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

Jobcentre Plus new Q&A revealed …

Some intense investigative reporting on my part has resulted in my having something to do other than play string with Chaplin – and in unearthing the latest questionnaire used by Jobcentre Plus advisers.

This Q&A will be used at each and every interview unemployed workers attend in the hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face the repetitive, humiliating process over and over again. What happens to them then is of no concern.

A Jobcentre Plus unofficial, completely imaginary, spokesperson said: “When addressing the needs of customers facing deferred success and cashflow challenges, it sometimes makes sense to clarify your process using a flowchart.

“Using a customer service process flow chart can help advisers deal with customers in a way that represents Jobcentre Plus’ overall customer service outlook while, at the same time, avoiding customer intimacy or, heaven forbid, making eye contact with the employment-challenged.

“Going forward we hope that they will finally collapse, demoralised and exhausted, and choose to sign off rather than face this repetitive, humiliating process over and over again.

“What happens to them then is of no concern to us and any discussion about the validity of this flowchart will result in our effective, and government-backed, use of blamestorming.”

  • If you’re due to sign on remember this is how they think – even if the more wily ones don’t follow the Q&A openly …

Blame Bingo … a new game for all the family!

Are you unemployed? Do you spend a lot of time watching the news and listening to excuse after excuse from the Coalition? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo©!

Are you a single mum? Immigrant worker? Trade unionist? Or disabled? Then you’ll love Blame Bingo© – and seeing just how you are to blame for the state of the economy.

Blame Bingo© – it’s the game even Labour Party members can enjoy!*

Blame Bingo© is free so won’t eat into your meagre benefits or ever-dwindling wages. It’s easy, fun and contains many real excuses used by the Coalition. Just tick them off as you hear them until you get a full house – which will happen in no time!

Play Blame Bingo© today – and you won’t earn a thing even if you do it all day long! Just as the Coalition likes it!

*Liberal Democrats are advised not to play Blame Bingo© but instead to walk away from the Coalition so that we can have an election.

Blame Bingo© proof that being bored and stuck on the dole makes you entrepreneurial!

Stay calm and stuff the Jubilee …

I went to town to see the Queen*. I could tell you, as the Daily Mail describes, that she looked “stylish in pastels” or I could gush that “Her Majesty and Prince Philip stepped off the royal train at Victoria Station to rapturous applause from more than 800 flag-waving fans

The reality, though, is I walked past Albert Square watching the people holding their camera phones aloft, and I couldn’t be bothered waiting for her to appear. The reality is also that it seemed of little interest to most Mancunians.

I won’t be allowed to miss out on the hysteria though because the Manchester Evening News promises a souvenir supplement on Saturday. The city is told with excitement that Queeny tucked in to “steak and venison pudding [...] served with celeriac mash and buttered savoy cabbage” which was “as all being prepared, cooked and served by town hall staff.”

It sounds like a fine meal and in the glorious surroundings of Manchester Town Hall – built in the mid-1800s to brag about the city’s wealth rather than tackle the slums. I wonder, though, if any of the town hall staff serving up the grub are worrying about potential redundancy or whether they can afford their next meal.

I can see, of course, that Jubilee fever is intending to take our minds off mass unemployment, the destruction of the NHS and the fact that we fund her family’s existence as well as the bonuses for fat cat bosses in banks. It tried much the same in 1977: when firefighters went on strike over pay, there was an International Monetary Fund bail-out, an oil crisis, the Labour government faced a vote of no confidence by Liberals and the Queen wanted us flag-waving for her Silver Jubilee. I didn’t then and I won’t now.

The crowd outside Manchester Town Hall was small as I passed. I like to think that fellow Mancunians see no point in standing in the streets – sunny or not. One website run by journalism students states that HRH was welcomed by “thousands” adding, “hundreds of children, parents and celebrators waved flags”. It also reports on anti-monarchy protesters greeting the Queen.

