M A G A Z I N E
T H E
N AT I O N A L
U N I O N
J O U R N A L I S T S
WWW.NUJ.ORG.UK | JUNE/JULY 2012
ULLO, ULLO, ULLO! Perils of helping police with their inquiries
Contents Cover feature 16 Mind how you go
A cautionary tale of police inquiry
hese are clearly not the best of times for journalism or for our union. The wave of cuts and redundancies sweeping our industries has caused pain to many NUJ members and their families, as well as seriously damaging the organisation which exists to serve them. But there are grounds for optimism, not least in the responses to the NEC recovery plan for the union outlined in this issue of The Journalist. And there’s hope, too, in new thinking and innovation being led by journalists in considering the future of the media, and reported in our pages. It’s worth noting that the NUJ continues to play a vital role in helping members in difficulty, as Graham McLagan shows in our cover story detailing the dangers of helping the police with their inquiries. Several reports from NUJ members abroad help to emphasise just how important it is for journalists to have a healthy union to back them in adversity. This edition of The Journalist welcomes Adam Oxford as our new technology correspondent. He’s looking forward to the challenge of following the ever-informative and entertaining Michael Cross, who has taken up a staff job. A lively letters page, media commentary from Ray Snoddy and pages of news complete our menu in this edition of The Journalist
Eddie Barrett Acting Editor
Editor Christine Buckley firstname.lastname@example.org Design Surgerycreations.com email@example.com Advertising firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 020 7657 1837 Print Warners www.warners.co.uk Distribution Packpost www.packpostsolutions.com
NUJ 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP email@example.com www.nuj.org.uk Tel: 020 7843 3700
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Cover picture Anne-Marie Palmer/ Alamy
03 Tackling financial crisis Major NUJ recovery plan
04 Dale farm victory
Court order on footage overturned
05 Mirror redundancy fears
Seven-day paper threatens jobs
06 Talks with Johnston chief
Union defends posts for journalists
07 BBC pension court victory
Talks underway on future rights
10 Look on the bright side Is there a positive future for the press?
12 We will not be slaves to fear
Murder and kidnap in Honduras
09 Michelle Stanistreet 21 Unspun: the view from inside PR 29 Technology
Arts with Attitude Pages 24-25
Raymond Snoddy Page 30
Letters Pages 26-27
NEC backs plan to deal with drop in membership MArk THOMAS
he NUJ executive has agreed a package of cutbacks to deal with serious financial problems caused by thousands of job losses in the media industry. On May 25 the NEC backed a strategy which includes staff redundancies and a plan to restructure their pension scheme. It is the subject of consultation. The initiatives are aimed at dealing with a fall in union income, rising costs and a ‘challenging industrial environment’, the union said in a statement. The NUJ had forecast year-on-year falls in subscription income of about two per cent, but the figure is currently running at about five per
cent and for the year to September 2013 it is expected to be 10 per cent. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “We are conscious that if we are to plan responsibly for the future of the union, and the members whom we serve, we need a comprehensive strategy which involves managing expenditure and practising good housekeeping while continuing to provide the service to NUJ members which they are entitled to expect.” A report on the progress of the recovery plan will be submitted later this month to the finance committee. A joint statement from Michelle and NUJ president Donnacha DeLong said: “Doing nothing is not an option. If no action is taken the union would face insolvency and the consequential prospect of a merger as soon as later this year.” The general secretary and president said they believed the union’s independence was vital to its sustainability. The NUJ’s delegate meeting in Newcastle in October will decide on a proposed subscription increase of five per cent, which equates to rises of between 15 to 26p a week. Delegates will also vote on an NEC motion proposing that the national meeting be held every two years, rather than using the current ‘up to 18 month’ cycle.
With thanks from Wapping
fficials of the new NUJ chapel at Wapping have paid tribute to the national union for its support over the threat to journalists’ sources at The Times and Sunday Times. The union threatened News International’s management and standards committee (MSC) with legal action.
Journalists at the Sun had expressed anxiety that the committee had passed the identities of legitimate sources to police as part of evidence on alleged bribery of public officials. The NUJ’s warning of litigation seems to have woken the long-dormant ‘independent national
directors’ of Times Newspaper Holdings, appointed by Murdoch to placate critics when he bought The Times and Sunday Times. They have written to Murdoch and Lord Grabiner, MSC chairman, expressing concern about ‘any possible threat’ to sources at the titles.
Doing nothing is not an option. If no action is taken the union would face insolvency
The union said the hearings had received an ‘unbalanced and incomplete picture’. Many NUJ members were in daily conflict with police who often apply draconian terrorism legislation to
SUN ON SUNDAY DOWN 5 PER CENT Circulation of the Sun on Sunday dropped by 5.33 per cent in April compared to the previous month, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The title’s circulation stood at 2,297,441 in April, compared with 2,426,894 in March – its first full month – and a February launch figure of 3,213,613.
NORTHCLIFFE BUYS A TOPPER The NUJ is protesting over Nottingham Post owner Northcliffe Media’s purchase of the Nottingham & Long Eaton Topper, which was authorised by the Office of Fair Trading. Daily Mail company Northcliffe, which has a record of buying papers and closing them down, announced the move after shutting its own free weeklies.
The new NUJ chapel officers said they were convinced that the ‘prominent and vocal’ support of the union provided a ‘valuable warning’ to the company that sources must be protected. All NUJ members at Wapping are to be invited to a meeting.
LONDON PAPER GOES HYPER Tindle Newspapers has turned its 147-year-old South London Press into seven paid-for titles with ‘hyper local’ content in Streatham, Brixton, Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Dulwich, Deptford & New Cross and Forest Hill & Sydenham, while retaining the main paper in ‘peripheral’ circulation areas.
Journalists vErsus thE poliCE ord Leveson should realise that the vast majority of journalists are not ‘in collusion’ with the police, the NUJ said in a written submission to the inquiry.
MARTIN PROFITS FROM ADVICE Personal finance journalist Martin Lewis sold his Moneysavingexpert. com website – set up for £100 in 2003 – for £87m. NUJ member Martin will reportedly pocket £35m in cash and 22.1m in shares. He said he intends to give £10m to charity, including £1m to Citizens Advice. The site, which advises consumers on saving money, is being sold to MoneySupermarket.com but the deal will have to be approved by the Office of Fair Trading.
legitimate activity. NUJ members have been taken to court over protection of sources and had been stopped and searched while taking pictures in public areas, the document said.
I’M MURDOCH, GET ME OUT OF HERE! Rupert Murdoch’s patience seemed to run out quite quickly at the Leveson inquiry. During lunchtime on his first day at the inquiry in April, he was heard to say: “Let’s get him to get this fucking thing over with today”. theJournalist | 3
NuJ wins historic victory over Dale Farm footage
SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH FOR THE KM’S EXTRA Launched in December, the weekly Sittingbourne News Extra – the first-paid for newspaper established by KM Group since 2003 – achieved a circulation of 5,687 and a readership of 16,146. The launch followed the closure of Northcliffe’s East Kent Gazette, one of six titles KM Group tried to buy before the deal collapsed when it was referred to the Competition Commission. FIGHT TO PREVENT LIBRARY CUTBACKS The NUJ is backing a campaign to prevent drastic cutbacks to the world-renowned Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University. If a new home for the library is not found by December, it will only open one day a week. A petition urging education secretary Michael Gove to intervene has attracted more than 7,500 signatures.
This is a huge victory for the cause of press freedom and the protection of sources and journalistic materials
4 | theJournalist
Hands oatfferial our m Video journalist Jason Parkinson is at the centre of a battle to protect unpublished material from police
everal hundred riot police armed with batons, shields and tasers stormed the Dale Farm Irish Traveller site at Cray’s Hill in Essex, when I began filming just before dawn on October 19 last year. I never could have imagined that five months later the footage would be at the heart of a legal case that could alter the future of press freedom in the UK. For the past 18 months I have watched the increase in production orders being served on the press to obtain their unpublished material. Now the main broadcasters are saying ‘enough is enough’ and have joined together with the NUJ to oppose the Dale Farm production order by applying for judicial review. Ironically, the increase in seizing journalist material began happening around the same time we saw improvements in police and press relations. Gaining passage through police cordons was no longer a problem, press cards were being 8 | theJournalist
respected and overt surveillance by Forward Intelligence Teams had stopped. It was also the start of some of the worst unrest this country has seen for many decades. I received an email last November from Essex police stating I was being served an order to obtain all my footage from the Dale Farm eviction: two days worth of footage. That email came 38 minutes after a separate email, also from Essex police, tried to obtain the footage for ‘training purposes’. Within a week, production orders were served on every professional news and film camera that covered the eviction. All opposed the order on the grounds of protecting journalist impartiality, free from state interference, and the effect that interference would have on the safety of all journalists in the future. The union’s own code of conduct lists the protection of sources and all journalistic material as fundamental to journalists’ ethics. When this was raised
The fear now is that the journalist is being forced into the role of an unwilling agent of the state
at Chelmsford Crown Court during the application hearing, I was told by prosecuting counsel that I held a “very extreme view” for defending the code of conduct. Judge Grathwicke, who presided over the hearing, said in his judgement he did not believe being forced to comply with the court order would breach the code of conduct. Just as ITN received another production order for the recent Syrian Embassy clashes in London, its chief executive John Hardie said: “Rather than being a rare exception where requests are made for otherwise unobtainable evidence of serious wrongdoing, the wide-ranging Dale Farm production order is in danger of becoming the norm.” The BBC and Sky News have also expressed very serious concerns. Essex Police Detective Inspector Jennings admitted in the application hearing they were more interested in the background footage, not just the scenes of criminality, which suggests this material is being seized to fill police intelligence databases. John Hardie was right, production orders were once used to obtain the unobtainable. At Dale Farm there were three police camera units, one helicopter and two bailiff cameras. Now it would seem the net is cast far and wide to gather additional evidence, using the press as nothing more than CCTV. The fear now is that the Dale Farm case is being used not only to make this type of production order the norm, but to make them arbitrary, the journalist being forced into the role of an unwilling agent of the state.
NUJ member Jason Parkinson who took the case to the appeal court said: “This ruling sends a very clear message to all police forces that these wide-ranging fishing trips will not be accepted by the Uk courts and that we will not be forced into to the role of unwilling agents of the state.” He added: “In the last
18 months, every time one of these orders has been served it has put journalists in greater danger while trying to report on public order situations. I know this because I have been threatened and assaulted by people claiming my material will be used by the police. “I am very happy to see Judge Moses has recognised the impact these orders have had on the safety and impartiality of all journalists and has made sure any future production order applications must take this into account, as was clearly not the case this time round.” The appeal judges said the judgement by the crown court had ‘failed to give any sufficient weight to the inhibiting effect of production orders on the press’.
