action in a series of separate disputes over the company’s plans to move editorial production work to subbing hubs, the closure of newspapers, and pay. The ballots include Newsquest titles in the north west; London; Sussex; and Hampshire. In all, 150 journalists were balloted. Journalists on the South London Guardian papers voted 100 per cent for strike action. The dispute concerns pay – there has been only one pay increase in six years – the closure of the Elmbridge Guardian and the Twickenham office and loss of posts. The Warrington chapel voted 93.1 per cent in favour of striking and the Blackburn chapel by 83.1 per cent. Titles include the Warrington
Guardian and Northwich Guardian, the Sale and Altrincham Messenger, Trafford, the Wirral Globe in Birkenhead, the St Helens Star, Bolton News, Bolton Journal, Bury Journal, Bury Times and the Lancashire Telegraph. Hampshire, which includes the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton, voted by 89.7 per cent for a strike. Two-thirds of NUJ members (63.6 per cent) at Newsquest Sussex, which includes the Brighton Argus, also voted to strike over the proposed transfer of editorial production to a subbing hub in Weymouth, redundancies, the effect on workloads and the risk to editorial quality. Newsquest journalists in Darlington, York and Bradford went on strike earlier this year over similar issues. Laura Davison, NUJ national organiser, said: “The ballots for strike action should be sending a strong message to the Newsquest management that their staff have had enough of pay freezes, job cuts and an attack on their professionalism. They want to see their local papers producing quality journalism at the heart of the communities they serve.” The first Newsquest strikes were scheduled for June 25 in London and the North West.
The ballots for strike action should be sending a strong message to the Newsquest management
Herefordshire papers shut down
he Hereford Journal, which incorporates the Ross on Wye and Leominster Journals, has closed. There will be no editorial redundancies as a result of
the closure, although owner Midland News Association said in April that 76 jobs – including 12 in editorial – were at risk of redundancy. An MNA spokesman said: “After 24 years of publishing
the Hereford Journal, we have reluctantly taken the decision to close the title.” The free paper had a circulation of more than 30,000. Chris Morley, the NUJ’s
New platform targets smartphones
ewsquest has launched a responsive mobile web platform across all of its 140 regional and local news titles in England and Wales including the Northern Echo and the Brighton Argus. Built and designed inhouse, the platform has been rolled out after trials in the south of England.
The new platform includes a new set of display advertising abilities for smartphones. Advertisers can now choose between buying joint desktop and mobile packages or mobile only. Newsquest digital media managing director Mark Smith commented on the move: “Like all publishers
we’ve seen an enormous increase in smartphone usage. Traffic has more than doubled in a year and it now accounts for more than a third of all our users. “Trials in the south of England showed that users not only like it but read more articles too.”
Midlands and Northern organiser, said the closures were a serious blow for Herefordshire and believed that local communities should have been consulted about the move.
politkovskaya murderers jailed A Russian court has sentenced two men found guilty of the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya to life imprisonment, and handed lengthy prison terms to three others involved in the killing. Rustam Makhmudov, a Chechen convicted of firing the fatal shots at Politkovskaya, and his uncle Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, accused of organising the hit, were jailed at Moscow city court. piketty swipes back at the FT Thomas Piketty, the French economist, has accused the FT of ‘ridiculous and dishonest’ criticism of his Capital in the Twenty First Century book on inequality, which has become a publishing sensation. The FT had accused Piketty of errors in transcribing numbers, as well as cherry-picking data or not using original sources. New York Times woman editor goes The first woman editor of the New York Times has been dismissed. Jill Abramson had been executive editor of the paper for three years. The publisher blamed ‘some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom’ for her departure. digital paper from cuban blogger Cuba’s prize-winning blogger Yoani Sanchez has launched the country’s first independent digital newspaper – 14ymedio. It is named after the year of its launch and the 14th floor of a Havana apartment block where Sanchez lives and works. britain slips in press freedom list Britain slipped in the global press freedom rankings after the government’s crackdown on the Guardian over its reporting of Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures. Freedom of Press 2014 is published by the US’s Freedom House, an NGO established in 1941 and ranks on democracy, human rights and press freedom. Britain fell from 31st place to 36th,ranking it alongside Malta and Slovakia. theJournalist | 5
No quick silver from Leicester Mercury
in brief... BBC introduces new Welsh website The BBC has launched a new Welsh language website. Cymru Fyw – Wales Live – is available on mobiles, tablets and computers, and includes a magazine section with blogs, picture galleries and opinions. BBC newscaster Huw Edwards, a native Welsh speaker, said it could be argued that Cymru Fyw is just as important as the launch of Radio Cymru in 1977 and S4C five years later. ups and downs of ‘quality’ accounts Operating profit for the Telegraph Media Group increased by £2.7 million last year to £61.2 million. The Guardian reported a loss of £30.9 million with the Times and Sunday Times showing operating losses of £5.9 million. mail ahead of sun for readership The Sun is losing out to the Mail group in the battle for readers, according to National Readership Survey figures. The NRS estimates that close to 14 million people read either the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday or Mail Online each week. Sun readership, including its paywall online edition, attracts around 12 million readers, down from 13.7 million last year..
award remembers stephen white Freelance journalist Christopher White has been awarded the NUJ Stephen White Award 2014.for “The complete guide to DNA for family historians”, published in 2013 by Your Family Tree Magazine. The award is presented annually in memory of Stephen White, a highly influential science communicator who died in 2010. 6 | theJournalist
If they place such low value on journalism, how can they possibly expect their readers to value their newspapers?
their readers will value their newspapers?” Richard Thomas says mildly: “I was surprised by the Mercury offer. I know the industry is going through hard times, but the notion of buying professional journalism for that price is ridiculous and insulting. “Of course, the problem is that in the end there will be people who will tolerate this sort of treatment in the hope that things will get better for them. “But unless journalists are prepared to take a stand for self-respect, things will only get worse.” The NUJ advises all freelances to check the union’s Freelance Fees Guide (http://www. londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?l anguage=en&country=UK§ion=Welco me) for comparison with what they are being offered. “It’s important to note that the guide lists recommended minimum rates,” says John Toner, “and also to remember that freelances are not a charity. They need to earn a living like everyone else.”
Taking to print to defend welfare state
he TUC is to produce an eightpage tabloid magazine to promote a campaign this summer against the government’s welfare ‘reforms’. It will use the personal stories to
show the importance of the welfare state in helping to maintain a decent standard of living. A TUC study of the attitude of union members to welfare ‘reform’ found that they tend to back reform because
they see it as targeting people who abuse the system. But they still support the basic principles of the welfare state as a national insurance system to which they contribute in case they fall on hard times
ILO backs NUJ on interns and freelances
he Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO) is considering publishing good practise guidelines on the treatment of unpaid workers and interns following an NUJ initiative at the recent Global Dialogue Forum in Geneva. The International Federation of Journalists was represented by Irish secretary Séamus Dooley (pictured), who secured the support of all global media, culture and entertainment unions to press for greater protection
for interns. The tripartite forum, which was attended by global employer and government representatives as well as unions, also agreed to affirm that competition law should not be used to restrict the employment rights of workers. Séamus said: “Our priority was to highlight the precarious nature of freelance work, the plight of interns and the abuse of competition law to prevent workers being represented by unions just because they are
freelance. We also managed to emphasise the need to address issues of gender inequality and lack of diversity in the media and cultural sectors. Trade unions can use the findings to apply pressure at national and EU level. The publication of good practice guidelines is a practical step and it would be a tangible benefit”.
local stories can lead to killings Two journalists are killed every week while doing their jobs, the International Federation of Journalists pointed out on World Press Freedom Day (May 3). Most are not war correspondents, but local journalists covering local stories.
hat’s the value of a quarter century of journalistic experience? The Leicester Mercury had an answer for Swansea-based freelance Richard Thomas when the paper contacted him to ask for coverage of four days of cricket. The paper offered him £150 for complete coverage of the whole event. The assignment would require his attendance at the match between 11 am and 6pm each day, with a 400-word daily report of play. Play could go on for an extra hour each day, but hey, who’s counting? NUJ freelance organiser John Toner is, for one. He did a quick calculation: “Pro rata, this works out at £5.30 per hour, which is well below the minimum wage. “We are all aware that certain publishers do not value the work of freelances, but this plumbs a new depth. “How can the Mercury’s owners, Local World, imagine that anyone could live on such a pitiful wage. If they place such low value on journalism, how can they possibly expect that
New training to match today’s growing needs
he union has launched a new programme of training courses, tutored by experts in their fields. The one and two-day practical courses are at special rates for NUJ members. More courses, including shorthand, will begin later this year. The new courses have been launched in response to the growing need of journalists and PRs to have a wider new range of skills to do their jobs and prosper in a competitive jobs market. Journalists now are increasingly expected to be as proficient in print as online and to be able to do broadcasting, such as podcasts, and filming for virtually every story they cover. Technical software can help with the job, but as new versions are adopted, today’s journalists need to update and upgrade their skills. Whether you want to learn to build a website, become a video-journalist, travel writer, publish a book or add PR skills to your freelance portfolio, the NUJ can help. Other courses include: video-journalism, feature writing, getting the most out of trade and business journalism, data journalism, getting started as a freelance and improving your English broadcasting skills. You can update your technical skills with courses such
as InDesign and Adobe Lightroom. Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “Keeping your journalism and technical skills up to date are vital in today’s fast-moving industry. Journalists increasingly have to create portfolio careers, using their journalistic skills in a range of ways. “The union’s competitively priced training courses will help you to keep on top of technology changes and add new professional strings to your bow. Our tutors are all journalists with a great wealth of experience and they will ensure you finish the course with new skills to enhance your career.” For details of courses and rates http:// www.nuj.org.uk/work/training/
Keeping your journalism and technical skills up to date are vital in today’s fast-moving industry
journalism in Wales - work produced in Wales, for an audience in Wales. The awards are free to enter and are organised by the Journalists’ Charity in Wales, the leading charity for all journalists in need.
