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July 31 2011

18:51

BBC faces new 24-hour news strike on Monday

Guardian The BBC is facing another day of disruption to its news programmes on Monday with many of its journalists due to go on a 24-hour strike before beginning an "indefinite" work to rule. The industrial action by the National Union of Journalists is taking place in protest over compulsory redundancies. It follows a 24-hour stoppage on 15 July which led to BBC1's Breakfast and BBC2's Newsnight being taken off air.

Continue to read John Plunkett, www.guardian.co.uk

June 16 2010

11:50

Johnston Press Atex system is bad news, but the death of the sub-editor is inevitable

It’s not just journalists that threaten to go on strike to maintain the standards of their work – but surely no other occupation’s products can be judged so subjectively. One managing director’s “quality journalism” is a reporter’s incitement to take up arms and storm the parent company’s HQ.

According to the National Union of Journalists, it’s this urge that saw Johnston Press journalists vote for group-wide industrial action last month (they were thwarted by a High Court challenge; a re-ballot is underway). JP journalists are enraged that a new publishing strategy, based on an online/print content management system (CMS) called Atex, will make reporters responsible for subbing and editing their own newspaper stories using pre-made templates. Several companies including Archant are either using or considering using the same system.

The NUJ has a point: with fewer staff and less checks and balances, more errors will get through – this aberration of a front page in the JP-owned Bedfordshire Times & Citizen recently is a classic example.

Yesterday I questioned exactly why the union was opposing Atex; included in the union’s greviances were baffling and unexplained “health and safety” concerns. The union later told Journalism.co.uk that they meant that it adds to staff stress levels.

But, I went on in conversations both online and privately, isn’t this part of a wider problem? The NUJ has a fundamental belief that sub-editors should sub stories and reporters write them. Like the pre-Wapping ihousen-printers that jealously guarded their very specific, outdated roles, the ideal outcome for the union is to maintain the status quo and protect jobs.

The reality isn’t quite that simple. Atex, as more than one person said, is far from the innovative answer that newspapers need. One person with knowledge of how Atex works, who works for a company that is planing to implement it and asked not to be named, put it to me like this:

We’re still in transition in my newsroom at the moment – we haven’t switched to using it for the web yet. However, if the system goes ahead as planned we will not be able to insert in-line links into stories, nor will we be able to embed content from anywhere else online. It’s possible to build link boxes that sit next to web stories, but it’s time consuming compared to in-line links – and if our current CMS is anything to go by, in the press of a busy newsroom, it won’t get done.

That sounds like a retrograde step. Far from holding back innovation, it sounds like JP journalists are right to oppose the move. This is from a company whose former chairman of nine years, Roger Parry, last week criticised the very board that he chaired for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette). Exactly who else is there to blame?

But it gets worse:

For those of us who possess data skills and want to make mashups, visualisations and so on, this is a massive inhibition – even if we find the time to innovate or create something really special for our papers, we’ll have no outlet for it. It also means we can’t source video or images for our stories in innovative ways – no YouTube embeds or Flickr slideshows – cutting us off from huge resources that could save time, energy and money while enhancing our web offering.

It’s astonishing that we’re even considering such a backwards step to a presumably costly proprietory system when so many cheaper, more flexible, open source solutions exist for the web.

Regional reporters, web editors and even overall editors will read that and find this frustration of digital ideas by technical, budgetary limitations very familiar. The last point rings loudest of all: cheap, dynamic blogging solutions like Wordpress and Typepad provide all newsrooms need to create a respectable news site. Publishing executives seem to find it hard to believe that something free to use can be any good, but just look at what’s coming in the in-beta Wordpress 3.0 (via @CasJam on Mashable).

So the union’s misgivings in this case appear to be well placed. The drop in quality from Johnston’s cost-cutting is there for all to see in horrendous subbing errors, thinner editions and entire towns going without proper coverage.

Unfortunately, journalists have to accept that no amount of striking is going to bring back the staff that have gone and that times have changed. Carolyn McCall’s parting shot as CEO of Guardian Media Group was to repeat her prediction (via FT.com) that advertising revenues will never return to pre-recession levels – and don’t forget Claire Enders’ laugh-a-minute performance at the House of Commons media select committee, in which she predicted the death of half the country’s 1,300 local and regional titles in the next five years.

Regional publishers may not all have a solution that combines online editorial innovation with a digital business model right now. But to get to that point, reporters will have to cooperate and accept that their roles have changed forever – “sub-editor” may be a term journalists joining the industry in five years will never hear.

this is from a company whose former chairman of nine years criticised the very the board that he ran for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette).

