Professional trolls and the death of journalism …

Trolls no longer live under bridges: they sit at keyboards, writing for the likes of the Daily Mail, creating outrage to ensure website clicks and well-paid appearances on daytime telly.

Forget the idiot trolls – predominantly teenage boys and middle-aged loners sitting in their underpants sending abuse to strangers while waiting for their mum to shout “tea’s done” – these new, media trolls are the real problem but, rather than get arrested for their ridiculous statements, they make money.

The media loves to warn us about trolls, to tell us they’re mean-spirited, rude, abusive, ill-informed, deliberately offensive, cruelly sarcastic … but not that they are often also journalists. Troll B Gone

They come in all guises, these trolls; they arrive with their faux anger and false opinions intended only to make being a troll an entrepreneur activity for the 21st century.

Although ultimately still troll-like in appearance with their wizened, bitter features and eyes ablaze from the excitement of upsetting random readers and telly viewers for no reason other than profit and a step up the career ladder.

You’ve seen them. Some are your wannabe-journalist trolls like Samantha Brick and Katie Hopkins; others are your professional trolls like Brendan O’Neill and Julie Burchill. They insult the working class, the vulnerable, the different .. but they’re journalists, so it’s okay, right?

Samantha Brick challengingly thinks all women are jealous of her appearance: “Women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks.”

Katie Hopkins offensively says working class parents are unintelligent: “The Class Book of Baby Names. Also available in Large Print, Easy read.”

Julie Burchill controversially thinks the nation is so apolitical its concern was only ever Thatcher’s gender: “She has done harsh things and had a great deal of faith in herself — and, being a woman, this more than anything is why she remains so unforgiven by certain sections of society.”

Brendan O’Neill contrarily worries himself about poor people getting insulted by oiks in times of “austerity”: “Mocking toffs is fast becoming the bloodsport of choice among Left-leaning politicians and influential commentators.”

It is predictable and tedious. But what is to be done? Don’t feed them is the obvious response.

The more fuel you give to the trolls the more money they make from newspaper columns and TV appearances where they spout the same, intentionally ridiculous shite they first shared in a well-placed Tweet.A troll

These trolls crawl out of their beds each morning, fleetingly glance at what’s going on in the world, then settle in front of their computers, sneering, giggling, to write formulaic, join-the-dots articles stating an intentionally controversial opinion. The opinions aren’t necessarily held by them but will promote a news site, ensure readers to their column, bring a pat on the back from an editor who thinks its writers being ridiculed by readers is an achievement.

A lack of principle and no journalism ethics means they’ll produce right-wing shite for The Sun and less right-wing shite for The Guardian so long as the money goes in the bank.

These trolls,of course, exist alongside the lesser “celebrity” hacks but together they create a predominantly white, middle class, myopic clique of London-based writers who condemn, judge and make a mockery of our lives and our journalism.

It’s a nasty trend that sees columnists paid to share their ill-informed views – sometimes with intent to cause offense –  while investigative journalism falls by the wayside and real journalists struggle to find freelance or staff jobs.

It’s all just another knife in the back of British journalism. Don’t feed the trolls.

Stop working for free!

Are you a qualified journalist with lots of talent, a creative approach to finding the best stories and a bulging contacts book? Then we want you to work for us …

FOR FREE.

We won’t pay you expenses, we’re not offering you a promise of work in the future but, if you come and join our happy team of interns, or write for us when not at your real job, then we can promise you an ego boost or something to put on your CV.

We’ve all seen these ads. Although mine is less disingenuous than those promising work experience or a step up the career ladder for what are real jobs but with no pay.

The growing acceptance of working for nothing in the journalism industry – either as internships or as wannabe-hacks with real work elsewhere – is ridiculous and more damaging than we seem to admit.

I know the concept of selling one’s labour seems old-fashioned to some but why else do we go to work? Ok, you like your journalism role; perhaps what you do is important, exciting, makes you feel all full of yourself … but if you’re doing it unpaid then you’re being exploited.

Where is the significance and thrill in working unpaid for a company profiting – making money for other people – from your labour?

You get dressed for work, travel into work, sit at a desk and do work, take a lunch break from work, travel home from work and maybe do some prep for the next day’s work … and you don’t get paid?! That is insane! Promising you exposure might well mean you get your byline on a few features … but saying it might lead to work is toxic. If you produce a tabloid splash that sudden rush of excitement, that boost to your ego won’t even pay your bus fare home.