The judges will look for entries in English and Welsh, which are compelling, revelatory, in the public interest, informative, exclusive, or entertaining. They will take into account journalistic skill,
professionalism and effort to bring new information to light, or efforts the journalist has taken to bring their story to life. Entries will be invited in July with shortlists due at the end of January 2015.
Orwell wins for Guardian and Alan Johnson journalism for his reporting from Syria. Alan Johnson, the former home secretary and former general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, won the book prize for his memoir This Boy about growing up in a poor single-parent household in London, firstly raised by his Mum and then when she died by his elder sister.
Allstar Picture Library/Alamy
wo Guardian journalists were recognised for their political journalism by the Orwell Prize awards. Executive editor of opinion Jonathan Freedland won the special prize for his writing, including for articles on Lee Rigby and Margaret Thatcher. Meanwhile, foreign correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad won the Orwell Prize for
Nationals end religious devotion Fleet Street has lost its last religious affairs correspondent after Ruth Gledhill’s position at The Times was made redundant. She had been with the paper for 27 years. The Daily Telegraph has a social and religious affairs editor, John Bingham, but Gledhill was the last full-time UK national newspaper reporter dedicated to covering religion. But BBC appoints new religious chief Caroline Wyatt has been appointed as the BBC News’s religious affairs correspondent after seven years working as a defence correspondent. She replaces Robert Pigott, who becomes a news correspondent.
Awards to honour Welsh journalism
ales is to have its own media awards for the first time in more than a decade. The Wales Media Awards 2015 (www.walesmediaawards. co.uk, Twitter @W_M_A) will celebrate great
Snow wins Charles wheeler award Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news presenter, won this year’s British Journalism Review Charles Wheeler Award for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcast Journalism. Snow has been the main presenter and face of Channel 4 News for the past 25 years. He was previously a foreign correspondent for ITN.
new statesman has new political head George Eaton is to succeed Rafael Behr as the political editor of the New Statesman. Behr is moving to The Guardian as a political columnist and writer, after joining the New Statesman from The Observer three years ago. Eaton joined the New Statesman as a graduate trainee five years ago and has been the editor of its rolling politics blog The Staggers. new editor for western press Ian Mean is the new editor of the Western Daily Press replacing Tim Dixon who takes on a new role of commercial editor at the paper. Mean, the former editor of the Gloucester Citizen, said he is looking forward to working with Dixon to develop new revenue streams, drive the paper’s sales and increase their online audience.
theJournalist | 7
Journalists aim to ‘First do no harm’ in health news
in brief... MID STAFFS by-word for failure now Health reporter Shaun Lintern described how the Mid Staffs scandal had become a by-word for NHS failure and how every health journalist needed to recognise the vital importance of their role.’ Warning over cutting corners Iain Chalmers’ James Lind Initiative campaigns for better health research standards. He explained how more people needed to become “protectors against bullshit” when it comes to treatment claims, as pressures on journalists to cut corners and use unchecked PR were increasing. BLOG KILL OR CURE? Health e-letter writer Roy Lilley outlined what journalism might become: “In the future people will put their own news together, and we have to think carefully about where that will put journalists. But content is king and you have to be authentic.” Stroke awareness Delegate John Matthews told how his life as a journalist changed after he had a stroke two years ago: “I couldn’t read but I could write”. He also appealed for journalists to talk to people with stroke, which currently rarely happens. CANCER DRUGS: ETHICS FIRST Anna Wagstaff, managing editor of Cancer World and Oxford Branch Chair, illustrated how cancer drug stories were often misleading and gave false hope and bad information, such as saying “no side effects” when liver failure and death were actually listed. Challenges of reporting in Africa Harry Dugmore said that health journalists in Africa have to balance the conflicting needs between being health educators to the public in the absence of reliable health information in countries facing massive health challenges such as South Africa where five million have died from AIDS/HIV. 8 | theJournalist
Good, practical outcomes so that any journalist or PR who has health dumped on them can turn to reliable resources
ealth journalists and PRs from across the UK and Europe heard how the perils facing health journalism could be addressed at an international conference on health journalism in May. They also heard about a growing determination to create a network for resources, training and support for all journalists and PRs cover health. First Do No Harm, which was organised by longstanding health campaigner and NUJ veteran John Lister (pictured) and former NHS PR Alan Taman at the University of Coventry, was structured with the intention of offering practical solutions. “We didn’t want this to be yet another academic conference, with academics standing up and talking to other academics,” said John. “We were determined to get
good, practical outcomes so that any journalist or PR who has health ‘dumped’ on them can turn to reliable resources and a network of other journalists.” The conference looked at subjects as diverse as the pitfalls of cancer reporting, the difficulties faced in weighing up medical evidence, and the use of blogs and the risks they posed for health journalists; through to lessons learned in covering the Mid-Staffs NHS scandal,
the ethics of PR in health, and the importance of networking for specialists and generalists. Topics were not confined to the UK, with international speakers showing how the problems facing health journalism could be found anywhere So could the threats to health services, which increasingly stretched health journalists could easily miss or give false credit to. Speakers were from the UK, Netherlands, Italy, USA, Canada, South Africa and India. The risks posed to health journalism are not unique: every specialism faces daunting cutbacks in training and support. But, for health, the consequences are unique: people’s health could be directly at risk from poor reporting. This conference proved there are health journalists and PRs determined to fight back.
Risks for NHS ‘Openness’ is Made Plain
onference speakers spelled out the very real risks for health journalism, PR, and also the health service itself when they were interviewed by the BBC’s Matthew Hill for a Radio 4 documentary. Matthew’s programme was putting the spotlight where NHS PRs are placed now under
the health service’s new “duty of candour”. In ‘Is Journalism Healthy?’, reporter Shaun Lintern recalled how many of the PRs he encountered at Mid Staffs were far from open and transparent. Health commentator Roy Lilley went further, saying NHS PRs would still
have to decide between telling the truth or telling it the way hospital boards wanted it told. Alan Taman added: “Remember, the NHS is huge – the odds of something happening against openness are quite high. We need to keep questioning to protect it.”
Towards a healthier future?
rganisers were given a clear remit by delegates to take the aims of the conference forward to benefit all journalists and PRs. The conference set out to advance health journalism and PR, and to further the work carried out already both by Alan Taman (pictured) for the NUJ (see Journalist, August 2013) and by John Lister for the European Health Journalism network (www.europeanhealthjournalism.com). The need to ensure that already excellent resources are made widely available is paramount, as is the need to campaign for better training and include anyone who “has to handle health” and not make this the preserve of the health specialist. Updates are posted on Twitter (@healthjournos, #forhealthj) and the EHJ website.
Michelle Stanistreet on why the corporation’s one per cent pay offer is unacceptable
BBC chiefs don’t get austerity’
t’s no surprise that many bosses warmed so readily to the opportunities proffered to them by the now well-worn ‘times of austerity’ tag that has become a convenient catch-all excuse for cutting budgets, slashing jobs and dressing up paltry pay offers as the best possible deal in the economic circumstances. As James Murdoch advised fellow business leaders when the credit crunch loomed – never waste the opportunity that an economic crisis affords to wield an axe. To hear the same lame justifications from the heads of our public service broadcaster is a tad more depressing. In our recent pay talks with director general Tony Hall, he made much of the need for the BBC to demonstrate to those in Whitehall and the broader public that the BBC ‘gets austerity’. This is why their pay offer this year is just one per cent for all staff earning below £50,000, tied to a minimum of just £390. With the renegotiations for the licence fee settlement and Charter Renewal looming on the horizon in the next two years, and a general election imminent, there is no choice, he says but to keep on ‘pressing the austerity and efficiency button.’ Even the collective sombre and sometimes pained faces of the DG, chief operating officer Anne Bulford and strategy director James Purnell could not convince the NUJ negotiating team that three individuals earning £1.2million between them have a clue about the impact years of pay stagnation are having on our members
working throughout the corporation. Our members don’t need to ‘get austerity’; they’re living it. Tony Hall earns £390 by the time he’s clocked up a couple of hours at his desk, and James Purnell pockets that by the time his late morning latte beckons. We are expected to believe that Whitehall mandarins have only one goal in sight for the BBC – keeping the pay bill at one per cent. The truth is that it is the rampant executive excess, shocking examples of waste and botched decisions that get licence fee payers, and parliamentarians for that matter, up in arms.
