Journalists get bullied by union-bashing bosses …

Convicted phone hacker Andy Coulson walked free from court yesterday cleared of perjury.

The judge told the jury, “Not every lie amounts to perjury” and that the former News of the World boss’ alleged lies about phone hacking were not material to main case at the Tommy Sheridan trial and so the case was thrown out.

People inevitably took to Twitter commenting on the case – and saying again how little they trust journalists.

It’s four years since the News of the World closed but still people feel aggrieved by what they saw and still they feel little confidence in journalists to tell the truth or to be capable of integrity, loyalty and political principle.Lois Lane

Still few see or accept the reality of the pressures on journalists to do as they’re told. Too many think journalists live in some Daily Planet bubble where they can run into the offices of editors like Andy Coulson and demand to be heard, demand to tell their story, demand not to write something racist or sexist. We rarely can. Like most workers we simply don’t have that power.

When a housing worker in a Tory council evicts a tenant for not being able to afford their rent in times of austerity we can’t blame that individual worker. When a factory worker shoves horse meat into a packet and labels it beef we can’t blame that individual worker.

And – just like other workers – we get bullied if we do stand up for what we believe in.

Michell Stanistreet, the National Union of Journalists general secretary, told the Leveson Inquiry: “”The range of issues the journalists have raised with me include, but are not restricted to – endemic bullying, huge pressure to deliver stories, overwhelming commercial pressures which are allowed to dictate what is published and the overweening power and control of editors over their journalists and of employers over their editors.”

She added: “They feel too scared and frightened to give evidence in a wayLois Lane which would allow them to be identified by their current or prospective media employers. Those who have experienced or witnessed bullying of a vicious and engrained nature have largely been too fearful to speak out in case they lost their job or were forced out.

“Those who have witnessed first-hand unethical behaviour or been pressured into working in a way that is unethical are frankly terrified about being identified.”

Some have found the courage to be identified and to walk out …

Rich Peppiatt, writer and director of One Rogue Reporter, walked out of the Daily Star offices in protest at what he saw as anti-Muslim propaganda, stating: “I may have been just a lowly hack in your business empire, void of the power to make you change your ways, but there is still one thing that I can do; that I was trained to do; that I love to do: write about it.”

Peter Oborne resigned from the Telegraph over what he considered its fraudulent coverage allowing HSBC to influence content for fear of losing ad revenue, saying: “I expressed all of my concerns about the direction of the paper. […] I was resigning as a matter of conscience. Mr MacLennan (chief executive) agreed that advertising was allowed to affect editorial, but was unapologetic, saying that “it was not as bad as all that” and adding that there was a long history of this sort of thing at the Telegraph.”

But it’s not all about national journalists and indeed certainly not all about tabloid journalists. The industry – trade press, local newspapers, regional titles, magazines – is rife with bullying and workers too scared to stand up for themselves or for their work because they fear they will be sacked. Superman

Phil Turner has worked at the Rotherham Advertiser for 30 years. He is also the chapel’s FoC – that is he is the National Union of Journalists shop steward.

Phil has been singled out by bosses for compulsory redundancy. The NUJ is appealing the decision, seeing the targeting of Phil as a deliberate attack on the journalists’ union and on the wider trade union movement.

Phil’s colleagues are defending him. They intend to strike on June 11th and there is a protest this Saturday in Rotherham’s All Saints Square at 12 noon.

Chris Morley, the NUJ’s Northern and Midlands organiser, said: “The company has made a grave error in selecting Phil for dismissal in such a transparent attempt to reduce the effectiveness of the chapel at the Rotherham Advertiser. Even when required savings were found elsewhere, the new management of the company still insisted that a compulsory redundancy had to be made in editorial and that it just happened to be the FoC.”

It’s time to recognise journalists don’t have some innate power unavailable to other workers.  We’re not all Lois Lanes and Clark Kents (even Clark Kent left the Daily Planet tired of the drivel he had to produce). 

And we depend on union support and solidarity like other workers.

Also … we’re not all phone hackers. We don’t sit gleefully writing racist crap. We don’t shovel shit into the internet and think we’ve got it made. We do recognise the influence of advertising and of corrupt bosses. We get bullied and victimised.

We’re workers, just like you.

The union is urging NUJ members and supporters to contact the Rotherham Advertiser in protest. Please send respectful messages of protest to Rotherham Advertiser chief executive Nick Alexander and copy in the editor Andrew Mosley and HR officer Debbie Commander.
nick.alexander@garnett-dickinson.co.uk  
Andrew.Mosley@rotherhamadvertiser.co.uk
debbie.commander@garnett-dickinson.co.uk   

You can also send messages of support and solidarity to Phil Turner:

Email the chapel and copy in the NUJ campaigns and communications department:
syorksnuj@hotmail.co.uk
campaigns@nuj.org.uk  

HOW – AND WHY – TO JOIN THE NUJ

Superman

Lifestyle section: How to burn 17 calories every 15 minutes*

I’ve been reading some articles on various lifestyle subjects from how to eat a cheese sandwich to how chefs are making their plates a little plainer and how to sow a wildflower meadow.

I feel uplifted. It is imagined, of course, that we all aspire (there’s that word again!) to be the demographic that can’t decide whether to rent or sell that irritating additional property or really want to know how to be happy.

I’ve written these things myself over the years so I don’t condemn those doing it now. I remember phases of having to think of time scales for stories – you know the sort of thing, ‘lose fourteen stone in a fortnight’ or ‘one week from meeting to wedding’.

But it seems especially vacant and irrelevant in times of austerity. Chaplin is skint

As queues to food banks double and is worse than other European countries I can’t help but think wordy articles on the best bacon or the poshest crisps is verging on offensive.