Or you write articles on return home from your proper job. You get home tired but excited about your “assignment” and write it up imagining you’re in a newsroom. You see your byline on a website. Good, isn’t it? Do you log on and show all your real colleagues the next day and feel proud? Well, to be blunt, there’s no pride in taking work from journalists who don’t have a “proper job” to go to because you’re willing to work for free.

Don’t be fooled. Why would any business owner pay you, and other journalists, for work if you’re willingly to do it for free? Work experience – where you spend a week away from journalism training to work on a paper and see if you like it – is one thing but turning up to work every morning, sitting at a desk, working like a journalist and not being paid for your effort is something different entirely.

It is exploitation. It might not fit with your glamorous idea of “being a journalist” but you are being exploited by people making a profit from your willingness to work unpaid.

It also means that journalism is becoming the domain of people who can afford unpaid internships to get a few bylines. And it means journalists like me won’t get work at all while you’re working for nothing.

And you can call yourself a journalist and feel good about it but you’re not one – not until you get paid. I give people lifts and don’t ask them for money – it doesn’t make me a taxi driver.

You love the journalism industry? Well stop killing it by working for free! The more you give your talent for nothing, the more employers will stop paying journalists and the fewer jobs there will be for us all to go around.

And you can forget accessible journalism for all. Unpaid internships and working for nothing create an industry where only trust fund babies or those with second jobs get a step on the ladder – and journalists who need that work end up on the dole.

There is help for journalism interns who’re desperately trying to start a career – and taking a chance with the promises of the money-grubbing managers – the National Union of Journalists Cashback for Interns campaign. “When the NUJ helped Keri Hudson to successfully sue TPG Web Publishing, the tribunal judgement made clear that many interns who have worked for little or no money could be entitled to claim the minimum wage.”

I left University and started work on a local paper; the pay was rubbish but that job led to much experience many bylines and a step up to national press agencies and so on.

Now the papers are closing and young journalists are being exploited  .. it makes me rage!

Stop working for free!

Ten Things Every Graduate Should Know Before They Start Job-Hunting

Get a job!

I’ve started looking at jobs up and down the country. I wonder if moving away is the answer to avoiding long-term unemployment.

The “get a job!” angry brigade will be happy to read this. They could even stop typing furiously on Twitter, stop commenting aggressively (with bad punctuation) on news sites; for a moment at least.

You see, if you’re unemployed whether it be for a week or a year, you should get a job – any job and, importantly, anywhere.map

I genuinely don’t think they understand the complexities of this. Aside from leaving behind friends and family for work – yes, just for a job! – it’s a difficult process for anyone.

Ok. Let’s say you decide to stay near home but travel further afield for work. This is a reasonable request from those poor souls slaving away to pay your taxes (while wilfully assuming you’ve never contributed).

Do you have a car? If so, how much of your new salary will be taken for petrol, insurance, tax and repairs? Are you dependent on public transport? Then how much of your wage will go on bus fares or train fares?

We all know the privatised rail and bus companies care only for getting us to work at reasonable cost and not about making profits, right? So if you take an average-paid job – because you need to get a job, any job and stop sponging! – will you be able to afford what are now be considered life’s luxuries such as food, heating, shelter, clothing ..?

On realising that bus journeys are too expensive from your new measly income, you decide to move to a new location for work. How’s that for commitment?! You will leave behind your home town, your friends, your family and move to a new city with the sole intention of doing so to find work.

Noble. Brave. Expected.

So, how do you get there? Do you have few enough belongings to shove them in the back of a car – which is how I used to move from job to job as a baby hack? Or do you and yours need to hire a van? Do you have the money for that if you’ve been unemployed a while?getajob

Indeed, do you have the money for the deposit on your private rented accommodation? Do you have a few month’s rent in advance? Are you able to pay these expenses and then feed yourself for the next few months until you’re first pay packet? Do you have the bus fare to your new work from your new home to ensure you get into work and don’t lose the new job?

No? Oh, then you’re clearly failing to seek work!

It’s not because the privatised transport services are hiking up prices above our incomes and making profits for their shareholders. No! It’s not because private landlords are making a killing from the lack of alternative housing. No! It’s not because you’ve been out of work so long you’re too skint to afford the van to carry you to your new city never mind the additional costs.

You see, you need to stop thinking about all these practicalities – the sort of thing employed people have to consider on a daily basis – and just get a job! Any job. Anywhere.

You’re different now … being unemployed somehow means you have much more money than everybody else and so can change your entire life on a whim. Enjoy!

WARNING: Stay on benefits. Do not work part-time.