HoW Can NEWspapErs makE moNEy?
he national assembly of Wales has recommended the establishment of a new panel of independent experts to examine sustainable business models
VOGUE PLUMPS FOR BIGGER MODELS The 19 international editors of Vogue magazine have signed a pact renouncing the ‘size zero’ image, pledging to ‘work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image’.
for the local press. The recommendation was made in a report by a cross-party group set up to examine the future of the Welsh media. Meanwhile the NUJ
has called for the Scottish government to launch a similar inquiry. NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: “The NUJ in Scotland has sought political support for our
hard pressed industry for a number of years but the situation has deteriorated to where there is a serious threat to the future of titles but also to the existence of some newspaper groups. “
Consider subsidies, says tory mp
NCTJ GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS The NCTJ is to add a new business journalism module to its general diploma. The new specialist option, available from September, will allow trainees to expand their financial reporting skills.
he NUJ and other media organisations won a landmark victory for press freedom when the appeal court overturned an order forcing journalists to hand over unbroadcast footage of the Dale Farm eviction to police. The union together with ITN, BBC, Sky and Hardcash Productions had appealed against a decision by Chelmsford crown court to grant a ‘production order’ earlier this year. The Essex court’s decision was rejected in a judicial review by Mr Justice Eady and Lord Justice Moses at the royal Courts of Justice. A statement from the NUJ said: “This is a huge victory for the cause of press freedom and the protection of sources and journalistic material.”
MAIL HAILS VICTORY IN PRIVACY CASE A claim of harassment and breach of privacy against the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday by MP Chris Huhne’s partner Carina Trimingham, was rejected. The high court found Ms Trimingham was ‘not the purely private figure’ she claimed to be. The Mail argued it was a victory for press freedom, but Ms Trimingham, described as a ‘comedy lesbian from central casting’, said it could become a ‘blueprint for bullies and bigots’ and vowed to appeal.
he government has been warned by a Tory MP that local newspapers may need subsidies and tax advantages to survive. Speaking at a Westminster debate on the crisis in the industry, Louise Mensch (pictured), a Conservative member of the Commons media committee, said: “The threat to our local democracy is severe. It is often only the local press that will hold a member of parliament or a local council to account.” The MP attacked plans for local TV stations because they would compete against newspapers and because they would be part-funded by the BBC licence. She called on the government to explore whether direct or indirect subsidies to local newspapers should be established. The debate was prompted by the Johnston Press decision to turn five of its daily newspapers into weeklies. (see page 9).
staff at seven-day mirror fear fresh redundancies GrEG BALFOUr EVANS/ALAMy
rinity Mirror staff fear the shock decision by departing chief executive Sly Bailey to switch the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror to a seven day operation heralds a fresh round of redundancies. The drastic move to merge the staff on the two titles – taken without consultation with journalists – also included the dismissal of the two editors. NUJ officials believe the decisions were symptomatic of an organization in crisis rather than a company with a coherent strategy. Although the NUJ is not recognised yet at Trinity Mirror’s national papers, the union has met its members across the titles to discuss their response as a chapel. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It says a lot about the board of Trinity Mirror that they have allowed Sly Bailey – finally on her way out after presiding over stupendous decline – to push such drastic measures through. “The statement from the company tries to dress up this last hurrah as a leap into a brave new world of multimedia publishing – the reality is that these cuts and the weakening of the titles’ identities will be a further blow to resources and quality journalism from a lame duck chief executive whose monumental lack
of vision has seen the company’s fortunes plummet. “Half of all jobs across the entire group have already been axed, the company’s strength has ebbed away yet executives have consistently attacked its assets – journalists and the quality journalism they produce.” Trinity declined to comment on whether there would be further cutbacks, but it is thought the announcement was just one more step in an integration strategy that began several years ago. The new seven-day system is similar to editorial organisation established at some of Trinity’s regional hubs and at The Sun.
Half of all jobs across the entire group have already been axed
NuJ wins massive 25 per cent rise
he NUJ has won an amazing 25 per cent pay increase for a member working at Dublin radio station FM104 despite a pay freeze imposed by anti-union owner UTV.
The union argued that an increment for five years’ service was due under a collective agreement legally binding under Ireland’s Payment of Wages legislation.
The country’s rights Commissioner agreed and found that the decision not to pay the 25 per cent amounted to an unlawful deduction from pay. NUJ Irish organiser Nicola
Coleman said Payment of Wages cases were notoriously difficult to win. Some judgements have been perverse. The member said: “This shows how important it is to have a strong union.”
sluMP in tWEEts by JourNalists
or the first time the so-called ‘NewsTweet Index’ shows a slump in the use of Twitter by journalists. Postings by British editorial staff fell by almost 25 per cent in the first three months of 2012 – 80,000 fewer than the previous quarter. The index by PR firm Portland showed 40 per cent fewer Tweets from Sky News, The Guardian and The Telegraph: the first quarterly decline and the end of a run of
double digit growth. Portland says it remains to be seen whether it was a momentary blip or the effect of new management restrictions. Sky News now requires journalists to pass tweets outside their brief to colleagues leading on the issue and banned retweeting external content. The BBC stopped reporters breaking stories on Twitter without newsroom approval.
DOUBLE SALES ON SATURDAY ABC figures have revealed for the first time the extent to which Saturday sales of national newspapers exceed circulation Monday to Friday. The Guardian more than doubles its sales on Saturday – with an average 377,268 in April, versus 177,876 Monday to Friday, while the Sun’s Saturday edition sells 3,009,981, compared with 2,507,860 weekdays. The Mail’s figures are 2,549,000 against 1,613,000, the Financial Times 113,887 compared with 88,357. INVESTOR REVOLT AT PUBLISHER UBM Around 48 per cent of shareholders at Property Week publisher UBM refused to back new bonus targets for directors and £659,295 in share options for finance director Robert Gray. Last year Gray’s salary stood at £437,750, but in total he received £1.1m, which included a bonus of £474,083. UBM chief executive David Levin received a salary of £621,260 and a bonus of £926,299. His total remuneration was £2.2m. LINCOLN STUDENTS WIN TOP BBC PRIZE Lincoln School of Journalism students won the top journalism prize in the BBC Partnership Awards – their second major award in a month. Besma Ayari, Oliver PerkinsGibbons and Chris Goss won the journalism award for a film about self-styled anarchists protesting about spending cuts. PENSIONS PROTEST BACKED BY NUJ The NUJ sent messages of support to thousands of public sector workers who walked out on May 10 in protest at cuts to their pensions. NUJ members joined marches and rallies in support of the action. COME ON BOARD SAYS ARTS JOURNAL Disability Arts Online, the journal for disabled and deaf artists, is looking for journalists to join their board of trustees. Those interested are invited to email editor@ disabilityartsonline.org.uk theJournalist | 5
news in brief... HELEN BY ROYAL APPOINTMENT FORMER Wishaw Press chief reporter and long-standing NUJ member Helen Russell has been chosen as a deputy to Lanarkshire’s Lord Lieutenant. Helen, 70, learned of her appointment in a phone call from Lord Lieutenant Mushtaq Ahmad. Helen, 70, said: “It is a pleasant surprise and a great honour. I didn’t know anything about it and then the Lord Lieutenant phoned.” £5,625 PAYOUT FOR LIDDLE’S BLUNDER The Spectator was forced to pay out £5,625 for breaching a court order banning reports that could have influenced the Stephen Lawrence trial. Former Today programme editor Rod Liddle wrote that the defendants would not get a fair trial. He said that any judge who took action against him for saying so, would be ‘perverse’. The magazine apologised unreservedly. SERGEI IS VICTIM NUMBER 28 Journalists’ leaders have called on Russian authorities to investigate the stabbing of Sergei Aslanyan, a presenter at Moscow radio station Mayak. He is alleged to have questioned the motives of the Prophet Muhammad. Sergei was the 28th journalist attacked in Russia since the start of the year. OLYMPICS SECURITY CHIEFS WARNED Olympics security chiefs have been warned that the NUJ will take legal action to protect members after photographers were forcibly stopped from taking pictures from public land by G4S security guards. The NUJ later met police to seek assurances that the media would not be harassed. 80TH ANNIVERSARY JOBS PROTEST NUJ members angry about cuts at the Bristol Evening Post held a protest outside an exhibition marking the 80th anniversary of the newspaper. The jobs of 19 of the 56 staff were at risk because of the axing of the Saturday edition. 6 | theJournalist
Johnston chief warned not to force staff out
2007 FUTUrE PUBLISHING
n a meeting at NUJ headquarters Johnston Press chief executive Ashley Highfield was warned that the union would fight any compulsory redundancies caused by sweeping changes to the group’s papers. Ashfield was urged to start regular sessions with chapel reps to thrash out the implications of his controversial new strategy which involves the relaunch of all the group’s 170 paidfor titles, turning five dailies into weeklies. NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet told Highfield that the union was not opposed to innovation, but criticised his failure to consult staff about the attempt to make the group’s output ‘platform neutral’. The new chief executive was warned that previous cuts – let alone fresh redundancies – would strictly limit his plans to ‘relaunch and revitalise’
the papers and put electronic publishing at the heart of the operation. The new ‘self-financing’ approach will include seven-day publishing online and a new iPad app with news updates around the clock and online sport and events coverage.Job losses throughout the group are expected to be significant – though not yet quantified – at a time when workload will increase. It is understood that the lack of consultation has
already resulted in problems with a rigid layout template for many of its papers. The layout has been designed by Spanish company Cases I Associats and the system is in Spanish so copy has to be switched into email form before it can be spellchecked. NUJ deputy general secretary Barry Fitzpatrick says the Edinburgh-based company could find itself in difficulties if new systems fail because so many staff are being made redundant.
Job losses throughout the group are expected to be significant – though not yet quantified
tougher times for fat cat litigants
he NUJ has broadly welcomed a new Defamation Bill which will mean that people claiming damages will have to show that they have suffered serious harm to their reputations – or are likely to do so – before they can take a case. The Bill follows a long campaign by the NUJ which has argued that the law was weighted too heavily in favour of claimants.
The so-called ‘reynolds defence’ that a piece is ‘responsible journalism published in the public interest’ also gets statutory recognition in the bill. The NUJ has long argued that journalists need to be protected from intimidation by people or organisations who have large amounts of money and can therefore pursue litigation.