Rampant executive excess, shocking examples of waste and botched decisions
UJ members across the BBC have greeted the offer with the contempt it deserves. But we’ve also offered alternatives that would enable a fair pay deal to be done, and free up much-needed resources that can be focused on grassroots programming and journalism. Cap senior salaries at £150,000 – a handsome wage by anyone’s standards, and more than ample for the prime minister – and a whopping £20million would be injected into the BBC’s budget, this year and every year to come. It is this kind of radical reform that is needed if the BBC is to survive and flourish with its global reputation intact, and see off its political and commercial enemies who would love to see it snuffed out by a toxic combination of mismanagement and ceaseless cuts that are inevitably impacting on quality. And if the proposed further 70-plus job losses in radio, and the expected 500 job cuts in news, go ahead, it is inevitable that quality will be badly hit. That’s why in the coming weeks – during which time we will be balloting all NUJ members at the BBC – we’ll be building a public campaign in defence of public servicing broadcasting and for progressive change at the BBC, one that puts quality journalism and programming at its heart.
For all the latest news from the NUJ go to www.nuj.org.uk theJournalist | 09
Linda Harrison looks at the media in the north-west’s larger than life city
e always joke that in any international news story there’s usually a Scouser involved,” says Claire Hamilton, political reporter at BBC Radio Merseyside. “And if there isn’t, there’ll always be one nearby. You can’t beat the area for news, there’s always something going on.” Claire left home in rural Gloucestershire to go to Liverpool University15 years ago – and never went back. She says: “I did a politics degree and when I graduated I knew I wanted to stay.
10 | theJournalist
“Working as a journalist here is very rewarding. Politically, it’s very interesting but people also engage and listen to the radio. People in Liverpool tend to be well informed – they know who the mayor is and who their MP is. They care about what happens in their community. They’re also very funny.” Radio Merseyside has been on the airwaves since 1967 and was the BBC’s third local station. According to a BBC spokeswoman, the station prides itself on its close relationship with, and understanding of, the audience. Meanwhile, independent radio is also well represented by Radio City and CityTalk, owned by Bauer Publishing Group. “Liverpool is an incredible news patch,” says CityTalk journalist and presenter Mick Coyle. “Journalistically there’s always something happening to keep you on your toes. This might be something as serious as following the Hillsborough investigations, dealing with gun crime incidents, or it might be a glitzy showbiz bash like the Mobos. “All walks of life live in and around Liverpool. We meet an amazing variety of people on a daily basis.” Mick says Liverpool’s biggest asset is its people: “Their willingness to share stories with the community through the media is what has helped establish Radio City/ CityTalk as a true part of the city’s heartbeat.” The city’s main media employer is Trinity Mirror, which owns the Liverpool Echo and local free paper Metro. In December Trinity Mirror closed the long-standing Liverpool Post. Jade Wright, showbiz writer at the Liverpool Echo, says: “People really engage with the brands here, people read the Echo. I’m not sure every city has that. Our offices are based in the centre and people come in to tell us about stories. You also have the friendliest people in the world in Liverpool. If you ask someone for directions, they’ll not only stop to give the directions to you, they’ll draw you a map and walk round with you to show you the way.” Sport is obviously massive in Liverpool. Trinity Mirror has its Sport Media publishing business based in the city, which produces official products such as books, magazines and programmes for UK football clubs. Sports publisher ProgrammeMaster also has offices in Liverpool (its HQ is in London). It produces a number of magazines and matchday and event programmes plus web content and digital publications. It’s been Liverpool FC’s publishing partner since 2012 – producing matchday programme This is Anfield and the club’s official monthly magazine. The editorial team’s offices are in the same city centre building as the club. For websites and magazines, the popular SevenStreets is
words from the streets • CityTalk journalist and presenter Mick Coyle: “Liverpool’s greatest asset is its people. Friendly, funny, proud and passionate, it seems everyone has their own story to tell, even those who’ve suffered unbelievable hardship or tragedy.” • Jade Wright, showbiz writer at the Liverpool Echo: “There’s a lot going on in Liverpool, every night there’s so much variety – from very high brow at the Philharmonic Hall to university gigs.” • Mike Rickett, chair of the Liverpool branch of the NUJ: “Liverpool has become one of the most popular destinations for tourists, helped by the growth of cheap air travel. Its three universities are popular choices with the 7,000 or so foreign students who study here every year.” • Claire Hamilton, political reporter at BBC Radio Merseyside: “It’s a good place to bring up a family, people are very welcoming. I’ve always said I’ll leave Liverpool when I get bored, and I’m not bored yet…”
an independent online magazine with a print magazine, SevenStreets Almanac. Working with a team of local contributors, it offers news, opinion, reviews and features. “SevenStreets is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the media in Liverpool,” says Claire. “It’s the next most influential media after the main names.” Also online is Liverpool Confidential, while the Low Down magazine is an entertainment and listings guide. In addition, the city got a new local TV station this year – Bay TV Liverpool. Bay TV, operated by independent Mercury Press, broadcasts local programming over the internet. “The Merseyside region has always been a great place for news stories,” says Mike Studley, an NUJ Member of Honour and treasurer of the Merseyside branch who worked at the Liverpool Echo for more than 30 years. “Sadly they are often associated with social deprivation and unemployment, and of course crime, but it would be a great mistake to believe that’s the full picture. The national press has sometimes portrayed it that way but there’s so much that is positive about life here. “Since I moved to Merseyside in the mid-1970s there have been major changes – most for the better. Some were kick-started after the Toxteth riots in 1981 and more recently major redevelopments have transformed the city centre.” Mike says the cultural life stands out. “There’s great theatre, a world-class orchestra and the best collection of museums and galleries outside of London,” he adds. “Then there’s sport – Premiership football, first-class rugby, the Grand National... “In addition there are all sorts of initiatives involving a lot of ordinary people doing valuable work. This all adds up to there being a real buzz about the city – and that makes it a great place to work as a journalist.”
Mike Rickett, chair of the NUJ Liverpool branch and previously FoC of the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, adds: “At one time such was Liverpool’s importance as a news centre that virtually every national newspaper had an office here and Liverpool was considered the second most newsworthy region outside London. “That all changed with the shrinkage of the press, both nationally and regionally … sadly, not all change is good.” He adds that, historically, Liverpool has always been quite cosmopolitan. “It owes its character to the many nationalities that settled here,” he says. “Quite apart from the melting pot that resulted from Irish, Welsh and Scots communities mixing together and giving rise to the distinctive ‘Scouse’ accent, not to mention the dish of the same name!” Today, the city is a Mecca for tourists, students and shoppers. CityTalk’s Mick adds that Liverpool as a city has been transformed in recent years. “European investment saw the waterfront renovated and a £1bn shopping complex transformed the city centre,” he explains. “Transport links have also been massively improved… private businesses continue to thrive, and the International Festival of Business is being held in the city in 2014.” According to Claire, there’s nothing she doesn’t like about living in Liverpool. “It’s a really great city and you can live here relatively cheaply compared to London or even Manchester,” she says. “There’s better value housing, and a glass of wine is cheaper! Plus, there’s lots of free entertainment and lots of culture. “Every city has its problems, of course. But Liverpool just has a buzz about it. I like the energy of Liverpool, people don’t just sit around and wait for something to happen – they go out there and make it happen.”
where the work is • Trinity Mirror The company’s offices are in Old Hall Street in the city centre, from where it produces daily paper the Liverpool Echo and weekly title the Liverpool Post. It also publishes the Liverpool edition of free daily paper Metro. Other operations include the Trinity Mirror Sport Media business and several regional titles. • The BBC Radio Merseyside has about 40 staff plus 15 freelances and contributors at
its city centre studios. The broadcaster’s staff include journalists, presenters and broadcast assistants and almost all are from the area. The station has a weekly audience of about 357,000. • Bauer Publishing Group Hit music station Radio City has been going for about 40 years. Approximately 40 people, including eight newsroom staff, work in Radio City Tower at St John’s Beacon, which is home to three stations: Radio City, CityTalk and Magic.
theJournalist | 11
Need to get out more?
