Saturday morning: What a Gem- tour, Part 1

April 16, 2007

Saturday Morning:

I went on the “What a Gem” tour through the Jewellery Quarter. We were picked up with a beautiful nostalgic 1956 AEC Reliance coach from the Aston Manor Transport Museum. The bus was used to transport the Aston Villa team to the matches, and took them to Wembley in 1957 when they won the FA cup final.

The mobile creche was also on board taking some kids along. First we stopped at The Pen Room – Museum and Learning Centre, where the kids were able to make some nibs. They also run calligraphy, creative writing, handwriting sessions, Braille and Jewellery Quarter history and geneology lessons.

So Birmingham was the centre of pen making, and most of the pens were made here in the 17th century. It was mainly women operating the presses, and about 90% of pen workers were women. Circa 18000 nibs were made each day; in 1894 working hours were 6 days a week, from 8-6pm, the salary was 7 shillings a week and singing and talking was not allowed.
Birmingham had hundreds of pen manufacturers, at the end of the century there were 12 left, and now there are only 2: Fountain pens and Willie & Co.
Reason for this was the invention of the biro in 1968 by an Hungarian, which enabled to write more or less anywhere. This made the industry sink rapidly.

Lots of children were employed in the pen making industry, 10, 11 and 12 years olds. They were mostly illiterate, and often suffered rather nasty injuries. The pen making process consists out of 14 processes, including Blanking, Piercing, Marking, Raising and Slitting.
The Pen Room is run by volunteers and also had a little shop selling pen fan materials, such as “The Anti-Satanic or Good Man’s Own Pen”.

Our tour guide told lots of anecdotes and gave out whistles to the kids. We stopped at a traditional medal making factory. They also make medals for the Royal Family. During the II WW they were also making parts for the spitfire, and the railings still showed the impact of a bomb shrapnell, which missed the factory.

We went on to the Chamberlain Clock and saw the Warstone Lane Cemetary with the catacombs, which were used as housing in the 2nd WW.

Afterwards we went to a famous silversmith who made Prince Charles last year Christmas presents, which apparently were semi-wooden honey pots. We watched a bit the 20min sanding and polishing process.
The tour guide stressed that handmade, made-to-order jewellery would not necessarily be expensive, a journalist tried it out and got an unique ring with her birthstone for £80.
Birmingham has the largest school of jewellery in Europe. Mainly because apprenticeships aren’t really existing because of the government is not paying for training anymore, said the tour guide.


Quick summary

April 16, 2007

Huh! It’s already Sunday and I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would have liked. First there is so much going on at the same time, and then, it’s true what general secretary Jeremy Dear said at the new media meeting: It’s actually not possible to do three things at the same time, even if you want to.

At least not if you want to sleep occasionally.

So, I have focused on pictures this ADM, as there were many other blog reports from fellow student delegates.

So watch this space, as there will be some late additions to the blog over the next days, such as the edited audio recordings of some fringe meetings and some more in depth reports of the last days.

There are still some audio recordings in the brew, such as of the Latin America fringe events, the Media Workers against the War, and a few of the speeches at the new media event till the batteries died.

The dates for the next ADM have just been publicised on the big screen in the hall.

The ADM deadlines for 2008 are:

Closing date to motions: 26th of November 2007
Closing date for confirmations, amendments and delegate nominations:
1st of February 2008
Registration closing date: 14th of March 2008
Next ADM: 3rd-6th April 2008, Europa Hotel, Belfast


Ulla’s roundup: Friday-Saturday

April 16, 2007

On Friday morning, the ADM started. In the main hall we have got 2×13 rows with a path in the middle and 13 seats on each sides. Seating is arranged via branches- on the podium the chair with about four or five people from the National Executive Council.

Two desks on each sides with microphones – the left one is generally used to propose and agree with motions, the right one to oppose.

Speakers queue up for the desks waiting for their turn to speak. Most of the motions are in a green DinA4 booklet and the whole conference centers around going through these proposals and making decisions if to implement the suggestions.

On Friday afternoon, the topics planned are Equality, International and Media Freedom. Equality motions are mainly put in by the Black Members Council, the Disabled Members Council and the Equality Council and strives to eliminate discrimination and disadvantages in the workplace.