JournalisM is For toFFs, says milburN
ournalism has become the most ‘socially exclusive’ profession in the country, according to a report by ex Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn. Former Health Secretary Milburn, who is advising the coalition on social mobility, said efforts to recruit people from poorer backgrounds into journalism had been ‘fragmented’
and lacked any ‘real vigour’. In a progress report he said journalism had increasingly become a ‘degree only’ profession and claimed it ‘does not seem to take the issue of fair access seriously’. He said more must be done to widen access to professions such as law, medicine and journalism amid
concerns that entrants are from an increasingly narrow social group. His report said recruits were from ‘too narrow a range of universities’. Mr Milburn told the BBC: “It’s partially about how they provide work experience opportunities, internships, their recruitment processes, where they recruit from.”
bbC pension talks after key high court ruling
he NUJ and the Musicians’ Union are in urgent talks with the BBC over pensions after the high court ruled there was a fundamental flaw in the corporation’s approach. In a highly significant judgement, Mr Justice Warren rejected the BBC’s interpretation of ‘basic salary’ on which pension payments are based. His ruling could make a substantial difference to employees retiring in future. The BBC wants to limit increases in pensionable pay to one per cent a year for some scheme members, to persuade thousands of employees to move into a less generous section of the scheme. Management also used the 2011 pay settlement to force staff to accept the imposition of the cap. Those who refused and stayed in the old schemes were not given a pay rise last year. The Pensions Ombudsman rejected a complaint from the unions and they appealed to the high court. The case was
brought by John Bradbury, a clarinettist in the BBC’s philharmonic orchestra, backed by the NUJ and the Musicians’ Union. Management claimed the high court judgement was in its favour, but Mr Justice Warren’s ruling said: “The construction for which the BBC contends is not correct… I do not consider that it gives the BBC the wide discretion which it claims to have.” NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said the judgement demonstrated a fundamental flaw in the BBC’s approach. “The BBC rode roughshod over the rules of the pension scheme in a deeply cynical manner.” The proceedings are not over yet. The NUJ argues that the process was forced on members and therefore void. The judge said if it were shown that the agreement was not made in good faith, the deals reached with staff will be null and void. He urged both parties to come to an agreement and refer back to him for his approval.
The BBC rode roughshod over the rules of the pension scheme in a deeply cynical manner
aP starting talks ovEr pENsioNs
taff at Associated Press (AP) and Associated Press Television News (APTN) have won fresh talks after voting to strike over management’s threat to close its final salary scheme and replace it with a defined
contribution pension instead. Both the NUJ and BECTU had announced two 24-hour strikes as part of a possible summer of industrial action. The strikes, which have now been called off, were scheduled for June 11
and June 16. NUJ members at APTN voted unanimously for strike action, and at AP 87.5 per cent voted in favour. Overall, eight out of ten NUJ members took part in the industrial action ballot.
Concessions after strike threat
ournalists at the BBC called off their threat to strike over the Jubilee weekend after securing important concessions on pay and conditions. While this year’s one per cent offer – subject to a £400 minimum – was reluctantly accepted, the agreement commits the corporation to avoiding a similar dispute in future. A joint statement said: “ Whilst it is accepted that, as in many organisations, cuts in funding will have an impact on staff, it is believed by both the joint unions and management that a continuous pattern of
annual settlements which represent a real cut in pay are neither desirable nor sustainable.” The unions, including BECTU and Unite, also secured key concessions on plans to cut allowances for unpredictable working and over an inadequate appraisal system. There were concessions, too, over the failure to implement an agreement on redeployment.
SKY APOLOGISES TO RAPE VICTIM Sky News has issued an apology to a rape victim after her name was ‘very briefly revealed’ by the broadcaster. The Telegraph reported that Sky News had ‘used an image of the social networking site Twitter, which revealed the name of the victim’ in a report on the jailing of footballer Ched Evans, who was convicted of the rape. HULL MAIL SCOOPS THE TOP PRIZES The Hull Daily Mail led the way at this year’s Regional Press Awards, taking five prizes. Reporter Nicky Harley was named specialist writer of the year and he also won scoop of the year. Catherine Lea picked up business and finance journalist of the year. The paper won specialist supplement award and Ian Bond was ‘best designer’. THE MAN WHO NAMED SPAGHETTI JUNCTION Spaghetti Junction, which celebrated its 40th birthday on May 24, would still be known as the Gravelly Hill Interchange if it was not for Birmingham Evening Mail reporter Roy Smith, according to blogger Jon Slattery. Roy looked at an aerial picture of the interchange and said: “It looks like a plate of spaghetti.” O’GRADY SAYS TIME FOR CHANGE NUJ member and TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady is expected by observers to become the first female TUC general secretary in succession to Brendan Barber who is retiring at the end of the year. The new TUC leader will be elected at the annual congress in September. A NEW WEEKLY FOR BEDFORD Iliffe News and Media is launching a new free midweek title in Bedford targeted at a ‘younger, transient audience’. Bedford Midweek, with an initial circulation of 15,000, will complement Bedfordshire on Sunday but promises to have exclusive content. theJournalist | 7
he announcement that the Scarborough Evening News is to re-launch in a move to ‘platform neutral\ publishing (weasel words by any standard) will have come as no surprise to any of the journalists who work there. The demise of the newspaper industry in general, and of regional and local newspapers specifically, has been the subject of much debate in recent years. The arguments, familiar to those of us who have worked on the ‘shop floor’ and well-rehearsed by senior managers and those at the top of the industry, fall into two broad categories. The first of these arguments concerns the development of the Internet. Coupled with advancements in technology, people now have access to news 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Social networking sites and the birth of the citizen journalist have helped create a world where ‘everybody can report on events at the time they are happening’. Newspapers simply can’t keep pace in this brave new technological world, we’re told. The second argument is about finances. The global economic downturn has seen a massive drop (between 30 per cent and 40 per cent) in advertising revenues across the newspaper industry. It is adverts that pay the wages, as I was frequently told at the Scarborough Evening News (although I’ve yet to hear of anyone nipping out to get the advert-paper). Firms simply didn’t have the cash to pay for advertising as they struggled to cope with the effects of the ‘credit crunch’, and marketing budgets went out of the window. The response to these challenges from newspaper bosses has been inadequate and predictable. • The introduction of their own new technology which has seen large scale redundancies • The closure of newspapers with even more large scale redundancies. 8 | theJournalist
From the heart
John Ritchie condemns the switch of five daily papers to weeklies by Johnston Press last month
There are some massive stories waiting to be uncovered in towns and cities across the country
What those at the top of the industry failed to do was invest in people and better training. Their short-sighted approach and lack of investment has done far more damage to the local newspaper industry than either of the two issues mentioned above. The result of the bosses’ strategy is there for all to see, certainly in Scarborough but replicated across the country. Six journalists being asked to do the job of twelve; press releases going into newspapers virtually unchanged; prostitutes advertising their services in classified; vote BNP adverts; a readers’ offer for a Covert Spy Watch (camera and video) during the middle of the Leveson enquiry; minimal coverage at magistrates courts and council meetings; homophobic and racist comments on websites on stories which are comment enabled; journalists being virtually chained to their desks unable to get out and meet people. And the litany could go on and on.
There are some massive stories waiting to be uncovered in towns and cities across the country, including Scarborough. They will not be revealed by the citizen journalist on Twitter or the racist homophobe in the comments section on a website; they will only come to light by trained journalists getting out into the communities in which they work and by building up relationships with the most important person in the newspaper industry – the reader. The dedicated, hardworking professionals I worked with at the Scarborough Evening News deserve better and so do the people of Scarborough. John Ritchie is a former reporter and head of content at the Scarborough Evening News. After working briefly as a freelance journalist, he is now actively engaged in local politics as a member of the Labour Group on Scarborough Borough Council.
General secretary Michelle Stanistreet outlines the crisis facing the union
Unity and action needed
he pride and passion that members feel for our union is something I see whenever I visit chapels and branches, when I speak at rallies and events, on picket lines and in the solidarity we show to colleagues in difficulty. But it’s never more evident than when the chips are down. So after contacting all members with an email from myself and NUJ president Donnacha DeLong, explaining the decisions the NEC has taken to tackle the financial crisis we face, it’s not been a surprise to have heard from so many of you all but it has been truly heartening. That’s not to say everyone’s in agreement with the Recovery Plan! There’s been opposition from some, many questions (as there should be), understandable concern and at the same time lots of constructive suggestions and ideas about how we can collectively turn things around. It’s that spirit of shared enterprise – the dedication to keeping the union we all care for and value in fighting shape – that marks the NUJ out as different. We have a special identity, a unique place within the broader trade union movement, which would be squandered if we ended up being forced to undergo a merger and lose our independence. So I make no apology for saying clearly that is my overriding priority – keeping the NUJ solvent, rebuilding our reserves, focusing on growing and organising our membership, and above all ensuring we have a sustainable independent future as a fighting and campaigning trade union, standing up for journalists and journalism. We can’t do that if we’re broke; we can’t – I believe – do that if we’re simply a section competing for resources within a large union. To ignore the very real challenges facing the union would be a collective abdication of responsibility. Without action the union would be insolvent in the autumn. Tackling our financial difficulties head on is the only option. The challenges have been building up over time, deepening since the union’s pension crisis and recovery plan back in 2007. Since then, the situation in the industry facing our members has worsened. We’ve seen members leave the industry altogether or move to other sectors paying lower subscription rates; and, of course, that hits union income. Despite huge recruitment across many sectors, overall membership has dropped sharply, down 18 per cent over the past five years. Our income from subs is down 5 per cent this year, on top of successive declines.
So we need to make changes and ensure that the NUJ is living within its means, with immediate steps to cut costs and plan our finances realistically with the clear goal of rebuilding reserves of £2.5million over the next decade. In the short-term this means taking difficult decisions. The Recovery Plan commits to ensuring that staffing costs account for no more than 45 per cent of members’ subscription income. This does mean redundancies and a full and transparent process is underway with staff, in which all ideas and alternatives are being considered.