Ruth Addicott looks at the growing number of ways to make homeworking more productive, stimulating and sociable
olleagues. Who needs them? The number of people working from home has risen by almost a third in the last decade and increased by 13 per cent in the last five years, according to a report by the TUC last year. Just over four million employees worked at home in 2012. Nearly two thirds were male, but the majority of home-based jobs created in the last five years are done by women. We all know the benefits, but if the growth in co-working is anything to go by, it seems colleagues are still something we can’t live without. Aside from the banter and sense of camaraderie, one thing many freelances miss is creative input. Business coach Jayne Graham believes this can have a big impact on personal development and, after working from home herself for 10 years, she created Colleagues On Tap, a series of popup co-working spaces across the north east. The format is different to other co-working 12 | theJournalist
spaces in that people do their work in the morning, then after lunch take part in a discussion on how they can improve their business. It may not be the best time to bang out a feature, but it can offer inspiration. “The benefit is that by having an accountant, a PR person, a writer, somebody who sells online and a whole range of people working alongside each other, you get lots of different perspectives and experiences to throw into the pot,” says Jayne. “If you are working from home and only talk to your customers, you are not getting any opportunity to develop and it is the personal development in business that is massively lacking. It is those serendipitous conversations that happen over a cup of coffee that can actually revolutionise the way you do business.” The events cost £20 per day (including wifi, lunch, tea and coffee) and take place eight times a month in venues varying from offices to cinemas, hotels and libraries. Nearly 200 business owners regularly attend and there are
plans to roll them out across Northumberland and North Yorkshire. “It is not about the space, it’s about the people who are in it,” says Jayne. Whether it’s for a few hours on a Wednesday afternoon or five days in a row, more and more freelances are discovering the benefits of coworking. According to DeskMag, the number of co-working spaces has increased by 83 per cent worldwide over the past year and the number of users by 117 per cent. One place that is about ‘the space’ is Central Working in London. Described as a cross between an “upper class airport lounge, with serviced office space and a community coffee shop” it is definitely a more swanky alternative to the back bedroom. For £99 a month, members get access to various locations across London for up to four days a month as well as training, networking events and discounts from brands such as O2, Apple and MyHotel. Similar ventures are springing up nationwide
If you live on your own and don’t have an active social life you have got to make sure you have some social interaction
from Glasgow to Manchester, Leeds, Bath and Brighton. All offer wifi, tea and coffee, some offer sun decks, toast and soundproofed meeting rooms – the only difference is the price (and clientele) so it’s best to shop around. Newcastle Business Village has desks for hire in Newcastle city centre, for £5 (for up four hours) and £10 for a full day. There is a coffee lounge and a ‘Quiet Zone’. “Co-working is about experiencing that office environment and having people around to offer that bit of support,” says centre manager Li Ainley. The regular co-workers collaborate and also meet up to go out for a meal once a month. “They may not work in the same industry, but they know the pressures and how isolating it can be to work by yourself,” says Li. Phil Flaxton, business operation director of Work Wise UK, which organises National Work From Home Day, also believes interaction is important, even if it is via Skype or social media. “If you live on your own and don’t have an active social life you have got to make sure you have some social interaction,” says Phil. “I came across one group of self-employed people who were based all over the UK and on a Friday afternoon they all cracked open a bottle of beer and linked up on Skype.” While it has its advantages, social media can also be a distraction. In a recent survey by Webtrate, 59 per cent of people said they spent more time checking emails, social media and surfing the web while working from home, and more than 71 per cent said they would get more done if they could cut themselves off from the internet. If all you’re seeing all day is posts about people’s awards, promotions and personal triumphs, it can also become a bit grating, not to mention demoralising. One option is to reduce the time you spend online using a program such as Webtrate or Freedom Internet Blocker, the other is to get some perspective – go for a
run, walk the dog, volunteer or meet a friend for coffee – anything to stay in touch with the ‘real’ world and make it part of your daily routine. According to Terra Bohlmann, American business coach and author of ‘The Boss in Bunny Slippers: A Woman’s Guide To Leadership…While Working From Home’, sticking to a schedule is crucial. Terra uses Google calendar and online tools such as InfusionSoft, Dropbox and Google Mail which allow you to work on the go. She also suggests having a sign that says ‘work time’ on one side and ‘free time’ on the other and to flip it at the end of each day. “To me, this is the equivalent of driving home from the office, it triggers me to stop working and relax, it also helps me stay focused and not be tempted to do household chores,” she says. Another way to avoid interruption is to make it clear to family and friends that you are working. “Whenever I hosted an online meeting or webinar, my neighbour would decide to mow his lawn right outside my home office, it was almost comical,” says Terra. “We agreed on a time where he would mow his lawn and I don’t schedule web meetings during that time anymore.” Staying focused is one thing, sounding focused is another, especially when your
neighbour is going past on his Flymo. So how do you make your voice sound more professional when you’re working from a purpose built shed? According to former BBC broadcaster turned executive and voice coach, Jackie Arnold, “less is more”. Jackie says the mistake a lot of people make is calling ‘on the hoof’ without thinking about what they are going to say first. Whether you’re pitching a story or negotiating a fee, she says it is important not to gabble – speak slowly and give the other person space to think. “Take a couple of deep breaths before you start, to get your brain in gear and keep the messages short, clear and crisp,” she says. “When you speak slower it appears you are more in control, people will start to trust you and you’ll build up a relationship.” Another faux pas is answering the phone and saying ‘Hello?’. “I say ‘Jackie Arnold speaking’ or the organisation or the company I am working for,” she says. “I also hate ‘Amy speaking, how may I help you?’ Anything script-like is always a turn off!” Ultimately, the key is to be professional, clear and confident about your objectives – if you can do that you’ve got the foundations for a successful business.
You are what you wear One of the perks of working
from home is being able to wear what you want, but if you are finding it difficult to focus, it could have something to do with your outfit. According to image consultant, Jenny Bursin, people often let their standards slip and end up losing their identity. “People begin not to recognise themselves, they’ll look fleetingly in the mirror and think, is that me?,” she says. “If you’re out at work and come home and put your house slouch stuff on, that’s fine, but if you’re house slouching every day, you become a slouch, you begin to feel like one, talk like one and lose confidence.” Studies by psychologists
showed clothes can have a significant impact on focus and productivity and that we tend to adopt the characteristics we associate with what we are wearing (ie, if you’re in your gym kit you feel more active, if you’re in your pyjamas you’re ready for a nap). “If you’re looking healthy and feeling attractive, the way you answer the phone is going to be completely different to if you were feeling ill and in your pyjamas,” says Jenny. In terms of colours, red is linked to confidence,
blue to creativity and green to calmness. (If you’re going to the bank to ask for a loan, wear grey and green, she says, “green for the money and grey to say, ‘I’m serious, but I’m not trying to take control’.”) “People aren’t looking for a voice that is the Queen’s English like [Radio 4 newsreader] Charlotte Green’s, what they are looking for is somebody who they feel is listening, who is confident and able to give them something back and if you can be prepared for that in the way that you are feeling about yourself, you have pretty well got it made.”
theJournalist | 13
Freedom won or l Tim Dawson weighs up the power that Freedom of Information has given journalists against the frustrations
utting together a twentieth anniversary nostalgia feature about the takeover of chocolate manufacturers Rowntree gave Gavin Aitchison an idea. The confectioner’s demise still has deep resonances in York, where the paper Aitchison news edits, The Press, is based. The chocolatier once employed upwards of 10,000 staff in the city. “I thought that people in the area would be fascinated to know what actually happened in the run up to the takeover, so I put in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Cabinet Office for copies of all the original correspondence and minutes relating to Nestle’s successful bid,” he remembers. That was in 2008. His request was refused. Then in 2010, the BBC won an Information Tribunal case that secured release of Cabinet minutes relating to the 1986 ‘Westland helicopters crisis’. The judgement set out explicit criteria for which Cabinet documents should be published; Aitchison thought they were sufficient to reopen the Rowntree case. He applied again, and was turned down again. He appealed and eventually, after two tribunal hearings and five years after his original request, the information was granted. “We finally got the story last December”, he says. “It might not have rocked governments, but from our readers’ perspective, many of whom still feel very emotional about the case, our effort was easily justified”. Aitchison has a national reputation for his FoI reporting, but his story could have come from many UK newsrooms. In 2013 more than 15,000 stories appeared in British newspapers that mentioned Freedom of Information requests - and that figure, based on a search of a newspaper database, almost certainly understates the overall picture significantly. In that year – and these examples are plucked at random from the same source –the Daily Telegraph returns 799 stories that mentioned FoI, the Daily Mail 994, and the Yorkshire Post 259. And these are just the print editions. At the York Press, Aitchison estimates that he carries around 100 FoI based stories each year. Katherine Gundersen of the Campaign for Freedom of Information which campaigned for the legislation and continues to provide training in its use, says that the scale of change that FoI has made to journalists, since it became effective in 2005, is evident from the number of requests that are submitted. She says: “Around 40,000 requests a year are made, and we think that about a quarter of them are from journalists - it is a 14 | theJournalist
process that has become deeply embedded in our news culture.” Aitchison agrees. “All of York Press’ specialist reporters are FoI trained and I would guess that each of them is putting in a least one request each week.” He is sceptical, however, that ‘FoI stories’ are displacing other stories from the paper’s general news mix. “In many cases the stories we are covering are the same ones that we would run without FoI, but access to original documentation makes the stories themselves much better. With access to original email correspondence we can see how a decision was reached and who did or did not fall out over a proposal. Original material gives us more sco≠pe for adding authentic texture.” For those wishing to emulate Aitchison’s success, he recommends a desktop copy of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - it covers UK Government matters; a separate act of 2002 covers Scottish government bodies. Aitchison also suggests that every request you make mentions Section 16 of the act, which requires public bodies to ‘provide assistance’ to those seeking information. “Keeping this section in people’s minds means that we sometimes get a phone call the day after we make an application suggesting, say, that we ask about figures for a financial rather than a calendar year. It is much better than waiting for the 20 days, only to be knocked back”, he says. Happily, since FoI came into effect many organisations have started routinely publishing information that was previously only available via FoI requests. Aitchison cites York
not a pretty picture As well as their value
to journalists, Freedom of Information requests can also be useful in trades union campaigns. As a result of a series of FoI requests, for example, we now know a great deal more about spending on and by senior executives at the BBC. In the financial year 201213, for example, 141 senior BBC managers received an average of £5,240 in car allowances. Average payments of £1,510 were made on behalf of the same managers in 2012 to
fund their private health insurance. Most extraordinary of all, an FoI request revealed that the BBC spent £30,000 commissioning portraits of former director generals Greg Dyke and John Birt. “Our activists have long told us about the culture of profligacy at the top of the BBC,” says NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet. “Scrutinising the results of FoI requests has added a great deal more colour to that picture and it gives us an extra lever during
negotiations. It was thanks to an FoI application that we discovered the BBC’s sleight of hand in redesignating senior managers into the top grade of editorial staff, while keeping their higher pay and perks, to try and disguise just how many fat cats they employ. “Highlighting the way that BBC management appears to feel happy feathering their own nests while cutting the number of journalists employed has also given a lot more resonance with the public.”
