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September 29 2010

16:07

BBC unions prepare staff for strike action

BBC staff unions have posted a series of questions and answers for staff in preparation for potential strikes over pension proposals, which could start next week if an agreement cannot be reached.

Last week union members voted in rejection of new proposals put forward by the BBC earlier this month and the union said it will now “press ahead” with its plans, while maintaining negotiations.

The NUJ and BECTU have published a Q&A for members about the strikes. In their responses they say that, “in the absence of a significant new offer from the BBC”, strike action will commence at 00.01am on 5 October and end at 23.59pm on 6 October, which will coincide with the Conservative Party conference.

A final decision on strike action is expected to be announced on Friday.

This week it was also announced that the NUJ’s general secretary Jeremy Dear will be speaking at a Coalition of Resistance protest against government spending cuts outside Downing Street on 20 October, another date earmarked for strike action at the BBC.Similar Posts:



10:04

September 01 2010

11:34

BBC pensions update – strike ballot result expected today

BBC staff unions are expected to announce the result of a ballot for strike action later today, following pension proposals put forward by the broadcaster in June which could see the introduction of a one per cent cap on increases in pensionable salary and the closure of the final-salary scheme to new joiners.

In a blog post, NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear says the union expects the results to show “a massive vote in favour of action”.

He adds that an announcement is expected to be made between 3:30pm and 4:00pm today. The BBC previously told Journalism.co.uk it would be making further proposals at the beginning of September following the backlash from its initial suggestions. Its 90-day consultation period closes later this month.

More to follow later this afternoon.Similar Posts:



August 11 2010

16:42

NUJ attacks Newsquest over proposed pension cuts

The NUJ has spoken out against reported pension scheme cuts at Newsquest.

According to a report by the union, the scheme, which is already restricted to existing staff, could now be cut. Staff were apparently informed by letter over the weekend.

Journalism.co.uk has attempted to speak to Newsquest about the allegations, but has so far been unable to get a response and told those who can comment are unavailable.

The NUJ statement follows an ongoing dispute with the BBC over the broadcaster’s proposed changes to its pension scheme.Similar Posts:



July 27 2010

10:10

NUJ silver surfers can get together online with new Facebook group

Silver surfers from the NUJ 60+, an organisation dedicated to the unions “old(er) hacks”, can now come together online on a Facebook page launched just for them.

‘Old(er) hacks aloud’, which currently has just five members, offers a space to “seek old mates, share anecdotes, ideas and opinions on the world of journalism today and yesterday”.

Old(er) Hacks aloud! is a way of using the internet to involve those who use this medium and those who will do, in whatever way they want (observing NUJ ethics of course), seriously or to have some fun.

The NUJ, which is affiliated at national level to the National Pensioners Convention, says the 60+ group provides members with an opportunity to “use their vast experience and collective voice”.Similar Posts:



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

08:45

Comment: Tension mounts in Johnston Press newsrooms

Unless Johnston Press executives do something quickly, internal pressure could rival Eyjafjallajokull’s. Week after week the internal resentment bubbles up. A summary of recent events, according to the National Union of Journalists and previous reports:

  • JP staff stuck abroad due to the ash cloud were asked to take it out of their holiday allowance, or as unpaid leave.
  • On the same day NUJ members attended the Edinburgh shareholders’ meeting, asking the board “questions about executive pay, staff morale and the pressures on journalists to continue to produce quality newspapers in the face of 12 per cent staff cuts, a pay freeze and inadequate training on the Atex editorial production system.” (NUJ May 2010)

Across the group, there was a 70 per cent vote by NUJ members for industrial action “to combat job losses and  increased levels of stress and workload caused by the introduction of the Atex content magagement system,” according to the NUJ.

New content management system, Atex, is causing embarrassment for its journalists, resulting in misaligned pictures, or even missing pictures. They have difficulties with formatting the content properly.

Jon Slattery hosts a candid and sensibly anonymous account from a Leeds-based Johnston Press journalist today:

Here in Leeds, on the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post, we have been waiting for months now to be told we are going Atex – i.e. replacing subs with templates for reporters to fill. We have heard from smaller centres all over the group what is likely to happen. It started to get close when we heard Scarborough subs had been “offered” redeployment to Sheffield – a two-hour drive on a good day.

Much of a recent NUJ meeting agenda was taken up by Northern divisional manager, Chris Green, says the anonymous correspondent. He adds:

We have seen a lot of nice suits pass through this place and walk away with pockets bulging, leaving the papers thinner and crappier.