One important positive decision was made for section 30, which will in future grant more support to journalists seeking asylum in Britain. The intervention to link this motion to the new Exiled Journalist Network group failed, “because you didn’t come to the horse-trading session yesterday, and at such late stage this addition can’t really be brought up now”.

International

The International section is introduced by the president of the US American journalist union Linda Fowley. She stresses the happy anticipation of 20th January 2009, which is Bush’s last day in office. Also she is here to congratulate for the centenary, also in the name of the parent union, the Communications Workers Union America. She refers to the kidnapping of Alan Johnston and Daniel Pearl. “It has all too often been our own governments who target journalists”, she says before pointing out the lack of accountability regarding the killing of Terry Lloyd.

I think it was still her who stressed the need to fight for our rights and not to forget that the rights which are current, have been fought for over centuries. She states: “We have to fight for the freedom of the press” and refers to the “Stand up for Journalism” Day in autumn. She refers that we also would have to fight against the media conglomerate ownership, such as outsourcing in Reuters and Newsquest, the digital divide and the Speed-Net, and for basic trade union rights for people.

In this section delegates discuss solidarity statements which condem the killings of journalists in hotspots such as Ethiopia, imprisonment in Guatanamo Bay, oppression of trade union members in Zimbabwe, repression of freedom of expression in Turkey, exploitation of journalists in Pakistan and similar.

Not quite sure how much practical difference these motions make, but it is always good to have somebody thinking of you and trying to make a difference when finding yourself in a crap position.

Slightly more controversial is Section 35 about the Yahoo! Connection which enabled the jailing and repression of a Chinese blogger.

Jemima Kiss from the New Media Council, asks the ADM to support the motion of an official Yahoo! Boycott “moved by” (sounds like a chess game) the Manchester branch.

Lots of speakers queue up to express their opinion, one official says that there were talks the since the original motion made last year, a reenforcement of the boycott would be harmful as they would not acknowledge efforts made by both sides.

Somebody else states that there would be lots more multinational internet baddies around and mentions google and g-mail as examples of an unclear privacy policy and uncertainty of what they do with the supplied user information.

There is a call to defeat the motion due to the lack of alternatives to Yahoo! Services and the practical implementation problems, another delegate asks how the union would support the members who would need Yahoo! Services for their job.

The next statement is controversially debated as it suggests the boycott of Israeli goods as a means to show solidarity with Palestine.

Some delegates have actually been instructed by their groups at home to vote against this boycott, others want the union to “step aside from international politics a little bit”, some people associate the proposal with feelings of antisemitism and anti-Israel. The vote is divided – nearly 50/50, when the votes are counted out 66 are for and 54 against a union supported boycott of Israeli goods.

Tony Benn

Tony Benn suddenly turns up as a surprise speaker, and is greeted enthusiastically and empathetically by the delegates and the general secretary. He joined Nuj in 1949 when working in the BBC, but they didn’t recognize the NUJ then, as they had their own little union then. His father was also a journalist, he said, and also joked that he would be proud to be a honorary member as he doesn’t need to pay a fee. He was then talking a little bit about why we would need a union, the change in technology, the lack of union recognition and the demand for training.

The use of new technology was always said to be a means of getting rid of people, like in Wapping, he explained, and pointed out the division alongside class, nationality, and similar.

Tony Benn stressed the need of people wanting to feel that some one appreciates them and that empowerment is most important.

He states that: “The government wants to know everything about us, but doesn’t want us to know anything about them” and then lays into the potential restrictions of the Freedom of information Act and the proposed ID card scheme.

“To discover that we are all people is one of the most important things”, he continued rebel-rousing.
Tony Benn finished off with talking a little bit about the danger of nuclear weapons.

There was not much controversy about the next motions, but they featured a bit of a rant against the privacy bill.

Section 55 debated a different process for affiliation of the NUJ to campaigns and other groups. If it would be accepted, the process would change from the balloting and references for checks and safeguards to branches being able to make affiliations of the union to campaigns autonomously.