In 2011 Cameron said, “Never again will work be the wrong financial choice … We are finally going to make work pay for some of the poorest people in our society.

What a laugh!

As you know, I found part-time work. I was quite excited by this. I’m now told my Jobseekers’ Allowance has been stopped, I’m entitled to reduced Housing Benefit and I’m not entitled to Council Tax Benefit

I’ve received a number of letters pointing out differing amounts I am or I’m not entitled to and my head is spinning but I’ve tried to calculate what this means.

And I’m £21 per month worse off by working. Add to this the money I have to find for rent and Council Tax and I’m a massive £158 a month worse off before I’ve even paid the rest of my bills.

It’s literally impossible.

I will, of course, also pay high bank charges when I inevitably become overdrawn losing yet more from my paltry income.

If my calculations are accurate, I’m at very real risk of becoming deeper in debt and, ultimately, losing my home.

Over a year since Cameron excitedly said work will pay, the reality is I’m now awake in the early hours panicking about not having any money, fretting that I won’t have fares to even get to work and questioning whether I’ll be penalised for packing in my part-time job and returning to full benefits.

Stay on benefits. You know it makes sense.

I understand I can’t get Working Tax Credits because I work fewer then 16 hours per week.

I’ve not been given any advice on alternative benefit options so don’t think there are any. I have to accept a loss of £158 per month and work.

So – for those who think the unemployed should try to get at least a few hours work – it is an impossible challenge. That is, unless you’re working as part of slave labour for multi-million companies while “earning” your benefits.

Getting off benefits – the worst part of unemployment yet again

As the Guardian reveals that the richest 1,000 people in Britain have seen their wealth increase by £155bn since the crisis began  … I have again tried to move from unemployment to part-time work – that is, from unemployment to underemployment.

I told my Job Centre Plus adviser before I even secured the contract and he has been helpful and supportive – but unable to stop the inevitable.

All my benefits have been stopped.

This stopping of benefits happens before you have any chance to give details, to fully explain your reasoning or prove your income.

It is profitable for the government to plunge you into poverty first and ask questions later.

I’ve explained to Job Centre Plus and to the council that my income works out at just £30 more than I would get per week from Jobseekers’ Allowance. I’ve shown contracts, visited almost weekly with updates and emailed any relevant information.

Nevertheless, my Housing Benefit has been calculated to now be £1.19 per week, my Council Tax Benefit is nil and today I find my Jobseekers’ Allowance has not been paid.

Of course I immediately switched off my heating, rationed the food in my cupboards and freezer and will stay home unable to afford to go anywhere. I wonder if this is the “war mentality” of which Heseltine spoke today – workers clamouring to survive while the wealthy remain untouched by the failures of the banks and the global economic crisis of their making.

I recognise this Tory-led coalition, supported by lickspittle lackey Lib Dems, will claim that Universal Credit will end this problem but this is clearly not the case. It will simply be worse for us.

The Tory work ethic – the promise that work will pay – is a lie.

This is the second time I’ve experienced this as I try to find work, to remain active and employable. I wonder now if it will be worth doing it again in the future. I might choose to stay on benefits.

Regular readers will know that, after 20 years as a journalist, I found it impossible to secure work in the industry so I retrained as an academic and now find it impossible to secure work in higher education.

Ironically, I found out this week that I passed a post-graduate certificate in education – what a waste of time and hard-work attaining a new qualification has proven to be.

This work is only until March 2013 so all this confusion and stress will start again as soon as it ends…

Tory attacks round-up … updated regularly

As Tories gleefully claim that we’re out of a recession unemployedhack takes a look at the Tory Attacks Chart to see the hottest releases featuring assaults on the most vulnerable in society.

Children, disabled people, unemployed workers, young people, pensioners … everyone except the rich get a kicking from this Coalition government propped up by lickspittle lackey Lid Dems.

Straight in at #1: Ian Duncan Smith arrogantly concludes in a speech that domestic violence, drug addiction and family breakdown are solely working class experiences and uses benefit reforms and cuts for his warped social experiment. The rich, meanwhile, are not penalised for these issues because they have wealth.