I can honestly say when I passed it was more like dozens – even the cabbie said he was surprised by how few had turned out, especially considering the sun was shining on this rainy city for a change.

The city’s streets weren’t lined with flag-waving royalists when I walked them. In Albert Square I saw some tourists taking photos; workers having their lunch in the sun; students milling about before they go home to wherever and, of course, photographers up on a statue to ensure a clear view of Her Maj – not a cheering crowd wanting to catch a glimpse of a pastel-wearing parasite.

Because, whether she’s in pretty pastels or polka dots and purple, it’s hard not to resent the expensive tour of an unelected monarch visiting a city facing tough cuts, potentially shedding 50% more jobs than Tory councils and with an average wage of less than £2,000 as the cost of living soars.

It is also particularly upsetting when one considers that the Save the Children revealed in february that 27% of the city’s children live in severe poverty. Its campaign previously called on the Chancellor to Chancellor to announce an emergency plan in the next budget to channel new jobs into the poorest areas and increase financial support for low-income families.

It says that single parents and families are living on less than between £7,000 and  £12,500 a year. Meanwhile the Royals are given hundreds if thousands, according to the British Monarchy website. Even Prince Andrew receives £249,000 per annum.

*I didn’t actually go to see the Queen. I went to the People’s History Museum.

Sharks that look like Chris Grayling …

As incapacity benefit rejects 37% of its claimants,  the jobless total reaches a 17-year high of 2.7million and (un)Employment Minister Chris Grayling tells us “there are new vacancies available every week” … I consider a new way to look at him.

A post inspired by Otters That Look Like Benedict Cumberbatch.


An Open Letter to Chris Grayling …

Firstly, I’m not nor have I ever been a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party* and, while I’ve heard of Mumsnet, I’d not realised in visiting its site I was colluding with hardened radicals.

I am, though, a job snob who wants to be paid for a day’s work. I have the gall to want to earn a living in a way I might enjoy. I’m also under-employed – along with millions more in the UK – due to a global financial crisis that is not of our making.

While you say young people should be grateful for unpaid work to show them the ropes, to give them experience, to get them a foot in the door, I say they should be paid for the work they do, encouraged to achieve and celebrated for what they can offer.

Our ambition is dismissed as snobbery while yours is celebrated on your website, telling us of your rise from school pupil to Employment Minister via the BBC.

At school I was told I’d never be a journalist, constantly reminded that people who grew up where I did had no chance of “bettering themselves”. I doubt you heard this as you worked your way to the BBC. I doubt you thought for a second that you might end up stacking shelves or see your dream job as just that.

“The industry is too competitive”, I heard at school. “You won’t know anyone who can get you a job through friends,” they would warn. “Those in public schools will be picked, leaving you at the back of the line for jobs,” they’d tell me, urging me to find a job, any job and stop day-dreaming.

I thought aspiration was a good thing, even for a working class child living on a council estate. I worked hard. I got O Levels, then A Levels, then further deferred the gratification of nights out with friends by attending university. I worked most nights and every weekend while at university certain I would never have to do so again, not once I was a journalist.

I did do a week of work experience while studying for my degree but not under the assumption that I didn’t understand what work was: I had the chance to see if I really wanted to work in journalism, not the chance to earn the lower rate of JSA while lining the pockets of big business.

After leaving Royal Grammar School and Cambridge, you went to the BBC. After leaving my inner city school and a northern former polytechnic, I got a job on a local newspaper earning £8,000 a year. I lived in a shared house, struggled to fund the car that was essential to the job, went without meals to do so: fed instead by ambition and a determination not to be at the back of the line for future jobs.

I then worked at press agencies, regional newspapers, national newspapers and magazines. I was good at what I did because I came from a working class background, not despite it.

Then – as the journalism industry was brought to its knees my those seeking bigger and bigger profits – I worked in university outreach, encouraging under-represented young people from working class communities to consider university, to know they were capable.