“This could be open to all kind to abuse as sometimes only few people are at branch meetings”, was one argument versus the ability to trust the decision making process at grassroots level in branches.
Unfortunately, the fear of abuse seemed to prevail as the motion was defeated.

In the evening the 100 years of NUJ history book is launched. The access to the event is strictly limited by tickets, but for a change i am happy to have lost out as I don’t feel that well and have had a headache big enough for a herd of elephants for the whole day.


Politicisation of the union?

April 15, 2007

There is no such thing as real objectivity, and journalists are usually the first to point this out. But does this mean the NUJ should sacrifice its neutrality and become more of a political force? Startlingly this seems to be the case. 

I was more than surprised to find a majority vote in favour of a boycott of Israeli goods, based on judgements such as the country’s conflict in Palestinian territories and with Lebanon. With a result of 66 to 54, as well as some turbulent debate, the motion did not pass smoothly – but so it should not. There is no need for such a loud political move to be taken up when the reality is that it will do little good for the union – and possibly a lot of bad.

One thing’s for sure: it is not going to make life any easier for journalists anywhere in the world.  In the current international climate, where journalists’ lives are often at threat despite their own views or neutrality, it is absolutely fundamental that the union does nothing to worsen the situation. We need to strive to maintain our objectivity when reporting and although we have a personal right to express our own views, this does not extend to the union doing the same. We are working together to protect journalists – not to endanger them.

There is another problem with this specific case. As one member mentioned, the union will ineluctably be seen by some as anti-Semitic because of this particular stance against Israel which, despite being a ridiculous misconception, is also one that needs to be taken into account. Not least because such individuals can quite rightly ask, ‘why target Israel? Why not persecute other states with bad records internationally?’ And the union has no answer.

Because, all across the world, from Vietnam to Colombia, men and women are suffering injustices. So now we have called for sanctions against Israel, what next? Do we boycott Chinese goods because of its lack of freedom of press? Do we call for sanctions on the US government because of human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay? There are too many abuses of freedom and rights and no lack of causes out there which the NUJ could stand up and shout about. And I’m not suggesting we should ignore or forget about them. But if we become too far intertwined with such politics then we compromise our principles. It is not the union’s place to be another player on the global political chessboard; if we continue to politicise we endanger the union and our own lives.

The anti-Semitic claim has no grounding and is thus vacuous in my opinion, because the issue here revolves around unjust killing, regardless of religion or any other discriminatory variable. But the problem is that Israel’s ‘slaughter’ is not one-sided; there are a number of factions in Palestinian territorities and across the middle-east – and indeed the world – that commit such crimes. And to make such a stand against Israel at the same time as supporting links with the West Bank and Gaza, invariably suggests that we only act selectively against unlawful killing. 

I understand there are times when action needs to be taken. I am glad that the NUJ campaigned feverishly against apartheid in South Africa as it is difficult to stand back and watch such atrocities being carried out by the government against its own people and not act. But this just indicates how difficult it is to know whether or not to speak out – a quandary that humanitarian agencies have particularly had to struggle with to no apparent avail.

Being political as a union, regardless of whether it’s with a big or a small “P”, is perhaps inevitable. The way some members proudly say that we are not affiliated to the Labour party wears thin when the union refuses to be neutral internationally. And evidently if we focus and vote on every issue of this sort that rears its head then we get to the point where we are deeply embroiled in a web of political concerns. The danger therefore is that further politicisation may well have worrying implications: it could not only weaken and fragment the union both internally and externally and threaten the power of the union’s voice, but also detract it from its original purpose of representing and protecting its men and women on the ground.

Olivia Lang, Nottingham branch member


NUJ ADM: union to investigate web profits « Online Journalism Blog

April 15, 2007

NUJ ADM: union to investigate web profits « Online Journalism Blog


Rosaline Kelly’s dead presidents society

April 15, 2007

Rosaline KellyClick here to hear Rosaline Kelly’s history of previous NUJ presidents.


Digital Convergence: How should we respond?

April 15, 2007

Click on the video clip below to see the first part of Dr Andy Williams’ summary of his report into Trinity Mirror’s online strategy. The rest of Andy’s presentation and other parts of the fringe event on Digital Convergence will appear on the Online Journalism Blog.