JP’s recent strategy would suggest that the ’suits’ aren’t really prioritising the web, after its failed pay wall trial – with reports of very (very) few subscribers. Journalists aren’t even asking for that much. Slattery’s man on the ground says:

…I do not want to make a stand for standards in journalism. I want to make the best of a bad job. I am not even sure I want to make a stand for strict demarcation between subs and reporters. But however you carve it up, somebody has to do the bloody work…

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April 01 2010

12:40

April Fools’ Day: a round-up of media mischief

The venerable old day of leg-pulling and pranking is upon us again, and British news institutions are doing their bit for the fun. Some better than others, it must be said. Here is a short round-up of some headline hilarity from the web.

The Guardian went big and bold with a mock-election campaign designed to show the rough and ready side of our beloved PM:

Brown aides had worried that his reputation for volatility might torpedo Labour’s hopes of re-election, but recent internal polls suggest that, on the contrary, stories of Brown’s testosterone-fuelled eruptions have been almost entirely responsible for a recent recovery in the party’s popularity.

While the traditionally rowdy readers of the Guardian were treated to this new bar-room-brawling Brown, the refined readers of the National Union of Journalist’s site woke up to the news that the bruiser and the posh boy, along with that other one Clegg, were all joining the NUJ executive council as part of a new “affinity programme”.

Through our new affinity scheme NUJ members will now be able to join the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties at a reduced rate. In fact, from now on they can also get membership of all three parties for the price of one, which we believe will appeal particularly to our members at the Guardian and elsewhere.

Harmony was prevailing elsewhere too on The Register’s site, with the equally unlikely news that highly improbable bedfellows Associated Newspapers and the Guardian Media Group would join forces to share a common editorial facility.

Using the latest technology, a single team will produce stories for both groups flagship titles, the Daily Mail and the Guardian, in a process that will be largely automated.

The Independent went with some highly unlikely technical advances to the Circle Line, claiming that London Underground was in talks with the boffins at CERN about using the 23km tunnel to house a new particle accelarator, similar to CERN’s Large Hardon Hadron Collider. Provided, of course, they can iron out the “geo-magnetic ‘kink’ in the circuitry at Edgware Road”.

It would mean that two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counterclockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility.

(The boffins were up to some riotous Brass Eye-esque hilarity of their own over in Switzerland, declaring on their site this morning that high-energy collisions within the newly restarted LHC had unearthed a “paleoparticle”. In other words, “a hideous particle from the prehistory of the Universe”.)

Also on the science side, the Daily Mail, with news (and video) about, the AA’s new rocketmen, able to fly out to the hard-shoulder in your time of need. Unfortunately this corker has come down off the site already.

Rather than muck in with its own side-splitting falsity, BBC News ran with a bit of an also-ran in the form of a collection of true stories that really should be April Fools. Although, tucked away on the Radio 4 site is this deadpan gem about the possibility of William Shakespeare being half French, based on some pretty dubious analysis of his mother’s family tree:

It’s a lock of hair, it’s quite faded, which would mean it’s potentially a lock of hair from Mary Queen of Scots.

Lastly, as this is only just a taste of the press’ Herculean April Fools’ effort, the Telegraph, who claimed this morning that ferrets were to be used in the government’s plans to begin broadband to all:

The animals have been used by Virgin Media for over a year to help lay cables for its broadband service, the company has disclosed. The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network.

What the Telegraph’s story lacks ever so slightly in humour, it more than makes up for with this deftly mocked-up picture of a ferret on the job. Of laying cables, I mean.

Back to frowning at your desks until next year then folks.

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February 25 2010

21:49
11:52

January 18 2010

10:15

OnlineJournalismBlog: NUJ ‘New Ways to Make Journalism Pay’ conference round-up

Journalism.co.uk was still recovering from last week’s news:rewired and didn’t make it to the NUJ conference on Saturday, but we’re enjoying the round-ups elsewhere. Conrad Quilty-Harper rounds up links and comments for the Online Journalism Blog:

The 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.

…and freelance journalist Ian Wylie provides a thorough report at this link…

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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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January 01 2010

11:01

December 03 2009

16:40

November 25 2009

08:56

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 11 2009

13:33

Observer to drop to four sections staff told

The Observer will be cut to four sections and drop several monthly supplements, staff at the paper were reportedly told yesterday.

According to a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) release, the new Observer will consist of news, sport and a review section, alongside a magazine.

The title’s monthly sport, music and women’s supplements will be closed.

Staff were informed of the changes by owners Guardian News & Media following months of speculation about the title’s future.

No mention of redundancy plans was made in the NUJ’s statement.

But the union’s head of publishing, Barry Fitzpatrick, said the changes would make the paper less competitive in ‘an already exceedingly tough marketplace’.

“It will do nothing to improve circulation and can only result in a lower quality product. We know that Guardian Media Group is looking to save costs, but they need to ensure that any steps don’t result in the running down of its titles,” he said in the release.

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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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