Tag Archives: NUJ

The fight for local newspapers

On Friday I was at the the Manchester Chapter of the NUJ’s meeting to fight for local newspapers and halt the proposed job cuts.

It was a passionate and compelling event and one that certainly opened my eyes.

The received wisdom that many might have is that digital media is the main cause of print media’s demise and in turn the local media – it’s an unstoppable force.  Well the speakers eloquently expressed a different side to the debate.

One of the key messages and this is especially relevant to the Manchester Evening News and the Guardian Media Group is that the publishers are still making a profit.  And those profits were more than healthy when redundancies were made over the last two to three years, including at the MEN.

One fact that might surprise it that The Guardian is not the money maker at the GMG.  It was stated that The MEN and local papers actually propped up the flagship paper.  What is perhaps more galling for local journalists is that there are no substantial cuts at The Guardian, not that anyone wants any cuts anywhere.

It is the ridiculous effort to prop up unsustainable and ludicrous profit margins that is a prime driver behind the redundancies programme.

One speaker pointed out that Tesco expects to make a profit of 9.8p on every pound spent whereas some publishers expect nearer 40p.  Coupled with executive bonuses it is clearly an unsustainable policy.

The result is that if the proposed cuts are to go ahead then the quality of local media will be seriously compromised.

Newspapers are already relying on wires and press releases to a greater extent than ever before.  But the figure of 12% that was quoted as the percentage of news that is researched and sourced and written by the journalists themselves was shocking.

What is more journalists are already responsible for taking images, uploading stories onto the web and taking on the subs work.  Standards will inevitably diminish and quickly if the proposed cuts are made.

So what is the solution?

Whether news is conveyed in print or web is not the issue here.  The issue is the standard of local media and indeed its survival.

And it can survive and prosper.

Initially we all have to as a community make sure the publishers are aware of community feelings and that pressure can be brought to bare.

It is up to the community and if it is not interested in defending our local media then we deserve none.  But I think there is enough of us that do – many attending the meeting were not journalists but members of the public showing their support.

Writing to politicians and the papers themselves might be a start – express support and make sure the publishers know the depth of feeling.  To their credit there were politicians in the room including John Leech MP for Withington, so that is promising.

One solution could be that journalists take over local titles or set-up co-operative style managed media – an emphasis on quality and not weighted on profit.

Whatever the solution is, the current model of bleeding the local media to sustain unsustainable profits is certainly not the way forward.

Why the NUJ boycott of Israel is not completely unexpected: the journalism of Robert Fisk

My last entry concerned the NUJ boycott of Israel, a subject that has stirred some passionate debate.

The majority of journalists, and members of the NUJ, whose blogs I have seen disagree with the decision on a number of points including:

  • The arbitrary decision to boycott Israel and not apply the same “principles” to other countries of which there are many that are more deserving of a boycott: China, Russia, Sudan, North Korea to name a few.
  • The ineffectual nature of the resolution.
  • The NUJ should concentrate on the key issues, supporting journalists and their concerns and not be deflected from achieving these aims.
  • The democratic nature of the decision; voted by a small number of delegates and not holding a vote of its 40,000 members to truly reflect the union’s beliefs on a point where many members would like a say.

Toby Harnden offers a brilliant critique of the vote in the context of recent events in the Israel and Lebanon. His experience of the region gives him a more balanced and objective view, something you would expect from any journalist worth their salt.

However, he states that the language used by the NUJ was, ” tendentious and politically-loaded propaganda that would be rightly edited out of any news story written in a newspaper that had any pretensions of fairness.”

That is true but there are newspapers such as The Independent that exactly use that type of language. One proponent is Independent journalist Robert Fisk. His coverage of the Israel Lebanon war was, to say it mildly, partisan. On October 28th 2006 he strongly suggested that Israel had used uranium based shells while the UN report was in still in progress. In fact in seemed at a matter of time before it was proven. Fisk’s story made the front page of the Independent.

On the 8th November, not even a fortnight later, the UN concluded no uranium was used although I don’t think the updated article made the lead somehow.

Robert Fisk is no stranger to controversy and even has his own term named after him; the term fisking, a point by point rebuttal that highlights factual errors and analysis in an article.

Robert Fisk’s book on the middle eastern history had such factual errors as getting the birthplace of Jesus wrong to being a couple of years out on the date of the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

What am I trying to prove? If a mainstream daily such as The Independent, which purports to be well independent and fair, is so biased then it is hardly surprising that such boycotts seem perfectly reasonable to so many.

NUJ boycotts Israel

The National Union of Journalists has voted at its annual delegates meeting to boycott Israeli goods.

The motion was in response to last summer’s events and aimed to “condemn the savage, pre-planned attack on Lebanon” last summer and the “slaughter of civilians in Gaza.”

No mention was made of the Palestinian Government’s policy of supporting and organising suicide bombing against Israeli civilians. They also seemed to get their facts wrong about the war; was it not Hizbollah that launched an attack across the border, on Israeli territory, which resulted in the deaths of several soldiers and the capture of two? No mention was made of their whereabouts; are they still alive?

The Red Cross nor any government has been able to verify if they are still alive as they have not been allowed access.

I do not want to make this blog political. But harking back to my old English teacher, Rory Delargy, “everything is political.” Alan Johnston, government minister, recently asking for YouTube to police content, for example, shows communications and politics are inextricably linked.

Anyway, the actions of the NUJ seem very one sided. We should be looking to apply equally or not at all if the NUJ are going to solve all the world’s ills. I suggest the following to start with:

  • Sudan for murdering 400,000 in Darfur since February 2003
  • Iran for oppressive treatment and torture of dissident views as well as threatening genocide
  • China for massive human rights abuses and illegal occupation and suppression of Tibet
  • North Korea for suppression of human rights and experimentation on those viewed as politically unreliable
  • Saudi for human rights abuses and torture
  • Zimbabwe for too many things to list
  • Australia for treatment of the Aborigines
  • USA for Iraq

Much of the world has cases to answer. The NUJ surely has the interests of its members to answer as Craig McGinty points out in his blog.

I think Telegraph journalist Toby Harnden puts things into perspective and has experience in the middle east. Maybe the NUJ should have read this before delegates acted on a proposal that many members probably do not want.

I am getting back to communications, as politics free as possible, tomorrow.