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

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

The Sun: Don’t blame the journalists, blame the bosses …

There is, no doubt, excitement at the thought of The Sun closing down. Once again, I won’t be joining in.

I doubt there will be equally loud calls for the army and police forces to be closed down because, essentially, people are siding with the powerful: journalists are just workers who are dispensable, their unemployment and resulting poverty isn’t a big deal, and they’re to blame for their own actions.

Well, I disagree.

Newspapers are closing down: many of them are free newspapers which not only affects journalists but the chance for those without money for the internet or to buy newspapers without easy access to in-depth news. As the Guardian reported in December, “There have been at least 31 closures of weekly newspapers in England, Wales and Scotland in the course of 2011. All but two were free titles. It is noticeable that the bulk have occurred in the last couple of months.”

Journalists – including those now in training – already have fewer and fewer job opportunities. I am, remember, Unemployedhack. Unemployment is not something we should take lightly when it faces anyone, never mind an entire industry.

Many journalists – perhaps some led by ambition – do things they later regret. I mean regret on a personal level, not following an arrest. They do so because bullying in journalism is rife, commonplace and happens to the best of us, because they are told to get the story at any cost or lose their jobs.

Journalists were so in fear of never working again the, according to NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, “feel too scared and frightened to give evidence in a way 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”

Stanistreet continued, “The range of issues the journalists have raised […] 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.

“Many newspaper groups simply won’t let the NUJ through the door.”

News of the World former news editor Ian Edmondson talked of a culture of bullying, saying: “It’s a case of you will do as you are told and you live in that environment”.

I’ve been bullied, at some point, by every editor I’ve had. I’m not a shy person, I don’t suffer in silence … but I’ve been reduced to tears, sitting alone in a district office, or my car, or at home wondering why on earth I ever became a journalist.

I’ve been screamed at, threatened, manipulated, insulted, overworked, ridiculed, isolated, undermined …

I was once having a hard time, health-wise, and was taken for a coffee by my editor. I was building myself up as we walked to the café (not the staff canteen) ready to explain what I was going through and to seek support.

“You’re going under and you’re not dragging me down with you. I think you should leave,” I was told before I could even order my frothy coffee. My disability was not an issue, legal ramifications of no concern: I was to go and to do so quietly. The bullying continued in the editor’s office, in private, once we returned.

Another editor used to proof-read our pages with a red pen and get so angry doing so that the paper would be full of rips and tears by the time it was thrown across the office at us.

“This isn’t good enough. This is substandard. I can’t be doing your job and mine,” was a favourite call as the editor kicked the table. There was no recognition that we had no longer had proof-readers to do this expected role in a newsroom.

My first editor took great delight in rejecting front page stories minutes before deadline. These stories were good but still the phone would ring.

“Find me something else. I’m sick of this topic. I’m sick of you. Get another story or get on your merry way.”

The glee in the editor’s voice was never disguised and we were told of how excited he looked making the call afterwards when we met up with colleagues in the pub.

I confronted each one to some extent: the first editor was reported to the union and management and the bullying in isolation responded to in emails; the second I confronted then made a formal complaint when it continued; and my first editor, well, I always had two stories ready and would wait half an hour before sending him the second, better story (I  wouldn’t recommend this tiring option).

Recently, at Leveson Inquiry, Kelvin McKenzie said “if the atmosphere towards what you’re doing is different than before, then you need to change with it.”

Journalist Brendan Montague at the-sauce.org secured a world exclusive from a former mole at the News International about The Sun’s front page showing NUM leader Arthur Scargill apparently giving a Nazi salute under the headline “Mine Fuhrer”.

He wrote, “Union members at the printers refused to publish the filthy slur and instead humiliated bullying editor Kelvin McKenzie. They publicly shamed him by running across the splash: “Members of all The Sun production chapels refused to handle the Arthur Scargill picture and major headline on our lead story.”

This is where the strength lies – not in joining in the bullying of journalists enjoyed by money-grubbing newspaper owners or fame-seeking editors.

When my first editor finally lost his job – when he was bullied by new buyers and discarded like yesterday’s  newspaper – I danced around his desk: literally. This was a cause for celebration; his bullying resulted in his unemployment and was his own responsibility.

Don’t join the bullies: defend journalism and defend journalists.

Still no news on whether my benefits are still suspended or if I’m being paid by my employer

Chaplin wants his lunch so I’d better get it or he shouts