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.

Ethics roundup

April 15, 2007

This morning the delegates discussed their motions on Ethics. The first motion passed concerned the perceived rise in Islamophobia that is current in the British press.

It was decided to instruct the National Executive Council to step up its anti-racist campaigns, and to circulate guidlines toward gaining conscience clauses in house agreements.

These ideas were reflected in the passing of several other similar motions, all of them being passed unanimously.

Code of Conduct

The Conference then went on to consider the N.U.J’s. draft Code of Conduct. This involves simplifying, clarifying and not expanding the document.

A long discussion was held on Clause 8 which deals with the relevant reporting of a person’s age, gender and ethnicity. The code was first written in 1936 and revised in the 1970’s.

A further motion was considered which asked journalists and photographers to refrain from doing each other’s work.

The penultimate motion instructed the N.E.C. to develop a campaign pack and relevant publicity which would promote the Union’s ethical approach to Public Relations as they apply to the members who work in  the N.H.S.
The last motion concerned reporting of HIV/AIDS and the ethics which are used by some journalists.

Campaigning organisations

April 15, 2007

A number of campaigning organizations have made their presence at the NUJ centenary conference. Among them were trade union councils, the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity campaign, UN Refugee Agency, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, Search Light 2007 Campaign and Thompsons Solicitors.

The representatives looked very active during the three day centenary celebration at Holiday Inn Birmingham, the birthplace of the NUJ.

Stop the War Coalition organized talks to discuss issues including Islamophobia, the media and the “War on Terror”.

Stop the War brought leading  speakers including Michelle Stanistreet, Steve Usher from Express and Star, Andrew Murray (Chair, Stop the War Coalition), NEC member Pete Murray, and other important speakers during their talks.

Trade union councils, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Search Lights 2007 Campaign , Thompsons Solicitors, War on Want, and UNHCR Refugee Agency messages were taken well by the participants who contributed towards to the fund raising activities of these organizations.

The organizations distributed leaflets and informed participants about their upcoming events.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign announced that a National Demonstration and Rally in London will take place on 9th of June 2007.

More posts to come Monday

April 15, 2007

The conference training room is closing down, so we’ll be posting from the one student’s laptop for the rest of the day – more posts to come when the students get home tomorrow.

Work experience rights motion passed

April 15, 2007

A motion at the NUJ centenary ADM to improve rights for those on work experience placements has been passed unanimously.

The motion requests the NUJ to urge media organizations to stop exploitation of new graduates across the UK.

Earlier the union’s general secretary Jeremy Dear, in an address to student members at the conference, assured the participants that the union will take a strong stand on the issue of work placement.

Jeremy said that the National Union of Journalists is the first organization to work with journalism students to produce best practice guidelines for the treatments of those on work experience.

Jeremy also informed students about the recent survey conducted by the NUJ that shows alarming exploitation of students on work placements.

According to the survey more than 80% of the students on placements had their work published or broadcast during their work experience placements. Of these, 82% of the students did not get receive any payments for their work.

The NUJ has published work experience guidelines to inform students about their rights as a number taking courses in journalism are foreign students as well.

HR Revenues & Customs insists that work experience placements undertaken by non-students are covered by minimum wage regulation.

NUJ demands justice over Terry Lloyd killing

April 14, 2007

Journalists today voted to demand a follow-up to the investigation into the unlawful killing of journalist Terry Lloyd in Iraq four years ago.

Lloyd, an ITN correspondent, was hit by American fire as he approached the city of Basra not long after the US and British invasion in 2003.

An inquiry last October revealed that the act was an ‘unlawful killing’, although no charges were made.

The US have so far refused to undertake any criminal investigation or bring the perpetrators in front of a court of law, despite ITN’s recent announcement of the sixteen marines present at the scene.

Demands were made today for accountability for the killing. Journalist Diana Peasey said that answers were needed and the issue should be taken to the Pentagon. “There is still a lot to be known and discovered about this,” she claimed.

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the NUJ, said that cases like that of Terry Lloyd indicated the need for investigations into the killing of journalists across the world. This has to happen until ‘justice not power games’ becomes the norm, he added.

This debate was yet another reminder of the dangers facing journalists in the current political climate, particularly in the wake of the disappearance of BBC Correspondent Alan Johnston in Gaza just over four weeks ago.

Books @ NUJ Centenary

April 14, 2007

The NUJ centenary brings three important books about journalism. The launch of “Journalists: 100 years of the NUJ” by Tim Gopsill and Greg Neale, and “A Century of the Black Journalism in Britain 1893-2003” by Lionel Morrison are landmark additions in journalism books, while Tony Harcup’s book “Ethical Journalist” is worthwhile for journalism students.

In 2004, the National Union of Journalists decided to produce a new history of the union to mark its centenary in March 2007. The authors have done marvelously well in finding and compiling the facts.

Tim Gopsill, Editor of The Journalist magazine for the last 17 years, has had a good response from the members to the book.

Tim told the NUJ Student Blog that some people have pointed out various omissions, or that “there are not enough stories about Scotland and Parish Branch”.

He referred to such comments as compliments and said it means that people have valued his book.

However, the addition of missing things to any future edition is the publisher’s decision.

Tim Gopsill looks confident to sell 300 copies during the conference, from a total of 4,250 copies at a discounted price of £10.

Century of black journalism

Another important book is Lionel Morrison’s “A Century of Black Journalism in Britain 1893-2003”.

Lionel Morrison OBE has been a campaigning journalist and media trainer for fifty years.

He remains involved in Black Members Council which he was a founder member.

The book shows how long black journalists and the black press have been a feature of the landscape of British journalism.

Lionel includes a useful timeline to give quick access to the information.

The book tells of the persistent struggle against widespread prejudice, racism and discrimination mirrored by the stereotyping and rejection in the media.

The Ethical Journalist

The third book, “The Ethical Journalist”, is written by Sheffield University teacher Tony Harcup, who as secretary of Leeds Chapel was responsible for my own presence at the NUJ ADM as a student observer.

The starting point of this engaging and innovative book is that ethical journalism is good journalism. The book also discusses journalists’ personal anecdotes alongside relevant critical studies.