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May 05 2010

08:30

March 01 2010

09:37

AIUK: 100 days since ‘bloodiest ever slaughter of journalists’

On Wednesday (3 March) the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Amnesty International are joining forces for a forum marking 100 days from the Philippines massacre in November 2009.

On November 23 2009,  the bloodiest ever slaughter of journalists in a single incident occurred in Maguindanao province, southern Philippines. An entire election convoy of  63 people including 33 accompanying reporters and media personnel was ambushed, and everyone killed.

Enforced disappearances and political killings of trade union leaders, human rights activists and journalists have spiralled in the Philippines in the last decade, mainly in the name of counterinsurgency. The Philippine government has armed and employed poorly trained and unaccountable paramilitary groups to combat insurgent groups, handing powers to local politicians who have acted with impunity.

With 2010 being the self-imposed deadline of the Arroyo administration to end insurgency and with national elections set for 10 May, there are increased fears of further unlawful killings and disappearances.

Full post at this link…

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February 25 2010

16:12

Victory for FT Chinese journalists

Good news for the Financial Times journalists who faced redundancy if they did not return to China, on half their salaries.

The management has changed its mind, following the FT chapel’s threat that its members would ballot on industrial action if the FT Chinese journalists were not allowed to stay.

We reported on the National Union of Journalists’ outrage over the affair on 12 February. The latest update comes from NUJ Active (we expect a fuller NUJ statement soon):

The immediate defence by journalists at the Financial Times of Chinese colleagues threatened with redundancy by management has brought complete victory. The FT chapel demanded unanimously that the redundancy threat be lifted from their four colleagues on the FTChinese website, and warned that otherwise FT journalists might ballot on industrial action. So management did as it was told.

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11:52

January 18 2010

08:33

NUJ’s making journalism pay online: five points

NUJ logoThe NUJ’s New Ways to Make Journalism Pay conference on Saturday brought together a group of journalists and entrepreneurs who are making money through online journalism in the UK. Many of the speakers had toiled to build brands online, and those that had were now running sustainable businesses. If the future of journalism is entrepreneurial, then these speakers are evidence of it.

You can read a breakdown of all the speakers’ points at Ian Wylie’s blog and if you scroll back on my twitter account @Coneee. Here are five points from the conference that jumped out at me.

1. Getting to a sustainable position is difficult.

David Parkin, founder of Thebusinessdesk.com, took two years to raise the £300,000 he thought he’d need to survive an estimated 18 months of operating at a loss. In the end it only took 9 months after an expansion into the Northwest, but it was still very “hairy.” He had to “make noise”: put up posters, give away coffee on the street, and branded mints to posh restaurants where businesspeople dined. Daniel Johnston, founder of Indusdelta.co.uk, had to live off his savings for the first 18 months. The site is now profitable, and supports the salary of another staff member.

2. The rules of the journalism game aren’t changed by the internet.

Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog gets up at 6.30AM, and is still up when Newsnight is on in the late evening. He hasn’t got any ins with big politicians, and most of his news comes from disgruntled interns. No wonder! David Parkin found that for him, starting a successful venture was still “very much about contacts.” Daniel Johnston, although professing to not know whether he was a journalist, borrowed the principle of independence from good journalism: providing a counter point to the Government view (which he said was “gospel” before he came along) of the welfare-to-work industry also allowed him to build a sustainable business.

3. Traditional media doesn’t do investigative journalism.

Gavid MacFadyean, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, said 75% of investigative journalism is now done by foundations or NGOs. This is because of cost cutting at newspapers and in TV, but also because foundations offer a far more effective environment for investigative journalism. Gavid said: “Foundations say just do your worst, and we’re trying! It’s no strings attached money,” which seems to be bliss compared to less independent advertising-supported models.

4. Email is important.

Many of the speakers had collected the email addresses of their readers in the tens or hundreds of thousands, allowing them to quickly notify readers of news, while also opening up possibilities for making money. David Parkin recalled success with sending emails when the interest rates changed. By providing this information within 2-3 minutes (speed which the BBC and “big media” don’t bother with) after it had happened, businesspeople could be more informed. Angie Sammons of Liverpool Confidential said having an email list of interested individuals means you can directly provide them with sponsored offers, making you money and also helping your readers.

5. Local freelance journalism is dying.

Since this was an NUJ conference organised by the London freelance branch, it’s not surprising that the room was full of freelance writers, many of them used to pitching stories to editors of local newspapers. Note that many seemed to be “used to” doing this. A combination of a crash in rates, an unwillingness for local editors to commission work and the virtual impossibility for newcomers to get their first (paid) start gave me the impression that it’s never been harder to get work as a freelance local journalist. Fortunately, the overriding message from the day was it’s never been easier to make it online.