City Council’s street-by-street parking fine statistics as an example. Not all journalists are unequivocal fans of the FoI legislation, however. Chris Wheal, veteran freelance and editor of numerous trade magazines over the years, says that in his experience FoI is that it is used to thwart enquiries, more than facilitating them. “I have usually been able to find a way to persuade civil servants or whoever to give the documents or data that I need. Sometimes persuasion alone does the trick, occasionally I need to ask several people the same question to apply a bit of pressure. Since FoI, however, the stock response from civil servants has been - ‘if you want that you are going to have to put in a FoI request’.”
his, Wheal suggests, is a ruse based on an understanding of the kind of deadlines to which journalists work. The FoI legislation requires that request recipients must respond within 20 days of application (although the release of actual information may take longer, or they might argue that a request is subject to one of the exemptions that allow information holders to turn down an application). Calculating that journalists’ work to more pressing deadlines, press officers may refer enquires to the Information Commissioner as a means to keep information back. Paul Hutcheon, the investigations editor at Scotland’s Sunday Herald, has some sympathy with Wheal’s point. “There is no question for me that press officers use FoI tactically. They often turn down what they know to be legitimate requests because reference to the Information Commissioner could take twelve to eighteen months, thereby neutering a story”. While Hutcheon says that more than 90 per cent of his stories are generated by developing contacts and sources, FoI remains what he calls a vital golf club. “FoI is like having a brilliant seven iron - but it is by no means the only club that I use”. Hutcheon should know - having taken arguably the biggest scalp yet with an FoI-related story. In 2005 he received a tip-off that David McLetchie, then leader of the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, was claiming taxi fares for travel between his home and the legal practice where he had a second job. Hutcheon made a request to see the receipts. This was turned down on the grounds that it would compromise the politician’s security. An appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner went in Hutcheon’s favour, however. The resulting scandal forced McLetchie’s resignation. At that time, Hutcheon was celebrated in FoI circles as the ‘Captain of the trawler men’ - journalists who made numerous, wide-ranging requests, the results of which they devoted hours to combing. His victory with McLetchie’s receipts led to nearly all Scottish parliamentary expenses
For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet – Tony Blair
theJournalist | 15
being published on the web. Since then, Hutcheon has become more targeted. “I don’t want to waste public servant’s time”, he says. “With rights come responsibilities and I need to feel that there is a good public-interest case for my requests”. He says that his best questions come when he has been guided by anonymous sources. “I will often approach a contact in an organisation and get them to help me out with my wording. They might say, if you ask in this or that way, you will produce better results.” He keeps a close eye on the Information Commissioner’s judgements too - for fresh ideas for lines of enquiry and to see the precedent’s they create around exemptions. Despite the enormous use that journalists are making of the act, there is always a potential threat to its operation. The Prime Minister who delivered the legislation, Tony Blair, famously rued his decision to make more information available. Writing in his autobiography he said: “The truth is that the FoI Act isn’t used, for the most part, by ‘the people’. It’s used by journalists. For political leaders, it’s like saying to someone who is hitting you over the head with a stick, ‘Hey, try this instead’, and handing them a mallet. The information is neither sought because the journalist is curious to know, nor given to bestow knowledge on ‘the people’. It’s used as a weapon.”
The most obvious way to restrict the act would be to introduce charges for making requests
It is a paradoxically candid assessment for a man who was famed for his persuasive skills. Be assured, however, FoI has plenty of opponents in high places who would dearly love to find some means by which to undermine these rights. “The most obvious way to restrict the act would be to introduce charges for making requests”, suggests Gundersen. In the Republic of Ireland, Freedom of Information legislation was enacted in 1997. In 2003, however, the legislation was amended to introduce changes for information requests. From that point on, the number of requests fell by 50%, despite the relatively modest Euros 15 charge. British governments have continued to make noises about ‘reforming’ the UK act ever since it started operation. But, Gundersen says, having handed journalists such an effective tool ministers are likely to find the opposition to change is vociferous. “It is no cause for complacency” suggests Gundersen, “but governments don’t generally enjoy pitting themselves against the entire media.” Whether Rowntree chocolate workers felt any less bitter about control of their destinies transferring from Yorkshire to Switzerland all those years ago is hard to say, of course. Hopefully, the knowledge that they had so doughty a campaigner as Aitchison in their corner was at least a modest sweetener.
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Raymond Snoddy asks if a competition could end the woes of newspapers
Longtitude prize for the press
he modern Longitude prize sounded initially like little more than a TV stunt. After all, even a £10 million pot is no more than a spit in the wind in trying to solve deadly serious issues such as how to fly aircraft without damaging the environment, or restoring movement to paralysed limbs. Prizes, garnished by noticeable sums of money, do however have the merit of getting people’s attention and concentrating effort on a particular problem. Maybe it’s time to consider funding a prize for anyone making the greatest contribution to solving the single most critical problem facing the newspaper industry. Lives may not be at risk but, in commercial terms, trying to find the answer to the conundrum of how to make money out of the internet is almost as intellectually challenging as the original Longitude competition in 1714. We have lots of prizes and awards, some more selfindulgent than others: Foreign coverage of the Year, Best Feature of 2014 and of course Scoop of the Year. You can already chalk in this year’s top scoop – the Sunday Times coverage of how Qatar won the 2022 World Cup. But unless the newspaper industry’s version of the longitude problem is solved, before long it may be difficult to fund the depth of investigative journalism that might even make Fifa president Sepp Blatter see sense. Designing such a prize would obviously not be easy, although prestige rather than cash could be the
currency. Individual newspapers have different interests and approaches and often the only thing they have in common are fearsome rivalries. Lots of experimentation is already going on, ranging from high subscription walls through metered access to wholly advertising funded models.
A way must be found to solve the newspaper industry’s enduring longitude problem
ut there is little sense of any systemic way of collecting and monitoring international best practice in this important arena. The original longitude prize and its modern TV successor both share the idea of going beyond conventional naval specialists and scientists, respectively. There could be people out there who know something unexpected that could provide the answer. Tapping into universal wisdom is a million times more likely in the age of the internet and the cloud. There could be a teenager out there with just the app in mind. And of course it would have to be a prize open to all-comers from all over the world because the problem is the same for newspapers almost everywhere. In the UK Newsworks is the obvious industry body to run such a contest. It should not be beyond the wit of man to frame such an undertaking. It could be a one-off, or a series of prizes and awards. There could even be an awards dinner, something that Newsworks has rather puritanically turned its back on so far. If prizes and awards, or even prize award-giving dinners, don’t appeal, how about endowing a Fellowship devoted to the search for an answer? On second thoughts perhaps asking academics to come up with creative solutions in real time is a step too far. What is not in doubt however is that, somehow, a way must be found to solve the newspaper industry’s enduring longitude problem.
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy theJournalist | 17
All’s fair in love, war and copyright James Fair on the pitfalls of writing about and quoting published work
can’t take any more of this, I exploded melodramatically to my girlfriend one evening late last year. What had driven me to this state of despair was an email I’d received from the publisher of a book called Tropical Nature – a work from which I’d asked permission to use a short extract in my book on how to be a travel writer. If I wanted to do that, the publisher suggested, then I’d better write a letter. It struck me as absurdly obstructive, and it was just the latest in a long line of responses to similar requests that were threatening to derail my efforts to bolster my book with some examples of great travel writing. When I was first asked to write the book (on the back of 12 years as the travel editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine), I decided that you could only write a practical guide to travel writing if you could quote examples of good practice. A quick reading of the relevant section of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 suggested I could do this thanks to something called ‘fair dealing’, though my editor did warn me that this was a slightly grey area. But the act seemed clear to me: “Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement and provided that the work has been made available to the public.”
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So, despite my editor’s concerns, I got on with writing the book. I used some 60 extracts of varying lengths, but once it was finished, I was told that I needed to get permission for them and there was no money in the budget to pay. OK, I thought – I’ll fire off some emails and wave ‘fair dealing’ in the publishers’ faces. That should do it. I should be so lucky. The first thing I found out was that book publishers would only permit ‘fair dealing’ once they knew details such as the book’s print run, its cover price and whether it was going to be translated into any dialects of Flemish. There was also the issue of how long the extract could be. The publisher of a book called Born to Run said that anything under 400 words was acceptable, while the agency that owns the copyright for My Family and other Animals took the view that more than 100 was too much. One publisher states on its website that anything under 200 words is OK. Some copyright holders proved surprisingly amenable. I was pessimistic about getting permission to quote from Peter Matthiessen’s travel epic The Snow Leopard, but the response was short and to the point: “I can’t see anything objectionable in your use of the material.” Newspapers took a different tack. Requests for copyright permission ended up with syndication departments, and pound signs no doubt lit up. They usually ignored my
But in the amount of time I’d spent getting permission for this one extract, I could have written half of Moby Dick
plea to use the extracts for free and my reference to ‘fair dealing’. I exchanged 20 emails with one person from a large media group until she finally consulted the legal department who agreed this “falls under fair dealing as you are critiquing the work.” Great – but in the amount of time I’d spent getting permission for this one extract, I could have written half of Moby Dick. Magazine publishers fell into two categories. Those of a relatively modest scale were mostly happy to say yes, but larger ones wanted me to pay. Again, sheer persistence eventually paid off. Though this process took almost as long as writing the book, I learned a lot. First, that ‘fair dealing’ depended on legal interpretation and, probably, how much money an organisation believed it could make out of its copyright. But I also learned that doggedness (as so often in journalism) usually pays off.