As Shelter states that in England, more than 81,000 households were found to be homeless during 2013/14 perhaps articles on how to spruce up your bathroom are, at the very least, insensitive.

And, while Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the average cost of a school uniform and PE kit is £224.69 while the average local authority grant for school uniform is just £51.27 maybe articles on which fashions are bang on trend for toddlers is a but ugly.

It’s aspirational journalism, of course. The profit-driven industry needs it to get advertising. It needs you to want to aspire to buy what is being peddled and to feel better for having engaged with the magazine, paper or website.

I sat at my desk once, listening in despair, as it was decided a local free paper would no longer be delivered to a poorer area because, well, no one there could afford what the advertisers were selling. Stuff informing, forget democracy – these poor people had no disposable income.

As a cub reporter I could be all Daily Planet-dramatic and say a story was more important than an ad and see said ad removed from the page but within a decade and I was being told by advertising sales staff, “you know who pays your wages, right?”

Aspiration and a media dependent on income from advertising means features too often lack relevance to the lives of many. Salford StarIncluding the people who write them …

… at this point I would like to point out that many journalists earn a pittance!

 The Guardian did recently provide a “seven ways to take action” against austerity guide. Credit where it’s due. It was written by Cait Cross is from UK Uncut, though, and not the paper so, in the current shifting “business model” that is journalism, I’m unsure if it was paid for …

This type of attention-grabbing, time-tied, easy to digest journalism is especially effective for magazines because it can be planned ahead, it can be created rather than researched and, significantly, the journalists doesn’t have to move from the office to do it so it’s comparatively cheap.

I feel I could still contribute to this type of journalism given the chance and my current view from the scrapheap gives me a unique perspective.

  • What to wear when the wolf is at the door
  • How an empty fridge can help you diet
  • What tea to drink when opening debt letters
  • How to cope with spending too much time with the cat
  • Keep fit while watching afternoon telly
  • How to avoid job application RSI

But – more seriously – there are some efforts being made to report what is really going on in communities, to genuinely discuss “lifestyles” without the Labour/Tory aspiration rhetoric and the influence of advertisers.

Over at Contributoria Conrad Bower wants to write about the Manchester Homeless Camp campaign – and you can vote to help him do it. Byline hosts any journalistic work, regardless of ideology or subject and is funded by readers. Salford Star repeatedly irritates the council with some hard-hitting journalism while also having a laugh and is currently selling a new batch of publications. And there’s The Conversation, describing itself as a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish and a not for profit educational entity.

You might also want to see my post on the food of the Gods: mushy peas. It’s not hard-hitting journalism but, by heck, you’ll fancy some for your tea later!

*Oh … you burn 17 calories every 15 minutes just by lying on the settee. Unemployedhack – bringing you aspiration and education.

Aspiration without opportunity is a scam …

Well, look what the fat cat dragged back in. Hello all. Since I was last here I have retrained. I have hoop-jumped, aspired and succeeded like a good worker should.

I still have 25 years experience as a journalist. I still have almost a decade’s experience of teaching. I have a teaching qualification and a rather exciting PhD proposal.
But now I don’t have a job. And if I don’t find one soon I’ll be in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance and Housing Benefit again. Plus ça change.

aspire
You see the bosses have shifted the hoops, they’ve ignored my aspiration and they’ve limited my success because – no matter how we buy into the fantasy – we really have very little control over our work or our access to it.

I’ve drunk expensive wine with media types in modern, minimalist apartments. I’ve been stressed and excited in equal measure in busy, noisy newsrooms. I’ve walked with confidence across campus, carrying texts books and fresh coffee.
I’ve recreated all these aspirational images, suitable to magazines and job centre posters intended to inspire young workers to aspire, to achieve … but now I don’t have a job.

Some 181 local newspapers have closed in the UK since 2005. Unpaid internships are commonplace. Writing for nothing to prove your worth is also familiar.
Cuts in academia have seen job losses, courses closing, a reduction in pay – and fewer sessional and full-time teaching staff.
My short-term contracts have all ended. My qualifications and experience remain the same. My willingness to work is unchanged. My ambition, aspiration or whatever the latest buzzword is remains. aspire2
But there are no jobs for which I am qualified and experienced.

Cue the inevitable “there are jobs but you’re being a job snob” or “there are jobs but you’re not looking hard enough” or “there are jobs but you decided to work in the wrong industry/sector”.
You see the rhetoric of aspiration and ambition are currently nothing but words to encourage people to blame the jobless.
We can jump those hoops like the most cheerful clown – but if someone decides to spice things up by setting a hoop on fire then it’s our fault if we get burned.

I can’t get any job. Why? Because:
1. There are too few jobs for everyone who needs one.
2. I am not experienced in many jobs. And I can’t assume employers will let me have a go because, er, they won’t.
3. I have no qualifications for many jobs. And I can’t simply get other qualifications because they cost money I don’t have.
4. The assumption I can work as a cleaner or supermarket shelf stacker ignores a number of things: these jobs are finite, these jobs are being done by unpaid staff, these jobs demand NVQs I don’t have.
5. I am knocking on 46 and have the sort of maturity, qualifications and experience that simply doesn’t fit with any and all jobs.

And finally, most significantly. aspire3
6. I don’t get to choose. The idea that aspiration will get a worker a job disingenuously suggests a worker has control over job options. We don’t. The public and private sector is not altered to meet our needs – we’re expected to adapt to meet the sector.

So I adapted. I retrained. I gained more skills. I gained more qualifications. My contracts still ended.

Now I don’t have a job.

I do have Chaplin with whom I will need to sit down and discuss the move from Sheba to Aldi’s finest cat food.

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.