I tell them it is because life has not been easy for them that they’re sharp as tacks, interesting, articulate, funny and wise to old fools telling them they should work unpaid.

You seem to have concluded that young working class people are illiterate, undeserving of paid training and apprenticeships, and unaware that they’re being forced to work unpaid because of a crisis of capitalism. They’re not.

I worked much harder than you I suspect. I did so because I believed this would secure my future. Now you’re a wealthy politician selling the working class into slave labour and I’m working part-time, as a result of the decimated journalism industry and the savage Tory cuts in education.

I think I’ll be unemployed again soon enough, surviving on £67.50 a week, despite working hard for qualifications and competing with the likes of you for a job in the media. It is all too easy for it to be taken away from us – for us to pay the price for a crisis not of our making.

You should resign. You’re out of touch in defending the indefensible. Your contempt for us is tangible as you line up young people to work for free, demanding their gratitude as they make profits for multi-million pound corporations. You dismiss our desire for financial security and mock us for daring to dream of going day after day to a job we might enjoy.

You’ve stolen the aspiration of working class young people and condemned them to an existence of getting by, letting them take the blame for an economic crisis not of their making.

You should go and you should take your nasty Tory sidekicks with you. We’re not fooled by your plans and neither are our young people.

* Now that the SWP is said to be solely responsible for a campaign defending young unemployed people and highlighting the exploitation of the disabled and unemployed I’m more likely to join. I’ll also check Mumsnet daily.

Why Emma Harrison and Workfare must go …

I’m told by a regular reader that being unemployed and in debt in the US means you’re less likely to find work. It seems a bad credit rating could mean your boss decides you’re a bad risk: you need money to clear your debts but those debts stop you from getting work.

I share this not to point out how much worse they may or may not have it in America but to highlight another example of blaming the unemployed for situations beyond their control … and what we might face in the future following the brutal welfare reforms.

A site outlining the history of the US welfare system states, “Throughout the 1800s [...]  there were attempts to reform how the government dealt with the poor. Some changes tried to help the poor move to work rather than continuing to need assistance consisting of caseworkers visiting the poor and training them in morals and a work ethic was advocated by reformers in the 1880s and 1890s.

During the Great Depression, “when one-fourth of the labor force was unemployed” the government stepped in to solve the problem: under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was enacted in 1935. This system is celebrated but it relied upon the Civilian Corporation Corp of unskilled, unmarried men working for $30 a month and giving that money to their parents.

Then in 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act – giving annual lump sums to the states to use to assist the poor and asking those states to ensure the unemployed were encouraged to move from welfare to work.

Now Obama is being accused of bloating the welfare state by bringing in reforms – and is called a socialist more times than Che Guevara – despite plans to make those needing food stamps work for them.

Even in Australia – where the language is more honest – there is Work for the Dole which started in 1998 intended to help young people develop a work ethic but not looking at the causes of youth unemployment.

The suggestion that workers should not be helped when unemployed is nothing new nor is the talk of personal responsibility or the spreading of blame to the jobless: it is a convenient political trick for which we must not fall.

We’re told we have no need to help out strangers with welfare or taxation – but we do. A global economic crisis and a recession that has put 2.7m in this country on the dole is a national – indeed a global – responsibility, not a personal one.

It is the developing narrative of personal responsibility which gives companies – including Superdrug, Asda, Tesco, Argos, Matalan, Royal Mail, Burger King, Poundland, Top Shop, Boots, McDonalds, Primark, HMV, Evans, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Pizza Hut, WH Smith – the arrogance to employ people to do a full day’s work for no pay.

It is this rhetoric used by charities such as The Salvation Army, Scope and Oxfam to dismiss the fact that instead of finding those who want to volunteer they they are using slave labour.

Boycott Workfare, a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare, states “Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.”