Travel Writing: The Expert Guide, by James Fair, is published by Robert Hale. £11.99
Why isn’t the beer talking? It’s our national drink and a thriving industry. But we don’t read much about it, says Sophie Atherton, a beer sommelier and drinks writer
etting paid to write about drinking beer has got to be one of the best gigs in journalism – but it has a few drawbacks. Given that there are more breweries in the UK than we’ve had since the Second World War (around 1,200, some 185 of which opened in the last 18 months) and sales of cask ale and other crafted brews are increasing while other booze becomes less popular, you’d think commissioning editors would be hip to the trend. But while nearly every national daily, and some regionals too, runs a wine column, regular coverage for beer is still a rarity. It’s even tricky to place beer features or news with a strong hook. It’s almost as if beer – our national drink, second only to a cup of tea – is viewed as second class, consumed only by the illiterate or wilfully ignorant, neither of which would have any desire to read about it. It’s not as if there’s nothing to say about beer. It’s a beverage enjoying
a renaissance, with dozens if not hundreds of stories to tell. The brewing industry is home to some of the most creative, innovative and interesting people a journalist could ever hope to come across in one place. The drink itself comes in an incredible array of styles, differing flavours and alcoholic strengths and is mostly a natural product with traceable provenance that is being cooked with, matched with food and enjoyed simply for the pleasure of drinking it – in such a way as to fit perfectly into the nation’s obsession with cookery programmes and celebrity chefs and yet it is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Which might explain the proliferation of beer blogs. Some of these, like my own and those by other journalists, are proof of what a struggle it is to achieve a commission for anything beer-related. Indeed, a journalist cannot survive on beer writing alone so most beer specialists also run tastings, do broadcast work, public speaking and sometimes also PR and marketing. So far, so lucrative you might be thinking. These beer writers must be raking it in – not to mention all the free beer they must get (Yes, we do. It is a marvellous perk of the job). And there’s the rub. To be a beer writer you must love beer and because of that there are those who seem to think we should work simply for the love of it. It’s true that most of us talk beer recreationally, but when it comes to providing expert opinion, or once we have an audience that’s either paid – or at least purposely turned up – it becomes a different matter.
These beer writers must be raking it in – not to mention all the free beer they must get
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked if I could spare 10 minutes – which actually means up to an hour – while someone picks my brains on [insert anything to do with beer]; then there are event organisers who wonder if I’d like to “give a talk because it’ll be free publicity for you,” without considering the cost of travelling 200 miles or the money I could be earning while I’m entertaining their punters for free. And perhaps worst of all, publications, usually online magazines or start-up print titles, who ask if you’ll support them by writing for nothing because you both want more publications about beer. I don’t know if it stems from a misguided belief that no one should be allowed to make a living doing something they enjoy or if it’s simply exploitation, but whatever it is I don’t write, speak or host things free and my opinion comes with a fee. I like to think that if all beer writers refused to work for nothing people might start to see the value of what we do and that might create more of a market for it. theJournalist | 19
crowdfunding means digital can pay
Rosie Niven on the latest trends and kit
igital technology has been blamed for undermining the traditional advertisingbased funding model for journalism. But it has also enabled crowdfunding, which is becoming a popular mechanism for journalists to raise money for pet projects. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Beacon have helped to launch niche publications, fund investigative journalism and have even helped an Italian freelance with the costs of covering the US presidential primaries. Freelance journalist and academic Ian Wylie has been involved in two campaigns to raise funds for start-up publications through Kickstarter. Northern Correspondent, which aims to tell stories from the north of England, raised almost £3,500 for the first issue, breaking its target by £1,000. With the second campaign, to launch alternative comedy magazine Stand & Deliver, Wylie and his team are aiming to raise £2,500. Launching a new publication is a risky and expensive business, but Wylie says that crowdfunding platforms could give more people the confidence to do so. “Kickstarter removes much of that risk,” he explains. “If you don’t raise the
preview freelance digital tools Google Forms https://drive.google.com/ Google Drive allows you to set up a custom designed form to input data straight into a spreadsheet. I have set up a simple form to record expenses when I am on the move, which I can access via a link from my mobile phone desktop. Price: Free Alternatives: You can find expenses trackers on Android Play store and iOS App Store.
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For all crowdfunded journalism, the challenge will be for it to become sustainable
Freeagent www.freeagent.com/ Freeagent is a browser-based accounts tool offering invoicing, payment tracking, accounts and a facility for recording expenses. It is now possible for sole traders to file self-assessment tax returns directly to HMRC from Freeagent – a fantastic time saving addition. Price: Freeagent currently costs £16.20 per month for sole traders following a free trial period. Alternatives: KashFlow starts at £5 a month while PayMo offers a very basic free package.
money, you just go back to the drawing board – if you do raise the money, you can proceed with confidence in commissioning content, booking printing slots and so on.” Contributoria, a digital platform for journalists to get their work funded and published, offers a different approach to crowdfunding to the likes of Kickstarter. Since its launch in January, Contributoria has funded thousands of pounds worth of stories, with the journalists who have been commissioned setting their own fees. For its July issue, Contributoria community members backed 39 stories worth more than £16,000 in total. Joint founder Sarah Hartley says the emphasis at Contributoria is ‘funding quality work’ with many of those commissioned earning more than standard NUJ rates. She says that she doubts such a platform would have been possible even five years ago. “The whole concept of people who don’t know each other coming together to purchase things was not within our consciousness to the extent that it is now,” she notes. For all crowdfunded journalism, the challenge will be for it to become sustainable. For that to happen the pool of people willing to pay for quality online journalism must grow.
Dropbox www.dropbox.com For the many freelances who have to work from a number of different locations, a decent filing system is essential. Dropbox will allow you to save documents in ‘the cloud’ via your desktop, browser or a mobile phone app. You are allowed up to 2GB storage before you have to pay any fees. Price: Free for the Basic account and US$9.99 per month for a Pro account. Alternatives: Google Drive.
Paul Mason is Economics Editor at Channel 4 News and a former Newsnight Economics Editor
the nuj and me What made you become a journalist?
What is the worst place you’ve ever worked in?
Failing to make it as a classical music composer and not wanting to starve.
I once screen-tested to present a documentary television series that turned out to involve cajoling vulnerable people into making fools of themselves. That genre is now called structured reality. Thankfully I wasn’t successful.
What other job might you have done/have you done? I was music director of a provincial theatre, the Phoenix in Leicester. When the council decided to close it, the cast and crew briefly occupied it.
When did you join the NUJ and why? I started as a freelance layout sub: I joined London Freelance Branch as soon as I could. The meetings were big and feisty.
Are many of your friends in the union? I am not a big figure on the NUJ social scene!
What’s been your best moment in your career? Presenting Newsnight: Paul: “Don’t you worry about some of the activities depicted in Fifty Shades Of Grey?” E.L. James: “It’s a story about love.” Paul: “It’s about love – and fisting.”
And in the union? When we struck to defend our pensions at the BBC and won significant concessions.
Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy
And the worst ones? At work: the Newsnight debacle. I still don’t think Pollard got to the bottom of what the BBC management was up to over Savile: so much of their evidence is redacted. In the union: the murder of Marty O’Hagan.
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite to a dinner party? Ben Hecht, Phil Silvers, Rita Hayworth, Dolores Del Rio, Marlon Brando, and (Brando’s teacher) Stella Adler. We would talk about the movies and politics.
And the best?
What was your earliest political thought?
Newsnight before its funding was slashed – and Channel 4 News now, which is on a roll in terms of awards and it has a newsroom that matches intensity with humour in the required amounts.
Aged 10 I played a newsboy in Noel Coward’s This Happy Breed. There’s a communist agitator who castigates capitalism in it and I remember thinking: he’s right. I didn’t realise it was supposed to be a caricature.
What advice would you give someone starting in journalism?
What are your hopes for journalism over the next five years?
Don’t get obsessed with ‘fairness, balance, impartiality’, and also political correctness and checking your privilege. Journalism is about truth first, legal compliance second and that’s it. Accuracy is just a subset of truth. Everything else is only an excuse to let ideologists meddle with your reporting.
That new people, new platforms, new ways of telling stories finally blow away the decrepit structures and traditions that are strangling journalism. That we come to see propaganda masquerading as news as a bad dream...
What advice would you give a new freelance?
That in the process, the values of decency, patience, accuracy, literacy and respect we learned from Fleet Street and public service broadcasting get lost.
Become known for doing one thing, whatever it is, supremely well. Specialise.
Who would you most like to see in the NUJ?
Who is your biggest hero?
Russell Brand, if he’s not already a member.
Ken Loach. His movies always confront head on the subjects that journalism has failed properly to cover.
How would you like to be remembered?
For being way too alarmist about the potential return of fascism and social collapse in the late 2010s.