t will also mean doing some work differently, like our professional training programme; retaining and improving the range of training, making it available in all nations and regions of the NUJ, delivering it in a way that does not incur a cost to the union’s central funds. The recovery plan focuses on the need to put resources and effort into building, growing and organising our union – it is not about managing decline. There’s huge scope for growth – every single member of the NUJ can play a part in persuading those people who haven’t yet been asked to join our union to do so today. A new Recruitment and Organising Task Force will build our union from the grassroots. Some measures will be decided at the Delegate Meeting in October, including a subscription increase of 5 per cent, which equates to rises of between 15 to 26 pence per week. This is a difficult ‘ask’ in the current economic climate. We do it reluctantly but, in the spirit of this plan, we need everyone – staff, members and the union’s leadership – to work together to tackle the problems facing the NUJ. There will also be a motion calling for the Delegate Meetings to be held every two years, rather than the current “up to 18 month” cycle. The DM would be followed in the next year by either a national meeting, or series of regional meetings, bringing together NUJ reps and activists to tackle topical key industrial issues. Times might be difficult but there is much to be optimistic about. We continue to make our voice heard at the Leveson Inquiry, focused on ensuring that any recommendations have the interests of press freedom and ethics at their heart. The NUJ continues to deliver for members every single day – whether it’s on pay and conditions, winning equal pay cases, defending members against disability discrimination, bullying or unfair dismissal, or tackling copyright theft and unpaid fees. This Recovery Plan is a practical package of measures to tackle the problems we face head on, with the collective commitment to ensuring our union not only survives the coming months but continues to flourish for generations to come. Let’s focus the energy and passion we all have for the NUJ into tackling this crisis together. If you have any ideas, thoughts or suggestions please get in touch, email@example.com theJournalist | 9
As job cuts and closures threaten so many journalists, Jenny Sims seeks a positive future for our industry in the public interest
Always look on the bright side of life …
ever say die, at least not for another fifty or a hundred years. A group of journalists, media pundits and academics seeking solutions to the newspaper industry crisis are putting their heads above the parapet to assert there are alternatives to the current failing business model. Their message is to be positive, innovative and, above all, imaginative about funding. New models are rising from the ashes of newspaper closures and redundancies throughout the UK. Shining examples include Magnet, the still evolving south Wales ‘hyper-local’ website launched last year in Port Talbot and run as a co-operative by a group of NUJ members (The Journalist December). And the Caledonian Mercury, Scotland’s first national online newspaper, launched two years ago, and now in profit! Yes, things are dire, which is why media academics and even politicians have recently shared conference platforms to discuss and suggest ways forward. But in both Wales and Ireland some radical ideas – and hope – have sprung up from them. Everyone agrees that urgent action is needed. There are real fears in Wales that the Western Mail, its only national daily newspaper, may become a weekly, or cease publishing altogether. In response to this threat and the wave of closures of weeklies across Wales, the Assembly Government launched a serious inquiry. In his evidence to the inquiry, Martin Shipton, the paper’s chief reporter and Father of the Chapel at the Media Wales group, blamed the ‘corporate greed, bad management 10 | theJournalist
strategy and failure to invest profits back into Wales’ of owners Trinity Mirror for the current crisis. Similar allegations are being made by journalists in England, Scotland and Ireland against the big conglomerates. But though the different nations and regions may have common problems, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Dr Andy Williams, lecturer at Cardiff University’s Media School, dismisses the solutions suggested by regional news publishers themselves. • More consolidation – which would lead to more job cuts and closures and add to the decline in quality journalism • Online pay walls. These work for elite/niche news, but not for local communities. And though there’s growth in online advertising, “it’s nowhere near enough to provide the resources needed to sustain public interest journalism on the scale newspapers used to provide” he told The Future of the Press in Wales conference organised by the NUJ’s Cardiff & South East Wales branch and the University of Glamorgan. Dr Williams suggests that one solution would be a public subsidy ‘to encourage new journalism that’s non-profit making, accountable to the workforce and the communities they serve’. He does not advocate public subsidies to prop up the broken business model of the big four regional newspaper publishers, Trinity Mirror, Newsquest, Johnston Press and Northcliffe. NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley says he ‘remains confident’ there is a future for local news across a variety of platforms. But only investment in news can save local newspapers. He told a Limerick University conference on the future of the press: “Newspapers must once again invest in serving their readers with the coverage of the courts, councils, sports and social events they demand and deserve.” He said he believed ‘there is a bright future for those newspapers which find the resources to make these investments.’ At the same conference, media commentator Roy Greenslade injected a large dose of positivism and optimism into the debate. He said the digital revolution offered ‘a different kind of journalism - giving us the chance to reinvent the form altogether, through collaboration and participation’. He says that for many it’s a scary, if not terrifying, prospect. “But it’s a vision of a future that we need to grasp if we are to save journalism rather than newsprint,” he added. The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities. We may be at the start of a new era, with the possibility of a growth in journalist-owned publications, multiple ownership of newspapers including public bodies and charitable trusts, and more participation by citizen journalists. And instead of accepting the death of regional newspapers we should be striving for a renaissance. It’s a view shared by American business magnate, Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world. Last month he announced he’s bought 26 local newspapers, and told publishers: Newspapers have a future, but it won’t be one where they bring in significant profits.
Freelance journalist and editor Jenny Sims is a job-share member of the NUJ national executive council. AF Archive/AlAmy
theJournalist | 11
‘ We will not be slaves to fear’
12 | theJournalist
et him go’ the headline in La Tribuna demanded. Despite the pleas, the body of Honduran radio journalist Alfredo Villatoro, kidnapped on May 9, was found dumped by the roadside a few days later. JJust a week before Villatoro’s kidnap, missing journalist Erick Martinez was found dead in a street north of the capital Tegucigalpa. Police said he had been strangled. Since Honduras’ 2009 coup, when the military helped to overthrow President Manual Zelaya, 20 of Alfredo’s colleagues have been killed, many brutally murdered. Not one single killer has been convicted. Honduran human rights commissioner Ramon Custodio has warned that journalists face a growing risk amid a rise
Jeremy Dear reports on how journalists in Honduras are resisting a campaign of kidnap and murder in drug trafficking and other organised crime. “The danger we all in Honduras are experiencing is intensifying in an important part of society, namely the media, which are suffering threats, attacks and murders,” Mr Custodio said. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) accuses the government of minimizing the crimes and being slow and negligent in pursuing the killers. “The government is fostering a climate of lawlessness that is allowing criminals to kill journalists with impunity” a recent CPJ report concluded. It was hardly a surprising conclusion given Security Minister Oscar Alvarez’s comments that six journalists murdered by hitmen in the space of seven weeks were just victims of “ordinary street crime”. Geovaney Dominguez, editor at El Tiempo said: “You get the impression that the government wants you in terror so you don’t know what to report. Is this story about drugs too dangerous? What about this one about political corruption? At the end you don’t report anything that will make powerful people uncomfortable”. A CPJ investigation found many journalists fear the murders have been conducted with the tacit approval, or even outright complicity, of police, armed forces, or other authorities. In a blog she wrote for Amnesty International on World Press Freedom Day, Honduran journalist Dina Meza says many young people are now questioning whether to study journalism amid the fear and self-censorship which grips the media. “With the coup d’etat in 2009, intolerance grew to such an extent that censorship and self-censorship are now the inseparable companions of every journalist. “I began my studies in 1986. Inever imagined that speaking, writing and telling the truth about what was happening could mean walking the line between life and death if anyone powerful in the country felt threatened. “Since the coup d’etat, 20 journalists have been killed in Honduras. The files on these deaths carry on gathering dust in the drawers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Impunity tries to silence a story which was never told”. In addition to the murders, journalists face a daily barrage of death threats and intimidation. A local television reporter for Canal 6, Elder Joel Aguilar, who exposed the illegal activities of Honduras’s criminal gangs, survived a submachinegun attack by two men which left his car riddled with 14 bullet holes. The home of Selvín Martínez, a correspondent for JBN Televisión, was machinegunned while his two children, aged three and five, were playing outside the house. He telephoned the police to report the attack. The officer who took the call told him “I am in a
meeting.” He believes the attack resulted from his coverage of a complaint by a woman constituent that she had been refused financial assistance by the local mayor. An international press freedom mission to Honduras earlier this year concluded that ‘not a day has passed since the start of the year without a journalist, local media owner or social commentator receiving a phone call to say his or her life is in danger’.
he Honduras-based Committee for Free Expression said it was almost impossible for journalists in some regions to carry out their basic duties. Local media who investigated February’s fire at Comayagua prison, which killed more than 350 inmates, received death threats. Reporters were told to stop asking questions or be killed. “Stop talking about the fire or we shall set fire to you!” Even those who speak to the media are targeted. Lawyer Ricardo Rosales was murdered three days after he was quoted in the newspaper Diario Tiempo accusing police officers in the northern town of Tela of serious human rights violations. Small local media outlets, staffed by young and inexperienced journalists, are vulnerable to pressure from local politicians, corrupt business and organised crime; so they often exercise self-censorship rather than take on sensitive topics. Celso Schroder, President of the IFJ’s Latin American affiliate FEPALC said: “We have been monitoring and denouncing the attacks against journalists, media and social movements in the country. We are working to build international awareness and support to enable Honduran journalists to raise their collective voice and fight back” Dina Meza, despite receiving new death threats herself over recent weeks, is ready to fight back. “Don’t think that I am not afraid; many times I’ve felt as though fear has soaked through to my bones, but the feeling of responsibility is stronger. This is a responsibility I must fulfil from the moment I decided whether to pass on to the next generation – which is risking everything – a subjugated country, or a liberated nation. “The dilemma is whether to silence ourselves or whether to allow this situation to silence us – to limit ourselves to speaking only about things which those people who want the truth to be hidden, would like us to speak about. “It’s a very difficult decision because it affects every area of our lives: our families, our social contexts, our lives themselves. But if they manage to intimidate us and paralyze us, it will mean that we have become slaves to fear”
www.cpj.org www.fepalc.org theJournalist | 13
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82-year-old U Win Tin was jailed for 19 years
he streets of Yangon were governed by fear. The media were ruthlessly gagged. Darkness reigned and a military junta had ruled with the same brutal consistency ever since 1962 when General Ne Win launched his coup against the elected government. People-power uprisings had been ruthlessly crushed. But in 2011 hope also arrived in this South East nation now named Myanmar with the first glimmerings of a “Burmese spring”. Today the streets are alive with a vibrant sense of change. The fear of secret police and informers has receded. After nearly 20 years of house arrest imposed by Myanmar’s clique of ruling generals, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, is now free. Thousands of other political prisoners including many journalists, have been released from long-jail terms. Veteran journalist U Win Tin (pictured), a senior advisor to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is among them. A string of new media have hit the streets; The Voice, Open News Journal, Weekly Eleven, Thought and Vision magazine to name but a few. Internet censorship has also been relaxed. The websites of exiled Burmese media –
There are grounds for caution in the Burmese spring, as Tom Fawthrop reports formerly strictly banned with no web access inside the country – are now tolerated. Information Minister U Kyaw Hsan, who had loyally served the military junta for six years prior to the formation of a quasi-civilian government in 2010, recently addressed a Unesco-sponsored media conference held in Yangon on the subject of the government’s new Media Bill. “We are not drafting the new media law with the intention of banning or hampering press freedom,” the minister argued. Despite the easing of censorship many journalists are not so sure about the minister’s real motives. “I don’t really trust the minister and his assurances about more press freedom” says U Soe Thin, who has been jailed several times for his writings. “We journalists will continue to push the envelope.” Currently all journals and
Today the streets are alive with a vibrant sense of change
newspapers must submit their proofs to the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) before publication. All privately-owned and independent media are restricted to weekly publication. This is about to change under the new Media Law. Prior censorship will be dropped in favour of a new self-censorship similar to the system adopted in neighbouring South East Asian states like Singapore and Vietnam. Three newly-formed journalist associations – the Myanmar Journalists Association, the Myanmar Journalists Network and the Myanmar Journalists Union – are engaged in a campaign against the media legislation proposal to set up a ‘Press Council’ to replace the existing organ of censorship, the PSRD. The Press Council will adhere to the same 1962 censorship law. Burma’s most fearless and respected veteran journalist, 82 year old U Win Tin who has survived 19 years imprisonment, highlighted another major issue. ‘The media law gives no protection to journalists. We need legal protection. This is the key issue.” He argues that promises about press freedom don’t add up to much. “We need tangible guarantees. “ Many editors and journalists are worried that the new media law contains no clause to protect the media from the repressive laws. Twenty-one year old Sithu Zeya, a video journalist released from jail in January this year, is a good example of this legal limbo that media now inhabit. His conditional release would see him banged up behind bars again to serve the remaining 18 years of his sentence if he breaches Burma’s allembracing public order laws. In the wake of post-election euphoria, it is all too easy to assume an irresistible momentum towards democracy and press freedom. But Ms Suu Kyi has cautioned that nothing is irreversible, and these reforms could easily be rolled back. It is still a military-dominated regime with 25 per cent of the 644 seats in parliament. The media will continue to be a high risk profession, as long as the real power still resides in the hands of Myanmar’s military. theJournalist | 15
Helping police with their inquiries can be a risky business, says award-winning former BBC journalist Graeme McLagan
he phone call from the police was totally unexpected. The officer was polite but insistent. The Met police and the Crown Prosecution Service wanted me to give evidence at the Old Bailey, warning that refusal could lead to my arrest. Appearing as a prosecution witness could seriously damage my hard-earned reputation as a ‘respected and responsible’ journalist’ (to quote the present Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge) and I knew how questioning could go into sensitive and confidential areas, having been cross-examined by a QC for nearly three whole days in a libel action. My dealings with
By then freelancing, I thought it a poor programme based on flimsy hearsay evidence. But such was the stir that the Independent Police Complaints Commission appealed for information. I agreed to help, intrigued that Putnam had made no such claim to me during many hours of interviews. That offer to the IPCC was to prove my undoing. Fast forward to 2010 when two former detective sergeants (Bob Clark and Chris Drury), who had served long prison sentences largely because of Putnam’s original evidence, had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal, which ordered a retrial.