The system is forcing the unemployed, the vulnerable and the ill to work – providing Jobseekers’ Allowance plus expenses as payment.Rabid Tories would, no doubt, find this acceptable and say people need work experience, people need to have a routine, people need to develop a work ethic, people need to learn not to rely on the state – I say people need to be paid for the work they do.

Marie Curie Cancer Care is among those opting out of the scheme and state, “We participated in this scheme because we believed it could offer volunteers an opportunity to gain valuable experience. However, there is a difference between volunteering and being forced to work and if there is any chance that people with terminal illnesses could be made to take part in this scheme we would take this very seriously.”

Now Emma Harrison, Cameron’s sidekick behind the Work Programme, is under scrutiny herself. It seems the woman who says there are “hidden jobs” and that you just have to find them has a few questions to answer about her own income.

The Daily Mail reports that Emma Harrison “pocketed £8.6 million in one year, mostly from state contracts and [...] MPs said the company’s record in placing the jobless in work was abysmal – with a success rate of only 9 per cent.”

The Guardian points out, “Ministers have been urged to suspend welfare-to-work contracts with a company at the centre of allegations of fraud [...] five shareholders were paid £11m in dividends last year, of which Harrison received 87%.”

This comes as a Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton states, “I deplore the Workfare programme for many reasons but primarily because it is deplorable. Trumpeted as a programme that will give the unemployed key skills, it serves nothing of the sort.

“What it is, in actuality, is a benefit system for sections of our work force. And there was I, foolishly, thinking that when you are part of the capitalist work force then the appropriate term for remuneration received is salary. Apparently not. These days, and under Cameron’s stewardship, we receive ‘benefits’ to become part of the job market.

When Middle England is comparing Cameron to a Nazi even rabid Tories have nowhere to hide. The plans are cruel, selfish, brutal and money-spinners for those running them.

The plans do nothing to help those most in need in our country and fail to recognise that the unemployed are not to blame for a global economic crisis – we should oppose them. Click here to find out how to do just that.

Stars shining bright above you …

I was lagered and dined at someone else’s expense: eating sushi in a restaurant like one of those celebrities. I admit though to showing myself up by using cutlery because I can’t do fat noodles and chopsticks.

It was genuinely nice to get out: I took off my coat to walk in the rain, breathing in the air, the bus fumes and smell of the city like an old lag released after many years. I enjoyed the chitter-chatter of those around me, listening in when I could to the gossiped minutia of their lives. I also did a bit of gossiping.

I was, though, glad to be home. I’ve found I feel safe indoors, I now worry needlessly about break-ins when I’m out. I have no home insurance because it cost too much and I think someone stealing my House DVD box set might just be the final straw. It’s not something I used to worry about but neurosis comes with long-term employment.

I’ve been offered some part-time work in January which should cover my bills and I’m seriously considering taking it: I will enjoy it; I will look active again while seeking work and I will be again seen as a reliable, trustworthy employee.

I am, though, terrified I won’t be paid on time, won’t make my rent payments and get into further debt. I also worry about affording payments to the pension scheme I’m already a part of and if HMRC will demand the tax I owe despite my contract being for no more than 12 weeks. And I wonder if walking away from a job – even a part-time job – will mean I made myself unemployed and am not, therefore, entitled to benefits. I’m scared a combination of these added pressures on  a short-term income will result in my becoming homeless.

This is neurosis, I know. I can find the answers to my questions before I make a decision, but I’ve never been afraid of being homeless before, it’s never been a threat while I’ve been a working adult. I’ve lived in my flat for a decade and just once got behind on the rent. Now I recognise how surprisingly quickly homelessness can happen: lose your benefits or don’t pay your rent/mortgage and you lose your home.

The Guardian reports on documentary film-maker Robert Wilkins who travelled on the night-time bendy bus in London just before it was taken off the road and says, “Rather than the stereotype rough sleeper – the gaunt, grizzly wino in tattered clothes – he found people who had to their surprise been tripped up by joblessness, eviction and relationship breakdown and had fallen rapidly on hard times. Some who travelled the buses every night were reluctant to even accept that they were homeless.