It’s sub judice
theJournalist | 21
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
indepth COMMON PEOPLE Pulp and the voices of Sheffield
e gig eir last ever liv lp perform th
fronts as Pu Jarvis Cocker
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This summer, miners’ bravery in art and theatre is celebrated, employment struggles of the 1970s and 80s are marked in pictures, there is immersive WW1 theatre in a Welsh forest, the return of the Belarus Free Theatre, and a look at challenges facing the UN. Exhibitions Coal People’s History Museum, Manchester Until 27 July This installation of paintings, put together as a tribute to the militancy and bravery of miners and their families during the miners’ strike, features the work of socialist artist Nicholas Baldion. Baldion uses a mixture of archive material and pictorial recreation based on witness accounts as source material, with each painting looking at a different aspect of the strike. The paintings also depict the excitement of a solidarity demo, the pulling together of a community in the face of hardship
A new film demonstrates the profound
effect that pop band Pulp has had on their native Sheffield On 8 December 2012, Pulp, perhaps best known for the anthems ‘Common People’ and ‘Disco 2000’, performed a homecoming gig at the city’s Motorpoint Arena, 25 years after first finding fame. This was to be, the band had decided, their last ever gig. It is the footage of this show that opens the film Pulp: A Film about Life, Death and Supermarkets, and that is woven throughout it, along with archival footage of various gigs. Fronted by the charismatic songwriter and vocalist Jarvis Cocker, Pulp’s gigs are simultaneously carefree and electric; unraveling toilet rolls fly through the packed-out venues like confetti and Cocker struts across the stage in his trademark jerky-catwalk manner. But this film is as much about the streets all around the Motorpoint and the people who inhabit them; threaded through this philosophical music documentary are interviews with the residents of Sheffield. Like Cocker himself through his lyrics, the filmmakers are interested in giving a voice to ‘ordinary’, working-class people. Among the interviewees are a knife-maker, newspaper vendor, public swimming pool users and a librarian. Explaining what Pulp’s nostalgic song ‘Help the Aged’ means to her, the librarian
and the sheer determination and spirit of miners and their supporters as they faced the venom of the media and the brutality of Thatcher’s state. www.phm.org.uk Spotlight: Chris Killip Tate Britain Until 28 September Chris Killip was at the forefront of a generation of photographers interested in documenting the political and social issues of workingclass communities in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a co-founder and director of Newcastle’s Side Gallery, while his critically celebrated publications include Isle of Man and In Flagrante. Killip often immersed himself in communities for long periods of time and many of the photographs in the exhibition are as a result of this. They include poignant images that depict unemployment in coastal communities – such as the people of Lynemouth, Northumberland, who supported themselves by collecting coal from the sea. www.tate.org.uk
declares: ‘It says what I feel.’ This sentiment is a common theme. In some of the more dream-like sequences, three young children can be seen hearing and gleefully responding to a Pulp song for the first time. Later, a group of 10 pensioners sing ‘Help The Aged’ under the artificial light of a greasy spoon, accompanied on guitar by the chef while being served chips by the waitress. ‘I was trying to imagine,’ explains Cocker on that particular song, ‘what it will be like for our generation when we become old. We think it will never happen to us.’ Also contributing to the bigger picture of the band’s motivations and stories are Candida Doyle (keyboards), Mark Webber (guitar and keyboards), Steve Mackey (bass guitar) and Nick Banks (drums). They are very open about the various challenges the band faced over the years, personally and artistically. This unselfconscious, frank tone runs throughout the film, and it certainly seems fitting that a film about Pulp should offer an honest portrayal of the lives of the ordinary, working people of Sheffield. The film was released at the recent Sheffield International Documentary Festival. www.pulpthefilm.com Amy Powell-Yeates
arts Theatre Wonderland Hampstead Theatre Until 26 July It’s 1984. In the Midlands, two young lads are about to learn of the close camaraderie of what it is to be a miner. Meanwhile in London, a conflicted Tory MP, a brash American CEO and an eccentric maverick are the face of a Conservative government. As the two sides clash, the miners fight for their livelihoods and families. Marking the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike, Beth Steel’s epic drama presents the full sweep of the turbulent events that transformed the country – from the corridors of Westminster, to pitched battles with the police, to the coal faces of Nottinghamshire. www.hampsteadtheatre.com Mametz Great Llancayo Upper Wood near Usk, Monmouthshire To 5 July This large-scale, site-specific production performed in ancient woodland near Usk, Monmouthshire, aims to give audiences a vivid glimpse into life, and death, in the trenches and battlefields of the Somme. Playwright and poet Owen Sheers draws on written material by the poets who fought in or witnessed one of the war’s bloodiest conflicts: the Battle of Mametz Wood, in which 4,000 of the 38th (Welsh) Division were killed or wounded. Among the soldiers who took part were several key Welsh and English war poets, including Robert Graves, David Jones, Siegfried Sassoon and Llewelyn Wyn Griffith. www.nationaltheatrewales.org Red Forest Young Vic Theatre To 5 July After the Chernobyl disaster, radiation swept the land like a plague, turning forests a poisonous red. Today, environmental disasters, both natural and man-made, sweep across the world like nuclear fallout; from Nigeria to Bangladesh, the Amazon to Australia, people are displaced and lives are destroyed by droughts, floods and oil spills. In Red Forest, we meet Aisha who, forced to flee her village and give birth to her baby girl in the Sahara, crosses the globe in search of shelter. But to find it, she must
overcome the terrible cruelties of nature and man. The award-winning Belarus Free Theatre return with this world premiere, sharing extraordinary true stories woven together with myths, legends and hypnotic live music. www.youngvic.org
Owen Sheers transports us back to the Battle of Mametz Wood
Socialist artist Nicholas Baldion on display at the Tate
Books Failing to Protect: The UN and the Politicisation of Human Rights Rosa Freedman (C Hurst & Co, £50 hardback, £16.99 paperback) Every year, tens of millions of individuals suffer grave abuses of their human rights. The United Nations was established to safeguard world peace and security, development and human rights, yet it is undeniable that it is failing to protect many people. Using examples intertwined with explanations of the law and politics of the UN, Rosa Freedman offers explanations of why this has occurred. www.hurstpublishers.com A Dictionary of Journalism Tony Harcup (Oxford University Press £12.99) NUJ member and academic Tony Harcup covers more than 1,400
entries on terms that are likely to be encountered by students, and aims to offer a broad, accessible point of reference. Assuming little or no prior knowledge, it covers terminology of the practice, business, and technology of journalism, as well as its concepts and theories, organisations and institutions, publications, and events. www.ukcatalogue.oup.com Opening Baltic Street Adventure Playground Dalmarnock, Glasgow Open now, free entry Dalmarnock will host the main venues of the 2014 Commonwealth Games yet has little local provision for young people, with 55 per cent of children living below the poverty line. Inspired by the post-war adventure play movement, this project has been developed by the design and architecture collective Assemble and Create London in collaboration with Dalmarnock Community Centre, construction training centre First Steps Future Skills, and local children and families. The aim is to create a child-led space where youngsters can build, adapt and change their environment to suit their needs. www.balticstreetadventureplay.co.uk
preview Marxism 2014 London 10-14 July 2014 This buzzing festival of events, discussions and debate is well
The miners strike retold in a new play by Beth Steel
Join the debates: Marxism 2014
worth a visit in July. Particular highlights this year include Ten Years On: Remembering Paul Foot, a special memorial meeting to celebrate the life and politics of the journalist and campaigner for social justice. The meeting will be hosted by Matt Foot and he will be joined by journalist John Pilger, civil liberties campaigner Darcus Howe and human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce. Another highlight will be the appearance of antiApartheid campaigner and Labour MP Peter Hain to discuss the future of South Africa. Themes for this year’s packed programme include 1920s -1980s: miners’ struggles in Britain; 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall; Defending the welfare state; Revolutionaries and World War I; Class struggle in Britain; and Unravelling capitalism, to name but a few. To complement the discussions, a number of films will also be screened; films exploring injustice in South Africa – Where Next for South Africa? and Miners Shot Down – will screen as a double bill. Meanwhile, fresh from its launch at Sheffield Doc/Fest, Still the Enemy Within explores the miners’ strike of 1984. www.marxismfestival.org.uk
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miners, spies and suffering families I enjoyed Barrie Clement’s feature on the miners’ strike (May/June). Margaret Thatcher used the police as her stormtroopers and I was dismayed to see such police brutality. One top copper bought a big house and boasted that he got it on the strength of overtime and special allowances while on duty in the coalfields. I don’t want to sound like one of ‘Smiley’s People’ but I was also approached by the security services. An elderly gentleman took me to lunch to hear my views and was clearly upset when I said I was on the side of the miners. I said I was no admirer of Scargill but I was horrified at the way Thatcher was treating the miners. I never heard from him again and when I tried to contact his organisation it was no shock that the business card he gave me was useless. Yes, the story was ‘meat and drink’ for journalists but I did not enjoy any of it. I recall the financial suffering of the families and saw how they were divided. I wrote a front page exclusive in 1982 (two years before the strike) detailing how Maggie planned to beat the miners and during the dispute I revealed how the Coal Board was planning to close 75 pits. It took 25 years before that was confirmed in the Cabinet Papers released by the National Archives. Fortunately my mole was never discovered. That was probably why the Special Branch treated me to lunch. Terry Pattinson Daily Mirror Industrial Editor 1984-93
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Grassroots Scottish action started the miners’ strike I covered the miners’ strike as the Guardian’s Scotland correspondent. It started at Polmaise Colliery a year before the national strike after the miners were told it was to be closed. They invaded a meeting of the Scottish executive of the NUM to demand support. Arthur Scargill was being pushed into a strike from the grassroots. The Scots became divided. ‘Which side are you on?’ was a question frequently asked. I knew my phone was bugged, because I had it tested. And the miners knew the same. They couldn’t talk about picket plans because the police would arrive in force before them. Like other reporters I spent most of my time then on picket lines, keeping
up to date with visits to miners’ welfare clubs (which always had a secure, welcoming feel) but they were not really safe. Leaving one in Stirling, I found a police car waiting for me outside, and it followed me home. I later wrote a book – Never the Same Again – about the organised support given by the miners’ wives, the national and international travel and speechmaking, their positive spirit and the way it changed their futures. Jean Stead Former assistant editor of the Guardian
Why seek free work from ‘proper’ photographers? The supplement Freelance regularly rails against companies who expect NUJ members to provide their work for free. Editors are castigated for dangling
the pathetic promise of exposure in front of professional hacks by way of recompense. Indeed the May 2014 issue of Freelance makes two direct references to this practice (pages 2 and 3). But what’s this? Later on in the same issue, a bumptious request, by Freelance, for ‘proper’ photographers to submit generic shots of three specific locations for future publication, which the supplement regrets ‘having no budget for’ How do you justify this? Oh yes, by suggesting the exercise might offer some useful exposure: “an Indy editor did ring us in a panic a few years back looking to buy a photo that had been in the Freelance. And if we’re desperate for images of these particular places, somebody with a budget is too, and likely to find them among our web pages”.