police, criminals, private investigators and victims could all be probed. The police officer was unmoved by pleas that this would breach my rights as a journalist to protect sources under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and also prevent me continuing to report on what was an intriguing police corruption case. My involvement went back to 2000 when I presented a Panorama programme Bent Cop telling the story of Met police detective Neil Putnam, who had turned supergrass and given evidence against several former colleagues, five of whom were convicted. The programme included interviews with Putnam and John Yates, the officer in charge of the case who later became become assistant commissioner. He resigned last year amidst allegations of police mishandling of the News International phone hacking affair. In 2006, the Panorama programme ‘The boys who killed Stephen Lawrence’ included a new interview with Putnam in which he went further than before in his claims of corruption by one of the detectives involved in the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation. Putnam said the detective had told him that he had a corrupt relationship with the father of one of the then alleged killers, David Norris, but there was no prosecution because it would have blown open the Met’s mishandling of the Lawrence case.
Last autumn, the pair’s lawyers were expected to argue at a pre-retrial review that Putnam’s ‘new’ 2006 Panorama allegations supported claims of police and legal wrongdoing. Countering this, the prosecution wanted me to support their declaration that Putnam was no longer a witness of truth. Stuck in the middle, and with a journalistic principle at stake, I received helpful legal advice through the NUJ. But unknown to me, the police obtained a copy of the IPCC’s notes made of their interview with me, and the CPS then did the same. On each occasion the IPCC handed over the notes without consulting me, even though they had been written five years before and during an investigation into a BBC programme, not directly to do with the case. According to my lawyers, that IPCC action meant any legal challenge to being called based on protecting sources would probably fail, with the prosecution asking ‘why object now when I had freely discussed the Putnam issue earlier’? Stuck, I ended up in the witness box after a wait of four days, disputing defence charges that I was in the pocket of Scotland Yard. My evidence was unnecessary. The case against the two former officers collapsed after a woman supergrass (Eve Fleckney), the girlfriend of one of the officers (Clark) refused to give evidence. The wasteful experience left me frustrated and angry with the IPCC, which I had largely supported. It is right that policewrongdoing is investigated by an outside organisation rather
Mind how yo
16 | theJournalist
than police investigating themselves. But if the IPCC are the guardians of police misconduct, who investigates alleged wrongdoing by its own investigators? To my surprise, the IPCC investigates itself, as I found out when complaining about investigator John Cummins’ handing over of my five-year-old notes. This ex-police officer appeared to have broken the IPCC’s own ‘statutory guidance’ which states it is good practice to ask a statement-giver whether disclosure to a third party would cause any harm. No one had approached me. This breach was not addressed by the IPCC’s ‘Internal Investigations Unit’ so I launched a further complaint, including this time the head of the IPCC’s legal division, David Emery, who had approved Cummins’ action, again without consulting me. This second complaint was dismissed with a wriggling response from another ex-police officer, Paul Davies, the
IPCC’s ‘head of standards’. He maintained that the notes taken by Cummins five years earlier were the ‘property’ of the IPCC. And they were just that – ‘notes’. No breach had occurred because the code of conduct applied to ‘statements’ and I had made no statement. He added that the issue of ‘notes’ being disclosed had never been an issue before. Now very disillusioned with the IPCC and its handling of my complaint, my advice to journalists is to take care when talking to its investigators. You never know where or when anything you say could appear. A Freedom of Information request revealed that a total of 31 complaints were made against IPCC investigators in the 18 months to last October (2011). Only six resulted in an apology. None were investigated by an outside organisation.
Graeme McLagan is now freelancing. He won the Royal Television Society’s Home Affairs award when at the BBC specialising in police corruption. He is the author of the best seller Bent Coppers The present Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has described him as a ‘respected journalist’. Appeal Court judges, ruling for him and his publisher in a libel action, praised his ‘honesty, expertise in the subject, careful research, and painstaking evaluation of a mass of material.’ (Charman v Orion and McLagan) theJournalist | 17
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Adrienne Margolis reports on free expression in the internet age
The contest for digital freedom
Citizen media has emerged at a time when journalists are struggling to hang on to their jobs
Global Voices, which provides a platform for voices not usually heard in the mainstream media. Citizen media has emerged at a time when journalists are struggling to hang on to their jobs. “There’s a difference between the survival of one news organisation and the issue of the public interest. The latter is about the survival of journalism in its best sense,” Rebecca argues. “Some news organisations may do things that are not in the interest of free expression. Journalists need to be aware of the problem, because some of them are in denial. It is understandable, because the vast majority can’t just quit their jobs. The question is how to ensure that you’re on the right side and remain employed.” The media tends to cover stories about online freedom and rights or the Arab Spring as one-off events, or as gadget or business stories. “Journalists don’t ask questions about the Internet being a politically contested space. The problem is the same in the physical
world – it’s a question of what society needs to know, in order for people to have a say.” She notes that the Committee to Protect Journalists started out to help journalists who have been arrested, but is increasingly getting involved in copyright and censorship issues. “Journalists can make a difference by trying to write stories on freedom of expression topics. This can have a cumulative effect over time. Editors need to be aware that younger audiences are a hungry for coverage of these issues.” In her book, she gives examples of countries where ‘pirate’ parties that have anti-censorship as a core platform are being elected. “News organisations can champion what they’re doing and inform the new generation – there is untapped value in this kind of journalism.” Rebecca MacKinnon believes that how companies in the digital world are reported is important. “We are finding that they are behaving as quasigovernments, so we should try and cover them that way.” theJournalist | 19
nternet policy specialist Rebecca MacKinnon, a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has been explaining how she came to write her new book, Consent of the Networked: the worldwide struggle for digital freedom Rebecca began her career in journalism as a result of her ties with China. Her father was a professor of Chinese history and she had been a fluent Chinese speaker since the age of nine. “I was interested in journalism, so I went to the Chinese speaking world in the early 1990s,” she explains. “I spent a year in Taiwan on a Fulbright fellowship, then went to CNN in Beijing as a bureau assistant. I worked my way up and became bureau chief at the age of 28.” She spent nine years in China with CNN, then went to Japan. “I chose journalism because I wanted an international career in something that made a difference. I was idealistic,” she recalls. But by 2000, CNN had become part of Time Warner/AOL. The stock market crash meant that the AOL share price slumped and she felt that there was less emphasis on journalism, and more on ratings. Rebecca had become fascinated by blogs by people who were reporting what was happening, without journalists as gatekeepers. “In 2004 I took six months leave of absence to take up a fellowship at Harvard, to look into what citizen media meant for international journalism. Many bloggers were facing censorship, surveillance and arrest, threatening people’s ability to speak on line and their safety in doing so.” She became sufficiently involved not to want to return to CNN. Instead, she co-founded
Press in crisis F “ orget the News International scandals for a moment. How might you feel if three of the national television stations were directly owned by the head of MI5. And all the other television stations, major news papers and magazines were owned by members of parliament and directly financed by big business. Welcome to the world of journalism in Ukraine. The privileges we enjoy as members of the NUJ in the UK and Ireland have been hard won in a constant and sometimes difficult battle with media owners and the vested interests of politicians and business alike. We have enjoyed the support of a legal system that works and as a result our rights and our jobs have been protected. Most of the time. Journalists in Ukraine have two choices: to toe the owner’s line or find an alternative job. Most media owners are either senior political figures or are those who wish to curry favour with the political elite. The vast majority of Ukrainian journalists are purely freelances with no retainers, who are forced to write ‘supportive’ articles or they simply don’t feed their families. The media owners know who the he ‘difficult journalists’ are and these
20 | theJournalist
Martin Nunn reports on the bleak landscape for journalism in Europe’s second largest country
are rarely invited to submit articles. Real political comment simply does not exist, as a majority of journalists are too frightened of being blacklisted to even question the political status quo. Add to this the problem of paid commercial journalism and it is easy to see why Ukrainian journalism is in a state of virtual collapse. So bad has the printed media situation become that internet connection is rising at 400 per cent a year to get access to real news. One senior Ukrainian journalist recently commented that the only way he could find out what is really going on in Ukraine was to watch the international TV news broadcasts or to look in the underground press. There are, of course, rebels who simply refuse to toe the line, but many have been visited by the security services or the tax police looking for an excuse to seize their computers or simply close them down. The issue has two faces, however; most certainly the media owners profit
Perhaps it is time for us to recognise that the rights we enjoy as journalists are universal
from a climate of fear but that is not all. The schools of journalism still teach the old soviet model of journalistic practice where you were not supposed to ask difficult questions, research was virtually forbidden and anything that came from official channels was considered to be gospel. I once asked a group of final year journalism graduates how many would sell the front page of their newspaper. They all put their hands up. I then asked if they would let the buyer write the story. Seventy per cent put their hands up, so then I asked if the client can write the story why do we need journalists: there was a stunned silence. However, there are those who are fighting back. The ‘Stop Censorship’ movement is a prime example, where television journalists forced their owner to accept a more liberal approach to broadcasting. These brave few have now been joined by print journalists who have simply had enough. But these people are right out on a limb and are only tolerated by the authorities so that they can demonstrate to Brussels and the world at large that there is ‘press freedom’. Ukraine is going through a particularly trying time. What is happening should be reported not just to the outside world but to the people of Ukraine, who overwhelmingly want to be part of a greater Europe. At present being a journalist in Ukraine is a very high risk occupation. Perhaps it is time for us to recognise that the rights we enjoy as journalists are universal. Perhaps it is time for us to show more than token support for our colleagues in Ukraine. Perhaps it is time for us to demonstrate real support and help them to win the same rights our predecessors fought for all those years ago. Martin Nunn and Martin Foley run a new Ukraine-based news agency aimed at supplying western media with accurate information on the country. Martin Nunn has lived in Kyiv since 1993 and also runs a prominent public relations agency. In 2008 he was one of the founder members of the People First Democracy Foundation
THE VIEW FROM INSIDE PR Name: Natasha Robson Job description: Account director, Wildfire PR and Marketing
Editorial fees challenge ethical PR practice
he longer I work in PR, the more I like about it. But I am becoming increasingly tetchy about editorial fees, particularly in certain sectors of trade press, seemingly becoming ‘the norm’. ‘Colour separation charges’ or ‘colour seps’ are fees, generally around £100, charged by a range of trade press to include news in their publication. Colour seps stem from a bygone age of printing when it took time to manually separate colours of an image to accompany an article. In today’s digital print process a colour image can be reproduced with next to no effort, which is why it grates on me that magazines still regularly request these ‘colour sep charges’ as though they are covering a genuine expense. I’ve even been sent a form requesting a colour sep fee for inclusion of a press release in an email bulletin before now. When I politely asked what this charge was meant to cover, I got no response. Many publications have ditched the outdated term ‘colour sep fee’ and just request a charge to guarantee editorial space. It’s somewhat depressing having to explain this to clients who are not familiar with it. Their response is normally along the lines of: “Isn’t that a bit of a con?”