“As Wilkins says: “They weren’t like I imagined homeless people to be.”

There was much celebration about the end of the bendy bus and blame for its existence thrown Ken Livingstone’s way but I had not considered for a second that it had given a few hours of sleeping in safety to some of the capital’s homeless.

You don’t have to sleep on a bendy bus or in a doorway to be homeless: you could be sleeping on friends’ settees, forced to move back in with parents, using a relatives’ spare room. You’re still without a permanent address.

Sky News reports, “Government cuts and high unemployment are driving a sharp rise in the number of young people who are homeless. Charities believe there is a worrying link between the record youth unemployment figures and the people they are dealing with.”

The report goes on, “A survey carried out by Homeless Link reveals 44% of homeless services and 48% of councils have reported an increase in young people seeking help […] and 62% of young homeless people seen by charities were not in education, training or employment, and around half were in financial difficulties.”

And research by homeless charity Shelter shows that repossession rates are so high, someone risks losing their home in the Uk every two minutes. Chief executive Campbell Robb says,

“As Christmas approaches, this research paints a frightening picture of thousands of families living every day with the fear of losing their home hanging over their heads. It’s sobering to see that so many communities are blighted by the risk of eviction.

“Shelter research shows that a third of people are already struggling with their housing costs or falling behind on payments. In these unforgiving conditions, it only takes one thing – illness, job loss or relationship breakdown – to lead to things spiralling out of control and into homelessness.”

Homelessness, while a very real problem for young people, also affects homeowners who lose their jobs and can’t make mortgage payments: benefits don’t help with the entirety of mortgage payments, only with rent.

According to Guardian reports, in 1999 43,900 properties were taken into possession. This fell to 32,800 in 1997, rose to 25,900 in 2007, 40,000 in 2008, 47,900 in 2009, and fell again to 36,300 in 2010. The Council of Mortgage Lenders, meanwhile, puts its repossession forecast for 2011 and 2012 at 40,000 and 45,000 respectively.

The highest rate of repossession outside London is in Manchester – at a level nearly double the national average, according to independent newspaper Manchester Mule.

Unemployment is now at its highest level since 1994 – 2.64 million up by 128,000 in three months – according to The Office for National Statistics. The numbers claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance rose to 1.6 million in November. This could be more people losing their homes.

The homeless are not drunks in doorways, the butt of jokes about dogs on string leads or someone sitting by the cash machine hoping for a hand out – they’re a few rent payments, a job loss or benefit sanction away from losing their home. They’re like you and me.

Now I must call HMRC and see if I am able to work and keep my earnings.

Plans today: Pop out into the cold to meet Jobseekers’ Agreement duties

Job search lateral-thinking: Started searching PhD opportunities (not recognised as job-seeking by Jobcentre Plus); teacher-training routes (despite having a  qualification for higher education and, like all good journalists, I don’t have a maths GCSE) and sending my CV on spec to people no doubt inundated with CVs on spec

Things that make me happy: A three bird roast in the freezer ready for Christmas Day, a gift of two boxes of cat food for Chaplin and a case of wine for me

It’s A Fine Life …

I now have an emotional response to hot water. I’ve spent so much time avoiding using hot water straight from the taps that sinking into a hot bath almost reduces me to tears: my shoulders relax, my body disappears under the water and I feel myself well up. I just had the feeling again as I switched on the central heating: a mixture of excitement and a brief desire to cry.

Chaplin is now on the window sill above the radiator and his softened face and relaxed ears would suggest he is having a similar emotional response.

A very good friend of mine has given me some money for Christmas: it is enough to pay my gas debt and enjoy some festive drinks with other friends. It is unexpected, unrequested help that will make all the difference.

The generosity of friends is something you can’t buy. It isn’t something you experience more or less depending on your earnings. It isn’t even something you can expect because you’re in work or not expect because you’re unemployed.