Could someone explain to the dim bulb behind this request that not only are they undermining everything the NUJ stands for, but also when the inevitable article appears in Private Eye they will be exposing the union to ridicule. Nick Wallis Freelance NUJ member The editors of London Freelance Branch’s newsletter The Freelance write: We do think there is an important difference between publications produced for profit – or even for vanity – and a branch newsletter for members. Traditionally, some members have chosen to contribute words and pictures to their branch as acts of solidarity with fellow members. We apologise if our parody of for-profit papers’ pitches caused offence.
Readers want their own local news in the valleys In the 1960s journalists in the South Wales Valleys fought to preserve the identity of the individual newspapers when they became a part of Celtic Press. Today those newspapers are a part of mediawales. The last remaining offices in the towns served by The Merthyr Express, Pontypridd Observer and Glamorgan Gazette (Bridgend) closed this year. All the journalists now work from the Cardiff HQ, which is also the base for the South Wales Echo, Western Mail and Wales on Sunday, or work remotely. The Merthyr Express now includes stories from neighbouring valleys, the very thing journalists fought against years ago when I worked at Merthyr and Pontypridd, before going to the South Wales Echo. Readers want their own local reporting. Staffs have been cut to the bone and the individual papers don’t even have an editor. I would hesitate recommending anyone to become a print journalist today. Phil Howells Merthyr Tydfil
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Claim of membership clarity is ‘nonsense’ The claim in the delegate meeting report that membership criteria have been clarified is nonsense. The NEC’s Motion 51 said that membership criteria had become ‘confused and confusing’. Their tinkering shows little change to the existing rules. The jobs that qualify as journalism are not much different from those already in Rule 2. The emphasis in the motion is on pulling in as many new entrants as possible, which is done at the expense of the older members. The losers are the retired members, whose dedication and experience are invaluable in keeping many branches running. Since 2007, life membership has been restricted to ‘40 years continuous membership’ and so more difficult to achieve. Members reaching retirement with as much as 39 years will not qualify, unless there are ‘caring responsibilities’, whatever that means. The decision of the 2012 delegate meeting to let retired members hold office in branches and be delegates was a constructive step. That has been discarded. Retired members
are now included in the category associate members, which is extremely shortsighted and unhelpful. The NEC should think again. Chris Reekie Edinburgh and District Branch
Time to stop alienating NUJ’s Jewish members Under the freedom of information act I found out from the NUJ that in the last 20 years the only two countries the union has boycotted or voted to boycott on, are South Africa and Israel. By the NUJ singling out and picking on and demonising the only democratic country in the region, the Jewish state Israel, this is by definition ‘Anti-Semitism’ By not voting for boycotting all the other evil regimes killing their own citizens such as Syria, Uganda, England for invading other regimes, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea among many others, is by definition ‘Anti-Semitism’ It is about time the NUJ stopped alienating its Jewish members and I am sure there will be more resigning. Malvin Van Gelderen Life member
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Elisabeth Winkler @ewinkler 13 May Top read! @NUJofficial magazine interview with @TheGreenParty’s leader @natalieben on her work as journalist and trade unionist. F Words copywriting @susanfenton 14 May @mschrisbuckley Just read belatedly in garden! Good mix features/ news/arts/politics. Twitter Feed good way to encourage ‘real time’ feedback F Words copywriting @susanfenton 14 May @mschrisbuckley, interested in the Natalie Bennett piece, btw, as am Green council candidate. Many journos seem to be Green? Clay Harris @mudlarklives 10 May @mschrisbuckley A really excellent issue. I’m enjoying, among other things, the series on regional centres. Clay Harris @mudlarklives @mschrisbuckley Barrie Clement’s piece was outstanding.
NUJ Brighton&Sussex @nujbrighton 11 May @mschrisbuckley Good tip to take The Journalist to branch meetings and recruitment drives – thanks
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d n ie fr st e b s ’ st li a rn u jo a is e s o n A capacity: but he him in anything but a professional the travails of me to d rate onst has in the past dem ss). legle n whe copy t truc cons attempting to said to are We s. nose are all it of root the But at tions stiga inve our ‘have a nose for a story’. Often in nosy. are We ks. stin ence we will smell a rat. Some evid st nali jour into ld wor the des This is a word that divi y’ ‘nos d calle g bein k thin you If ist. and non-journal has no moral me d ente is pejorative, you are a citizen. If it prev en wom aged dlewo mid ntly. I had implications, you are a journalist. from getting off a no 24 bus rece is its spelling Cross ring A further hack credential of ‘nosy’ Cha an appointment just off ey’. This helps ‘nos ered rend the as it can equally well be Road but was unable to descend from making it ers, writ copy use conf roached to irritate subs and top deck until we had almost app the phrase ‘nosy part of the family. Not to mention y. When I Westminster, about half a mile awa t in the May 1890 parker’ which first appeared in prin I had to explain eventually arrived at my meeting xplained une e, edition of the Belgravia Magazin st. that I was late because I’m a journali , rendering me and without provenance. Did these women pin me to the seat Parker, It might have referred to Matthew e to the top rout my k immobile? No. Did they bloc the first ng duri ury terb Can of an Archbishop ent? They did not. of the stairs, preventing my desc about self him ered both who n reig an ’s in Elizabeth ging me Did they cling to my briefcase, enga might it Or other people’s church attendance. Negative. altercation concerning ownership? talking. One of have derived from Jane They sat in the seat in front of me, ng wro the e Parker, who was married quit ried them had a son who had mar to Anne Boleyn’s brother at the time, but do sort of woman (she’d told him so t, and gained a reputation me pregnan they listen?) who had left him, beco the had for digging the dirt on her had now been delivered of a boy child and parkhe had t wha sister-in-law. Or maybe it came from And cheek to propose a reconciliation! upon ing peep for n keepers with a reputatio said to that? other. each And . ude solit ng couples embraci I would never If I’d left the 24 at Covent Garden the of idea no have we that The fact is ng in my have known. It was only by remaini no great that Ben ce. But who cares? Sources are of Big sour of ow shad the in ost alm station until s of New the of importance, as former editors were going to try I discovered he had agreed. They her companion was the World will tell you. again. The mother was outraged, be I can’t understand why it should ambivalent, and I was late. wouldn’t We . nosy be to olite considered imp ing on buses, I This is not an isolated affair. Stay isitive. know anything if we weren’t inqu offspring. mean. Not ex-wives returning with Newton if I could have A fine mess science would be in The incident made me realise that his head. on fell les hadn’t wondered why app journalism. I had followed no other occupation than Socrates if its stra dire in Philosophy would be her’s words, ‘an the great gifts of being, in my mot ld we have wou t wha And ous. curi hadn’t been so These attributes eavesdropper and a nosy parker’. rest in inte an n take had one no if as at Christm have served me well. how sprouts are boiled? calling. Eyes Noses are very important in our being to Yet instead of synonyms for ‘nosy’ them are more essential to subs, enabling y probing’, tfull ugh ‘tho ve’, ‘intelligently inquisiti one out for cast a careful one over copy, or keep red offe are we ’ ning stio que or ‘penetratingly Legs are helpful grammatical or spelling mistakes. and ing’ ‘pry e’, usiv ‘intr g’, opin of ‘sno words like the last edition as Barrie Clement pointed out in as a ‘leg self ‘meddlesome’. him d ribe desc he re whe st, The Journali Celebrate the in C Mr seen Reclaim the word, fellow scribes! ing man’ during the miners’ strike. (Hav snout! Hail the hooter! l I would apply to shorts, it is not a descriptive labe
Chris Proctor on sniffing out stories, knowing what’s news, and being a nosy parker
26 | theJournalist
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The Journalist magazine - July August 2014 issue