They, rightly, find it baffling that a magazine which covers news in their trade, wouldn’t publish a relevant news story without a payment. As a journalist who made the move into PR several years ago, it’s beyond me how this can still be an acceptable practice in the trade press, when with other media this would be considered highly questionable. But a difficulty can arise in some agencies which may actively recommend a colour sep budget to clients, because it also creates revenue for the consultancy. Members may understandably feel uncomfortable being put in the position of having to recommend editorial fees to clients as standard practice, which is where the NUJ’s Public Relations and Communications Council’s ethical guidelines can help. The guidelines, developed to complement the NUJ’s Code of Conduct, specifically mention editorial fees, stating: “Members shall not encourage payment of charges or fees demanded by publications for editorial material e.g. colour separation charges. The production of clearly identified advertorials or advertising features can be acceptable practice, but
members shall not attempt to ‘buy’ editorial space or air time, either by direct bribery or by promising to buy advertising space. Hospitality should not exceed normal courtesy.” This is well phrased, as it recognises that although these fees are ethically dubious, the reality is that they will probably be here to stay, at least for some time. It also helps members by providing written support to justify their concerns to employers. It’s sad to say, but I am always surprised (although delighted) to come across a trade publication which genuinely publishes editorial on its own merit. I would always prefer to have my copy edited and not guaranteed inclusion, rather than it be lumped in a pre-set space, surrounded by ‘news’ that has been included for a price, regardless of its relevance or quality. It’s definitely more satisfying for me and I find that clients appreciate the benefits too. Incidentally, the guidelines say NUJ members in PR : “shall uphold the Union’s Code of Conduct and defend the freedom of the press and the right of the public to balanced and accurate information.” As PR members within the NUJ we should be championing the trade publications which do seek to publish editorial on merit, as ultimately these magazines will achieve greater respect from their readership, and be more appealing to contributors and advertisers alike.
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Have you been claiming enough? Linda Harrison takes a look at a constant problem for freelances
f you’re a freelance writer or photographer, the chances are you may not be completely clear on what exactly you can and cannot claim against tax. Accountants may give conflicting advice, leaving even experienced freelances confused. Andrew Subramaniam, a partner specialising in media at chartered accountants HW Fisher, says: “If in doubt about any expenses or allowances, claim them! You have to show the taxman that each of your expenses were ‘wholly and exclusively for the purpose of trade’ as a freelance. There are many different opinions, and you should ideally have a receipt.” One of the first expenses for many freelances is working from home. There are two options. The first involves claiming a proportion of home costs (mortgage interest, rent, council tax, electricity, etc), usually calculated on the number of rooms in your property. Joanne Jones, senior accountant at
22 | theJournalist
TWD Accountants, says: “You can only claim the proportion of household expenses if this is a dedicated office, not the corner of a living room. There may, however, be Capital Gains implications if you come to sell the property.” The alternative is claiming a flat rate. This is usually £3 a week, although accountants recommendations’ vary – TWD usually claims a standard £300 a year for clients. Other valid claims are travel, meals when staying in overnight accommodation, and the accommodation itself. However, there are no set guidelines on the distance from home or maximum amount. Jones warns HMRC is quite strict on meals and subsistence: “Their argument is that you ‘eat to live’ not ‘live to eat’, and you would be eating to survive as a human being whether you were self-employed or not.” There are also two options for motoring expenses – a fixed rate per
Records should be kept for at least five years and ten months following each tax year
mile travelled for work (45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles, then 25p per mile), which is 100 per cent tax deductable, or a proportion of the total costs of running the car, including MOT, repairs, fuel, depreciation, etc. Jones adds: “The Fixed Rate method is less complicated, but whatever you choose, every business journey for the tax year should be logged, including date, mileage and job name, plus total mileage for the year.” And don’t forget you can claim 20p a mile for bikes and 24p for motorbikes. Regarding public transport and taxis, keep a note and get receipts – otherwise a contemporaneous note is acceptable. Broadband, mobile and landline calls should be divided into personal and business use – keep a phone usage log for a sample period, say three months. Other expenses include websites, secretarial assistance, professional subscriptions (NUJ membership), faxing, printing, postage, stationery, photocopying, photography processing, software, newspapers and a percentage of your TV licence. Accountancy fees are 100 per cent tax deductible as are training courses – although training must start after going freelance. And there’s an allowance for equipment like computers. A spreadsheet will suffice for record keeping, with headings including ‘Travel and Accommodation’, ‘Landline’, ‘Website’ etc. Records should be kept for at least five years and ten months following each tax year.
MORE INFORMATION Freelance Fact Pack: NUJ website www.nuj.org.uk;innerpagenuj. html?docid=933 HMRC beginners’ guide: www.hmrc.gov.uk/startingup/ working-for-yourself TWD Accountants: 0800 093 9433, www.twdaccounts.co.uk/NUJ
Pete Lazenby is a veteran anti-fascist campaigner and NUJ life member
THE NUJ AND ME What made you become a journalist? When I was 10 my junior school headteacher told my parents I was going to be a journalist. I was already writing, even then. I left grammar school aged 17 on a Tuesday and started as a trainee reporter on Wednesday. That was 1967.
What other job have you done? In an ironmonger’s shop on Saturdays aged 12. From 14 to 16 I worked in school holidays on building sites and in textile mills. Later I was a barman to supplement my trainee pay.
When did you join the NUJ and why?
RICHARDBAKER/ALAMY, STEPHEN BARNES/LIVING HISTORY/ALAMY
My paternal grandfather was blacklisted from engineering for life in the 1920s for knocking a scab off his pushbike. My dad was in the NHS union COHSE. It’s in the family. I asked for a form the day I started in journalism but had to wait three months or so.
Are many of your friends in the union? Some.
What’s been your best moment in your career? Being in South Africa covering the first democratic elections which saw Nelson Mandela become President of the Republic. I wasn’t in Johannesburg or Capetown with the media pack. I was on the streets of Durban with the ANC. That, and once having a highly supportive editor and seeing our election special roll off the presses with the splash “Don’t be conned by the BNP.”
And in the union?
Who is your biggest hero?
The 1978-79 regional strike, and our Joint Chapel’s 97.4 per cent vote to strike three years ago.
I’m not really into heroes, but Paul Foot and Tony Benn come close.
And the worst ones?
Murdoch and Thatcher, closely followed today by the whole of the Con-Dem cabinet.
Probably losing a strike vote over derecognition in the early 1990s. And not stopping the redundancies in 2009.
Which six people (alive or dead) would you invite to a dinner party?
What is the worst place you’ve ever worked in? Building sites in the rain are pretty grim.
Paul Foot, Tony Benn, my wife Joan, Anne Scargill (I’m writing a book with her and she’s wonderful company), and I suppose I’d better have a couple from history, say William Godwin and Tom Paine.
And the best? Where I am now. We’re probably the only paper in the country where every head of department is in the NUJ – and all walked out on strike against redundancies, despite threats that their careers would be over if they did so. They not only struck. They picketed outside the editor’s office window. Real courage .I can’t speak highly enough of them
What advice would you give someone starting in journalism? Join the union. Build your contacts book. Go to pubs. I reckon more stories have started life on the back of a beer mat that in an office. Don’t tolerate bullying. Always be there when the big story breaks, day or night. But resist the long hours culture. Commitment is one thing. Involuntary, unpaid overtime is another. It used to be known as slavery.
What was your earliest political thought? That’s difficult. My mother lived in dire poverty as a child, and the stories that she told me when I was young affected the way I thought about society and inequality. And about Tories.
What are your hopes for journalism over the next five years? That the next generation of journalists takes up the struggles the National Union of Journalists started over a century ago. And that regional newspapers survive.
And fears? That the likes of Murdoch will triumph.
What advice would you give a new freelance?
What one thing would you most want to change in the next 12 months?
The government. theJournalist | 23
Arts with attitude Some of the best things to see and do with a bit of political bite For listings email: journalist@NUJ.org.uk
INDEPTH ‘LOST VOICE GUY’ FINDS ONE Forthcoming appearances by Lee Ridley are detailed on www.lostvoiceguy.com
24 | theJournalist
The Olympics, exhibitions, books, films, festivals Free cultural Olympic events Journalists all over the world will be covering the London Olympics 2012 but Jersey journalist Richard Collinson, will also be an Olympic torchbearer when the relay reaches Jersey on July 15. BBC Radio Jersey sports reporter Richard will carry the flame along the island’s south coast with 15 others from the island. Richard, 69, has dedicated his life to sport and to providing coaching for young people. Now retired, he still works for the BBC as a sports journalist after 27 years. There are over 2,500 events to mark the Olympics, and some 16 million people have taken part in or attended Cultural Olympiad performances. www.london2012.com Exhibitions Island Stories: 50 Years of Photography in Britain V&A Museum, London SW7 Until September 19 Five decades of change in Britain
Cerebral palsy sufferer Lee Ridley is a
writer, journalist and computer geek who recently launched a career as a stand-up comedian even though he can’t talk! Lee uses the stage name Lost Voice Guy and uses a communications aid – an iPad – to enable him to speak. His ‘real’ job at Sunderland Council in the communications team is currently one of several journalistic jobs he undertakes, including working for the BBC and the Sunday Sun. But friends encouraged him to try the stage and now “I’m in the media more than Princess Di.” Lee uses his disability as his act and to update his web site. Through the iPad’s electronic voice and the permanent grin on his face he makes amusing observations and put-downs. He blogs, is on Twitter and Facebook and still replies to emails. He went to the X Factor as a piss-take; what about Britain’s Got Talent? “Without being too cocky, I think I might do quite well on there. That wouldn’t have been as amusing though. I don’t really like those sorts of shows. In my opinion, they’ve made TV worse. I don’t think I’d go on and do it for real. I just thought it would be funny to go on the X Factor and see what happened. It gave me more material for my set at least!” For his ‘real’ job at Sunderland Council, Lee is Online Content Manager in the Communications
is documented in this collection of photography, its techniques and style changes from fashion shoots in Lancashire mills to domestic life, landscapes, community and industrial practices. It also features coal miners by Don McCullin, Fay Godwin’s landscapes, Martin Parr’s black and white leisure scenes from the seventies and opening and closing the exhibition are works by Jeremy Dellar. Also at the V&A until August 12 is British Design 1948-2012, tracing ideas produced by designers and artists born, trained or based in Britain. firstname.lastname@example.org Life Online – What the Internet Means to Us National Media Museum, Bradford Permanent exhibition Life Online is the world’s first gallery, costing £2 million, dedicated to exploring the social, technological and cultural impact of the internet, tracing the history, uncovering how it’s changed people’s lives and tracking latest trends. Also at
team. He’d previously worked at the BBC and the Sunday Sun newspaper. So far, he’s written all the material for his standup act. “I think I’ve got quite a lot of material in the bank from my 31 years of life so that’s given me a good start. “I tend to base most of my material on my disability and experiences anyway so it’s all quite personal. I like to think it provides audiences with something a bit different than the usual stuff they see.” If more gigs start coming, will he give up the day job? “I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. I’m just enjoying each gig as it comes and having fun along the way. A few months ago I wasn’t even a stand up at all so I’m in no rush.” Lee is scheduled to ‘do’ Edinburgh this year. “I think it’ll be a mix of new and current material. I’m still learning which bits work best and which don’t. Hopefully by August my material will be more honed and ready for a wider audience. “I have a decent general knowledge of politics but I wouldn’t say I was particularly well informed. I just think I talk about politics because they’ve made it so easy to take the mick out of them all. Obviously when they try to demonise disabled people, I’m bound to take the piss out of them. I use my blogs quite a lot in my material already. I just choose the best bits and try to make them work in my routine.”