That said, I think Cameron’s satisfaction survey is a crock. Initial findings of this “well-being survey” might show that Brits are smiling through the misery of a global economic crisis but it doesn’t mean we’re unaffected.

According to the BBC, “The survey of 4,200 people asked respondents to rank from nought to 10 how satisfied they were […] 76% rated themselves as seven out of 10.”

In case you’re confused 10 meant completely satisfied and zero meant not at all.

The survey costing £2m was conducted over the spring and summer and will lead to more detailed research to be used in Whitehall as part of Cameron’s efforts to develop a “happiness index” that will run alongside more traditional measures of the economic mood. This is despite Cameron’s saying of his own research idea, “You cannot capture happiness on a spreadsheet any more than you can bottle it – and if anyone was trying to reduce the whole spectrum of human happiness into one snapshot statistic I would be the first to roll my eyes.”

Reports of the survey have led to photos in the media of old women laughing alongside young women, women laughing and hugging and pretty women grinning like buffoons: the results suggests women and pensioners are happiest.

The peer, who founded of the Action for Happiness movement to promote well-being, Lord Layard, said policymakers could use the data to tackle the pain of recession: “We know from other European countries that this is sensitive to business cycles and in recessions life satisfaction drops.”

According to the Guardian the science of wellbeing is, while now fashionable, certainly nothing new.

What also isn’t new is the idea that poor people are happy to like or lump it. Forget the relentless misery of Eastenders – the poor working class are always cheerful, with wide, gap-toothed smiles despite the cold, the empty bellies and bare feet: give us a piano and we burst into song. And those children in the Poor Kids documentary need only a bed to jump up and down on to forget that their bedrooms are wet with mould.

This ridiculous stereotype of the poor is why, perhaps, John Jost, a graduate from the Stanford School of Business, considered how such images can reinforce the status quo. His research is far more interesting than Cameron’s costly con.

It suggests that “benevolent stereotypes like […] “poor people are the salt of the earth” ascribe complementary value to all groups in a system, including members of disadvantaged groups”. Jost says:

“They are appealing in part because they satisfy the desire to perceive existing forms of social and economic arrangements as fair, legitimate, and justified.”

If we’re reassured that pensioners are happy (despite increasing energy bills leaving then sitting in the cold and dark), that children are happy (despite going to school hungry) and that women are happy (despite fretting about finding childcare in order to go to work) then we no longer feel anxious about vulnerable members of society.

It is, ultimately, extraordinarily selfish – and is Cameron’s true plan: to stop us from recognising and caring that there are some seriously vulnerable members of society who need to be helped by the state.

Jost studied the “system-justifying” effects of stereotypes pertaining to economic inequality, including “poor but happy,” “rich but miserable,” “poor but honest,” and “rich but dishonest” stereotypes. Participants in his experiments were asked for their perceptions of the status quo and those who had been exposed to complementary stereotypes were more likely to see the existing social and political system as legitimate and just. Jost said,

“These findings demonstrate the existence of a justification process that is new to the social justice literature.”

While I agree that owning things does not bring happiness, that joy can’t be measured by a bank balance and consumerism is not contentment – we still need warm, well-lit, comfortable homes and jobs so we can buy food and clothes.

A convenient stereotype won’t keep pensioners warm –  25,000 die from cold each year and energy prices of up to 18% untackled will only add to this number. It won’t feed children whose parents are on benefits. And it won’t find work for the 2.6 million unemployed or for the nation’s young people who have been thrown aside like dirty dishrags.

I can also honestly say that knowing my corner shop now stocks Marques de Caceres for £8.99 and I can have a bottle this weekend has cheered me up no end.

Hug a journalist …

Unemployment increases to 2.62 million in three months. Youth unemployment is now more than one million. Female unemployment is at its highest in 23 years. The jobless rate overall is 8.3%. Britain’s economy could continue to stagnate well into next year. The global outlook is worse. The London Stock Exchange has seen a 79% increase in pre-tax profits to £179.7 million. Eurozone inflation remains at 3% because energy costs remain high.