Also see:

January 07 2010

13:58

NUJ campaigns and communications officer to leave union

Hot on the heels of campaigns officer Miles Barter, the senior campaigns and communications officer, Stephen Pearse, is to leave the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Pearse is to re-locate to Brussels, creating an opening at the Union. The senior campaigns and communications officer position attracts a salary of £48,623.30 pa (plus London weighting). The position of campaigns officer, meanwhile, offers £26,966.46 pa (plus London weighting). Details of how to apply at this link…

Barter handed in his resignation in November 2009. Blogger Jon Slattery reported on accusations made by defeated Journalist editor candidate Mark Watts that the campaigns officer had been ‘forced out’. The NUJ and Barter denied the allegations.


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November 20 2009

12:41

Live coverage of the National Union of Journalists ADM

A team of student National Union of Journalist (NUJ) members are providing live coverage of the union’s ADM today and tomorrow.

Reporters will be covering key speeches and debates from the event on nujadm.org.uk complete with a section of liveblogs, motions news and speeches.

You can also follow the team’s tweets at the hashtag #nujadm or below:

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November 04 2009

14:53

Online journalism at the NUJ ADM: The Journalist, Twitter and new blood

And so, the annual National Union of Journalists (NUJ) delegate meeting (ADM) draws near; with a variety of motions and amendments up for debate on November 19-22 (final agenda available at this link – PDF).

Among them, many issues that directly concern online media: both in terms of how the NUJ communicates through the internet, and how to engage with online journalists.

How to attract new blood?

For the New Media Industrial Council (NMIC), member recruitment among the digital community is key. For this purpose, it commissioned freelancer and former newspaper journalist Vivien Sandt to research digital media, looking into employment patterns in the UK and Ireland to help the council form a new strategy. Sandt will present some of her findings at the ADM 2009.

How should the Journalist handle its web presence?

Another topic up for discussion is how campaigns and The Journalist should be managed online. As the fight for The Union publication’s editorship rages (see the Journalism.co.uk forum for some lively discussion), the Press and PR branch proposes this motion [excerpt]:

“(….) Union rules allow that [the Journalist] editor has editorial content only over online content taken from the Union’s journal. ADM believes this is insufficient for the editor’s new role (…)

It proposes a motion to change the rules to allow that ‘the editor shall have additional editorial control over union and other website pages holding content taken from or associated with the union’s journal written or commissioned by the editor’.

Leeds branch wished to clarify this: ‘that all editorial content on the NUJ website shall by under the independent control of the editor of the union’s journal, unless the editor agrees to cede control of specific content for a specific purpose and for a specific amount of time’.

That is bound to raise some questions over the relationship between the Journalist and other parts of the NUJ, especially with its support of another motion proposed: ‘ADM further instructs the NEC to implement, without further delay, the integration of the Journalist’s editor into the Union’s Campaign and Communications department’.

North Wales Coast branch, which proposed the original motion, claim that the mixture of internet strategies has pushed the Journalist ‘into becoming a cross between a picture led kind of OK magazine and Agony Aunt Letters column’.

[See what the editor hopefuls suggest for the Journalist website at this link to the Journalism.co.uk forum.]

How should the NUJ engage with social media?

This motion proposed by Magazine is bound to create some discussion: the last para has already been recommended as void by the Standing Orders Committee (SOC) for ‘uncertainty of meaning’”…

This ADM notes that:

1) Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and blogging are irrevocably changing the face of journalism.
2)That many of this new wave of journalists believe the NUJ’s attitude towards them is out of date.

This ADM instructs the NEC to address this problem by working with the blogging community and Twitteratti [sic] to bridge this gap and create a framework that embraces the NUJ’s journalistic principle while maintaining the press freedom enjoyed by bloggers and twitterers.

London Magazine further suggests a survey should be carried out, organised by NMIC.

Want to get involved?

The New Media Industrial Council is currently seeking NUJ members to represent these areas: London (1 out of 2) Midlands (1) Black Members Council (1) Disabled Members Council (1) North East (1). The non-geographical seats have to be nominated by the bodies concerned, and all NMIC members must be NUJ members working in new media. Those interested can e-mail the council’s chair (Gary Herman) in confidence on this address: gary.herman [at] gmail.com.

Judith Townend is a member of the National Union of Journalists (Brighton & Mid-Sussex branch) and is co-opted to sit on the New Media Industrial Council – beginning after the ADM 2009.

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