Down one place to #2: Victorian window tax-style policy sees Tories with numerous homes punish those in social housing for having a spare room … and it will hurt disabled tenants

Down a spot: Almost five million British workers are paid less than a living wage

Non-mover. Homeless people lose local government support from November 9 when they’ll face eligibility tests to be told they have to tolerate unsuitable private accommodation

Down a spot to #2: Pensioners work till they drop as those surviving on state pensions are told to work or volunteer or not get paid

Non-mover: Children of low-income families won’t be able to leave home when not entitled to housing benefits

Hot release: Benefits are destructive says top Tory – and the number of children benefit claimants can have could be capped leaving them “freed from” the decision of whether they can afford to

Still vying for that #1 spot: Disabled plunged into poverty as benefits are cut for the most vulnerable leaving many suicidal

An unsurprising entry: Universities face a funding black hole as higher education is privatised and Tories/Lib Dems are seen to have fudged the figures

New entry: Cutting funding for Sure Start and children’s services will damage lives of underprivileged children ruining their chances before they’re even out of nappies

Ironic non-mover: Unemployed forced to work unpaid for benefits – taking jobs from the unemployed

Terrifying long stint in the charts: NHS cuts continue despite Tory pledge to defend the service A&E and wards face closures

Offensive non-mover: More cuts to child support for jobless parents added to those for low-income earners

Sickening entry: Foodbank charity Trussell Trust reveals that three foodbanks are opening every week as Tories claim we’re out of a recession

Moralistic non-mover: The country’s 1.9 million single parents are forced onto Jobseekers’ Allowance – as Sure Start centres close and Workfare takes paid jobs

Surprise entry: Thatcher’s Tory government included a paedophile - and Jimmy Savile spent his Christmases at Chequers

Pop summary: Tories – and their Lib Dem sidekicks – are a cruel, wealthy, self-centred axis of Eton attacking the vulnerable and defending the indefensible.

  • Also, Still think the Tories – and Labour – need to make cuts and are not just looking for excuses to reduce the State?

Is compassion just for the “loony left”?

I’ve been told a few times this week that I’m whining about “compassion” or told – with an equal lack of irony – that it isn’t just for “lefties” but for ardent Tories too.

In 2008 the Tories were being hailed as the compassionate conservatives. Three years on, a Coalition in place, and attacks in the most vulnerable in society impossible to ignore and this now sounds like a bitter joke.

But Cameron tried to reaffirm his compasionate Conservative credentials at the Tory conference where he said: “Conservative methods are not just good for the strong and the successful but the best way to help the poor and the weak and the vulnerable.”

Adding: “Because it’s not enough to know our ideas are right. We’ve got to explain why they are compassionate too.”

I don’t know about you but – as more people need benefits at the same time as Universal Credit ensures they’re denied them –  I can see the Tories changing their approach to “compassion”. I think, in much the same way as rants about “political-correctness”, they’ll soon declare it’s “compassion gone mad!” as they silence anyone defending the vulnerable.

I’m so certain of this I will bet my £71 a week which is, of course, such a huge amount of money I’m now entirely unwilling to work and, instead, happy to live in state-funded luxury with the obligatory enormous television.

Recently though I’ve found that rare species we know exists but hardly ever encounter … a compassionate Job Centre Plus adviser. He is friendly thing, doesn’t speak to me like I’m a thief, stupid or both … and he advises. Perhaps this is an indication that those who consider themselves to be in a powerful position – that is, in work – are recognising their own employment vulnerability. That they too could soon be treated with a lack of compassion and accused of whinging if they demand it.

This also to some extent explains why it’s been some time since I’ve blogged. It’s not, sadly, due to my being employed but to my feeling I have, in a way, little left to say.

Firstly, my experience is a repetitive one – I am again moving from unemployment to under-employment and so fighting the draconian measures of my benefits being suspended before I’ve even seen an employment contract. I am as ever stressed out by this but also oddly used to it. I now know how to “play the system” because you have no choice but to learn because – aside from the Lesser Arrogant Job Centre Plus Advisor I’ve just encountered – no one helps you at all.

I’ve again gone without heating – but I imagine you have too. I’ve again gone without food and have no social life – but I imagine that sounds familiar.

My experience is now a very common one: many of us are now losing our jobs; seeing our homes threatened; being treated as parasitic benefit cheats; being ripped off by utilities companies; being blamed for our poverty; watching as banks benefit from it in charges; recognising our qualifications are not worth the money we paid for them; waiting for the axe to fall or signing on then off then on then off then on then …

Update:

Chaplin is well. He is currently enjoying a catnip cigar and, thankfully, prefers Lidl and Aldi catfood to the big name brands

Luxuries I’ve bought to irritate Tories who think my benefits are too high: an electric blanket; a halogen heater and the aforementioned catnip cigar

Poverty plan: To work two part-time jobs in the hope that this means I can sign off until March 2013. Fingers crossed