arts the museum is In the Blink of An Eye: Movement and Media, until September 2, capturing movement through photography, film, television and new media examining the beauty of the human form in motion. www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk All Work and Low Pay The Women’s Library at Metropolitan University, London Until August 25 Putting paid to the myth that the majority of British women didn’t go to work until the second half of the twentieth century, this exhibition shows the extraordinary range of jobs done by women over the past 150 years and includes unseen documents, images, films and artefacts as well as highlighting campaigns for equal pay and fair working conditions. www.londonmet.ac.uk Books On the Front Line: The Collected Journalism of Marie Colvin Harper Press. £16.99 Covering conflict for 25 years, this is Sunday Times journalist Maria Colvin’s finest collection of reports covering the Iran-Iraq war in 1987 up to her final report a week before dying in a rocket attack in Syria this year. She recounts losing an eye in 2001 in Sri Lanka, Saddam Hussein’s execution, Gadaffi’s death and wars in Afghanistan, Kosovo and her terrifying escape from the Russian army in Chechnya. www.harpercollins.co.uk The Divine Comedians: The Funniest Quotes from Radical Stand-up By Paul Wellings. The Progressive Press. £4.99 With stand-up comedy standing at a critical crossroads, former NUJ FoC and Wapping picket line activist Paul Wellings asks if its current ubiquity has blunted its radical edge. The book, a sequel to his critically acclaimed I’m a Journalist…Get Me Out of Here!, is a compilation of wry one-liners and acute satirical observations from comics as diverse as Frankie Boyle and Lenny Bruce. Socialist stalwart Wellings shows how the best comedians can combine boundary-pushing humour with mass appeal. To order: email@example.com
Covering conflict for 25 years until her death in February
Veteran Jersey sports reporter carries the torch
Dial M for Murdoch: News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain By Tom Watson and Martin Hickman. £15 Suffice to say, here is what some of the critics are saying: “You will be gobsmacked by this account”, Guardian; “The book to sink an empire”, Open Democracy; “A devastating book about a very dark media and political scandal”, Independent On Sunday; “The fullest account yet of the sordid saga”, Observer; “It wasn’t journalism, it was corporate espionage”, New Statesman. Available through: www.amazon.co.uk Film Fast Girls In cinemas from June 15 Lenora Chrichlow, daughter of Frank Chrichlow the influential figure who was instrumental in setting
up the Notting Hill Carnival and a campaigner for housing, civil rights and social justice, is one of the stars of this feel-good movie that tracks the roller-coaster journey of a British female sprint relay team. www.fastgirlsthemovie.co.uk Festival Peace One Day Ebrington Parade Ground, Derry. June 21 Global Truth 2012 highlights the three-month countdown to Global Truce on Peace Day. Organisers want to see the largest reduction in global violence in recorded history. Pixie Lott, Imelda May, Newton Faulkner, Guillemots and Wonder Villains will join Peace One Day founder and filmmaker Jeremy Gilley. The host for the event will be actor Jude Law. The Global Truth campaign will culminate with a concert in London on September 21. www.peaceoneday.org
PREVIEW Typography’s Great Adventure Eine, The Lowry, Manchester Until September 16
Half a century of saucy photography at V&A
Established street artist, Ben Flynn, aka Eine, recently had a solo sold-out show in San Francisco, was included in the biggest exhibition of street art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Amnesty International invited him to design their 50th anniversary poster, joining other artists like Picasso and Miro in supporting the charity and also produced a stunning Home Sweet Homeless wall in Shoreditch for Shelter to promote their annual art auction. Now one of the most exciting and prolific street artists working today, who shot to international fame when David Cameron presented one of his works to President Obama, he has a major British exhibition of his striking typographic graffiti – bright, colourful letters and words – at the Promenade Gallery at Manchester’s Lowry Museum. From single letters to complex wry statements Eine has left his mark worldwide, his stunning words and letters can be found on shop front shutters and walls as well as in museums and galleries in a style Eine has made striking, effective and his own. www.thelowry.com and www.einesigns.co.uk
Bright, colourfull and striking typography at Manchester’s Lowry Museum theJournalist | 25
wapping spoiler News International’s giant Wapping car park now lies empty, yet it still advertises the Sun on its hoardings with “Free Lego toys for kids”. My son wants the toys, but I tell him I won’t buy the Sun. I say it is a disgusting newspaper. He seems alright with that and is no longer bothered about the Lego. I have a particular revulsion against News International as my brother’s friend Michael Delaney was killed in 1987 by one of the TNT distribution lorries heading east away from Wapping. Michael was trying to remonstrate with the lorry driver at a junction in Stepney but was dragged under the lorry. The lorry driver did not report the accident until he was at a service station on the M4. No one was ever convicted of killing Michael Delaney. He was 19. Since then News International has remained a brute presence in this area. Fortress Wapping took over the name of the area where my mother and grandparents had grown up and lived. When we are collecting money for the school, people always suggest asking News International for a donation. I feel insulted that they think it is ok to ask such an odious organisation for money, not just because of the hacking scandal, or the corruption charges. It is because 26 years ago it turned up on our doorsteps, given free business rates by Tower Hamlets Council, and was allowed to do what it liked. it was only last year when the hacking scandal turned in on News International that people remembered it again. And now the site is empty again and is going to be redeveloped and then no one will remember it at all. Amanda Day, Stepney
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Class act? John Pilger’s plea (The Journalist Feb/March) for a Fifth Estate where journalists would be the agents of the people, not the powerful, is sound... the question is where will this type of journalist come from? Increasingly, journalists are in situ because of who they know rather than what they know. The time when there was a mix of backgrounds for journalists at the top, particularly among specialists, has nearly gone, with the opportunities so rare for young journalists to join local newspapers and work their way to the top. The journalists likely to assume power are mainly from press families or public schools, or both, with the opinions of that class predominant; and where they manage to take on a progressive stance they are likely to lose it as they 26 | theJournalist
get the power needed to express it. That’s before you consider how to loosen the grip of the millionaire establishment on the media industry Roy Jones North Wales Coast branch
Stand up for journalism I recently endured a bizarre sequence of events, whereby a sporting organisation to which I belong attempted to sanction me over the publication of an article in the newspaper for which I work. The long, complex and disproportionately involved case related to information the organisation had passed to me, in my working capacity, which was then transferred to a journalistic colleague prior to print. However, the NUJ’s advice, support and guidance proved invaluable in successfully defending the charge. I would especially like
to express my gratitude to assistant regional organiser Lawrence Shaw, South Yorkshire Branch chair Julia Armstrong and fellow NUJ member Martin Fisher for their efforts in resolving this matter, to both my satisfaction and that of the profession. Andrew Foley South Yorkshire
Beware boss-speak Fabian Acker has a chunter (The Journalist, April/May 2012) about standards. Having (luckily) been getting some freelance subbing shifts, earlier this year I worked on a business supplement full of ‘submitted advertorial’. Most time was spent trying to translate quasi-literate managementese into English that was as comprehensible as I could make it. This convinced me that, while
politicians may fulminate about the standards of those leaving school or university, it appears that widespread executive, corporate and governmental illiteracy is probably a far greater threat to our collective prosperity and sanity. The passionate all-smoking, alldrinking characters who influenced me as a ‘child journalist’ conditioned me into believing that Harold Evans’ Essential English for Journalists, Editors and Writers should be compulsory reading for everyone: not just once, but every few years. I remain convinced that no one should leave school without reading it. Copies should be readily available in every workplace. And, no, I am not on commission (unfortunately). I commend one paragraph in particular. “The penny-a-liner, who has largely disappeared anyway, is a petty corrupter of language compared with Her Majesty’s Government and the Pentagon. English has no greater enemy than officialese. Daily the stream of language is polluted by viscous verbiage. Meaning is clouded by vague abstraction, euphemism conceals identity, and words, words, words weigh the mind down.” Adam Christie Leeds
Vive le Roy Having found myself in a real pickle in the workplace I naturally looked to the NUJ for help, advice and support, and it wasn’t long before I found it. As time went on the problem seemed to take on a life of its own, the correspondence built up and the situation began to feel more and more daunting. I found myself at Headland House at the eleventh hour. In walked Roy Mincoff, a charming man with an intelligent ‘keep calm and carry on’ character. Roy had speedily appraised himself of events and understood every nuance and detail. He quickly prioritised and put in place next steps and a course of action. His calm planning and intelligent thinking really lifted me and gave me renewed hope for a resolution. Roy’s intervention proved pivotal and
consolidated the efforts of others that had worked so hard on my behalf. I cannot thank the union enough, Jon Kelly, Ian Pollock and Sue Harris who all went that extra mile, offering me magnificent support both practically and personally. But a particular thanks must go to Roy, whose creative and thoughtful contribution saved more than the day. Grateful broadcasting journalist
Credit where it’s due I take exception to the following in the article about the Africa Nations Cup football tournament (The Journalist April/May): “It wasn’t until South Africa won the right to host the World Cup that it was taken seriously by the European media.” I spent January of 2002 commentating on 20 games in 28 days in Mali and a similar time with a similar workload in Tunisia in 2004. My colleague Simon Brotherton covered those tournaments and the subsequent ones in Egypt (2006) and Ghana (2008), whilst I returned to the fray for Angola in 2010. These
games were broadcast on BBC TV. I am surprised your correspondent either did not notice or did not think that this constituted the BBC taking it seriously. Please give credit where credit is due. Steve Wilson BBC Match of the Day commentator.