How do I know all this? Not by reading documents from the Office for National Statistics. Not by phoning the Bank of England Governor for a chat. Not because I have a friend who is the friend of a broker. Not because I had a chat with David Cameron or a call from my energy supplier.

Michelle Stanistreet

I know this thanks to the work of journalists. The BBC specifically in this case. Meanwhile all journalism is being attacked because of the misdeeds of a few.

It’s no joke that people’s phones were hacked and that information used for stories in a profit-making publication that saw media tyrants enjoying the sort of lifestyle the rest of us associate with repeats of Dallas. It’s no joke that journalists on those publications felt this was either acceptable or expected of them.

But it’s also not what all journalists do. It isn’t a problem within the journalism industry as a whole. For the general public to scapegoat journalists, fear journalists, not trust journalism is to give the powerful more power than you can ever imagine. We’re needed to ensure people are informed, properly, accurately, honestly informed.

I see no reason why all doctors should be feared following Dr Shipman’s case and no reason why someone at Angler’s World would need to tap a phone. I see no reason why staff would be blamed for the bullying boss of any other multi-million pound corporation and I don’t believe for a second that someone at Timber International sends private investigators off to get juicy snippets. I don’t think reporters at your local paper would even consider using an investigator – when half the fun is investigating worthwhile stories yourself.

For the most part, those in power are enormously protected. When I started as a trainee reporter … wait, while I move my Zimmer frame … I was able to phone the leader of the council directly. I turned up at police stations for talks with the chief. Public Relations had not got to a stage where it not only protected people but fabricated its own stories to promote a certain person or event: I’ve written inaccurate information having been provided it by someone in a press office who had their own agenda and I’ve been angered by being tricked.

NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet has suggested that journalists are scared to speak up at the Leveson Inquiry and the union is now with inquiry team to ensure that journalists who wish to contribute can do so in confidence, protected from retribution by employers. She says:

“The NUJ is making a good deal of effort to identify journalists to give evidence and to share their experiences with the Inquiry.

“However, the stark reality is that in many workplaces there is a genuine climate of fear about speaking out. In order that it is not simply those who have retired, or who have been made redundant and left the industry, who feel able to make a contribution we are working with the Inquiry team to ensure that journalists who wish to contribute to the Inquiry can give their testimony in confidence, to afford them protection from retribution.

“The fear is not of immediate punishment but of finding that a few months after your Inquiry ends a journalist who has spoken out may find herself on a list of redundancies.

“The reality is that putting your head above the parapet and speaking out publicly is simply not an option for many journalists, who would fear losing their job or making themselves unemployable in the future.

“In our experience, that fear has been a significant factor in inhibiting journalists from defending the principles of ethical journalism in the workplace – and in media organisations hostile to the concept of trade unions there is a particular problem.”

So take a breath before blaming journalists and consider what you would lose without journalism: without intelligent, investigative journalism, the sort of journalism that brought the phone-hacking issue to light.

Rupert Murdoch

Most journalists don’t want to write celebrity guff – although Hugh Grant’s misdemeanours was funny. We don’t go into journalism to intimately describe some two-bit celebrity’s battle with the bulge. We sit at the desk laughing out loud at some of the tripe we write that impresses our illiterate editors … or is that just me?

The reality is journalists are losing their jobs every day due to cut-backs as the profit-driven media seeks to ensure more money for its shareholders and owners. (They can join the NUJ here.)

Journalism and our access to information is already under threat. The attacks on our local papers mean we, as readers, risk no longer having journalists scrutinising the cuts of local councils; journalists in court reporting if justice is fair on teenage rioters; journalists reporting the privatising of our NHS; journalists questioning the actions of the police during protests – and this work is too important to allow money-grubbing media owners to take it from us.