Bell end? Not for the first time, I am writing to criticise the quality of Steve Bell’s cartoons. His latest offering in the April/May issue is once again crude and unfunny – and not of the standard one would expect of a respected journalists’ organisation. Not all journalists – in fact probably very few – resort to coarse language and expletives constantly to express themselves. I am no prude, but do find his work offensive and degrading to the profession. Malcolm Race Teesside Branch
BBC biteback I was irritated by John Pilger’s rant against the BBC (The Journalist, February/March). As an NUJ member
Please keep letters to 200 words maximum
in the BBC, I found his reference to “propaganda” offensive because I don’t think I and my colleagues are in the propaganda business – and I don’t think it because we’re not. John asserted that studies “found that the BBC’s coverage (of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq) overwhelmingly reflected the Blair government’s propaganda, such as the lies about the weapons of mass destruction”. They did no such thing – quite the contrary. The one by Cardiff University – about a very specific issue, that of embedded reporters – it did pass judgement on aspects of the BBC coverage in its analysis of some TV programmes. Since John didn’t bother to quote, let me: “The BBC (along with Sky) was more likely to run stories simply reporting the progress of the war, rather than the case for the war, than either ITV or Channel 4”. Or “One of the news broadcasts most likely to attribute or question information was BBC News 24”. Or, here’s another one” The Today programme did particularly well on these counts (questioning and
Email your letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org Post them to: The Editor, The Journalist 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP
attributing information)”. Maybe I’m missing something. I did ask John for more information but reply came there none. The other report he mentions is from the “European monitoring organisation, Media Tenor”. It has hardly any references to BBC coverage of the war (though copious quotes from one J. Pilger). It’s mostly about how the American networks covered it and when the BBC is mentioned it’s to say how we did it better than they did. Not everything we members of the NUJ in the BBC do turns out to be brilliant in the cold light of history. All we are is honest journalists doing our best in an imperfect way when situations are complex and fastmoving. We try to balance and we try to attribute and we make an honest and intelligent stab at getting it right. We play it straight. The tag on John’s piece was: “Stop the Rot”. What a good headline – but maybe he should start closer to home. Stephen Evans BBC London
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Who, WhAT AND Where?
The NUJ has four offices – the head office in London, and offices in Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin. For general enquires, including press cards and membership queries, please contact email@example.com At each office officials can provide advice and information to help with problems at work and, if necessary, represent you in dealings with your employer. London office Headland House 308-312 Gray’s Inn Road London WC1X 8DP Tel: 020 7843 3700 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet Email: email@example.com Deputy General Secretary Barry Fitzpatrick Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
newspapers, agencies and new Media Barry Fitzpatrick Assistant Organisers Laura Davison David Ayrton
equaLity Equality Officer Lena Calvert Email: email@example.com
Legal Officer Roy Mincoff Assistant Legal Officer Natasha Morris Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ethics Hotline For union information on ethical and professional issues. Tel: 0845 450 0864 Email: email@example.com For reporting the BNP: www.reportingthebnp.org
caMpaigns and coMMunications: Senior Campaigns and Communications Officer Sarah Kavanagh Campaigns and Communications Officer Frances Rafferty Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
the JournaList Editor Christine Buckley Email: email@example.com
northern and MidLand office 5th Floor Arthur House Chorlton Street Manchester M1 3FH Tel: 0161 237 5020 Fax: 0161 237 5266
freeLance and waLes
National Organiser John Toner Assistant Organisers Pamela Moreton Don Mackglew Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
3rd Floor 114 Union Street Glasgow G1 3QQ Tel: 0141 248 6648/7748 Fax: 0141 248 2473 Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran Assistant Organiser Dominic Bascombe Email: email@example.com
National Organiser Sue Harris
Spencer House Spencer Row, Off Store Street Dublin 1 Tel: 00 353 (0)1 8170340/8170341 Fax: 00 353 (0)1 8170359 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Education & Training Officer Linda King Training Co-ordinator Deirdre Heinrich Email: email@example.com
National Organiser Fiona Swarbrick
Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley Organiser Nicola Coleman Assistant Organiser Ian McGuinness Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Northern and Midlands Organiser Chris Morley Assistant Organiser Lawrence Shaw Email: email@example.com
Magazines, Books, pr and coMMunications
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Assistant Organiser Jenny Lennox Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Second Floor Vi & Garner Smith House 23, Orford Road London E17 9NL Tel: 020 8521 5932 Email: email@example.com www.cpbf.org.uk NUJ Extra The union established NUJ Extra to help members and their dependents through times of financial difficulty. Application forms for assistance are available from the Fund Administrator at Headland House. All applications are treated in confidence. Journalists’ Charity Requests for financial help are considered from all needy past and present journalists and their dependents. The charity has sheltered housing accommodation for retired journalists and offers a wide range of residential, nursing, respite care and care for those suffering from mental frailty. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 01306 887511 or visit www.journalistscharity.org.uk
beware the cookie monster
Adam Oxford on the latest trends and kit
s a journalist in the 21st century, you may have a blog or portfolio webpage. Perhaps you’ve started putting together that small specialist site which you hope will provide financial freedom one day. Even if that is becoming the equivalent of ‘working on my novel’ for the digital age. In either case, I do hope you know your biscuits from your breadcrumbs. If not, chances are you’re breaking the cookie law. This is the amendment to the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations, which came into force on May 25. Website owners must seek consent from website visitors before placing cookies on their computer. And yes, it applies to you. If you’re not even sure what a cookie is, you’re not alone. More than half the UK population has never heard of them either. A cookie is a small text file that’s stored in your browser and is used by websites to identify you. Good cookies, which can be implanted without infringing any laws, include ones that remember what you’ve put in your virtual shopping basket. Bad cookies, which require consent, do things like report your browsing
fancy a raspberry? In my first month with this column, I’ve failed so far to find good quality free tools for journalists. At £25 the Raspberry Pi is neither free nor is it very practical. But as the world’s cheapest PC, it’s an idea worth paying for. Or at least writing about. In a world of slick smartphones and superthin notebooks, the Pi couldn’t be more out of place. The unapologetically cheap Pi is the antithesis of all things cool and modern. There’s no aesthetic appeal: it’s just a circuit board. Its processor is
A cookie is a small text file that’s stored in your browser and is used by websites to identify you
slower than the one in my phone and it runs GNU/Linux, the less popular alternative to Windows or MacOSX. Designed as a tool for teaching children to program, it’s not much use as a day to day PC for a reporter. It boots quite quickly, but the only word processing software means words appear seconds after you’ve typed them in. So why is there a waiting list of five months to buy one? Because it draws under 5W and has an internet connection and it has loads of potential for media applications if you’re prepared to be experimental. There are projects underway to turn it into a cheap shutter release
for time lapse photography, for example, and it’s been put to use as a jukebox, an internet radio and a secure homebrew alternative to Dropbox-like cloud storage. I’m not suggesting that you run out and buy one. It doesn’t do anything your smartphone can’t do better. It is, however, a welcome reminder in this era of locked down app stores and simplified operating systems that technology can be creative and cheap, and doesn’t have to hide its inner workings to be fun. It won’t stop kids buying iPads but, like the cookie warnings above, it might show them that they have options.
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Raymond Snoddy suggests a woman could be the next BBC director general
Who can inspire the BBC today?
omething very strange is happening at the BBC. Nobody knows who is going to be the next directorgeneral. This is very unusual. In recent years, at this stage in the selection process a clear favourite had usually emerged – Greg Dyke, or the present incumbent who leaves after the Olympics, Mark Thompson. The bookies have made Ed Richards, chief executive of communications regulator Ofcom a rather surprising favourite.Surprising because he is a regulator who was in Tony Blair’s Policy Unit in Downing Street and was a policy wonk under John Birt at the BBC. Apart from an early stint as a Channel 4, researcher Richards has no connection with programme making. Yet nobody really knows who is going to get the nod, mainly because Lord Patten, the BBC chairman is a mischievous figure who may want to make his mark by bringing in an outsider to shake the place up. It has been said he would like Lionel Barbour, the editor of the FT to be his next DG. The sense of uncertainty has been multiplied by the job spec – knowledge of broadcasting or programme making is ‘desirable’ but not ‘essential. Let’s pass on the notion that the person running one of the world’s most famous broadcasting organisations does not necessarily need to know anything about broadcasting or programme-making. Let’s also forget about names and concentrate on the nature of the job and the qualities such a person should have. The last thing the BBC needs now is further shaking up. Its long-suffering staff have
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already had quite enough of that. In structural and financial terms the die has already been cast by the last licence fee settlement. At least 2,000 jobs will go over the next few years because of the frozen licence fee and new tasks such as bringing together BBC News and the World Service. There has also already been the disruption of the move to Salford and the move this autumn into the new London broadcasting headquarters in W1. If ever there was a need for a period of relative stability and calm for the BBC it is now, rather than any casual, superficial and ill-thought out push towards further change.
The next DG should be able to present the case for the BBC in public with passion to both licence payers and politicians
s a result, the new DG ought to have the human skills to lead and inspire staff through difficult times while maintaining standards of creativity and programme excellence. There is, however , an even greater challenge waiting just over the horizon – re-negotiation of the BBC’s Royal Charter. The process will inevitably re-open the issue of the licence fee, the bedrock on which the BBC’s achievements rest. Unless there is an unexpectedly early election these negotiations will take place during the term of the present coalition government, some of whose cabinet ministers would favour much more severe cuts to the BBC. The next DG should therefore be able to present the case for the BBC in public with passion. to both licence payers and politicians. Being able to carry out both tasks argues strongly for someone who knows and cares about the BBC. Apart from head of sound Tim Davie and head of vision George Entwistle, if Lord Patten wants to make a bold statement, how about appointing the first woman DG of the Corporation. In Caroline Thompson, chief operating office, and Helen Boaden, director of news, he has two strong candidates to choose from. email@example.com
For the latest updates from Raymond Snoddy on Twitter go to @raymondsnoddy
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1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9. NO SAFETY IN THESE NUMBERS.
If you work for a company employing fewer than10 staff, as 3.6 million people do in this country, you could soon become a second-class citizen when you go to work. Some in government want to introduce something called “compensated no-fault dismissal” - that’s spin for getting rid of protection against unfair dismissal. Let’s put that another way, shall we? Sacked. Sacked for having a face that doesn’t fit. Sacked for supporting the
wrong football team. Sacked for having ginger hair. Sacked because the boss was having a bad day. Here’s some money, on your bike. This stripping away of basic employment protection is only one of a deluge of “bonkers” proposals the government had hoped to keep the lid on until it was too late to do anything about them. It’s not. They can be stopped.
VISIT www.STopEmpLoymEnTwronGS.orG.uk To fInD ouT morE
1,2,3 ad A4.indd 1
June / July 2012 issue of the Journalist, the magazine of the National Union of Journalists