ADM 2008 – New Media newsThis year's ADM came wrapped up a year of controversy for the union. The debate over Israel raged for a few months after ADM 2006, but for the new media sector, it was the Drogheda debate that's most important. The debate (if you can call what was often an ugly spat a debate) centred around a deal at the Drogheda Independent in Ireland, which, amongst many other very positive issues, was the first time a newspaper chapel had agreed, in principle, to the possibility that print journalists might, at some point, take pictures.
But, let's come back to Drogheda later, because the biggest news for the new media sector came early in day one of ADM, right at the beginning of the second order paper on Finance and Recruitment. The New Media Industrial Council had proposed a motion to make recruitment in new media a priority with major investment in promotional materials and, most importantly, a mapping exercise to help branches find and identify potential members in the sector. The National Executive Council (NEC) submitted an amendment to broaden the motion and make recruitment a priority for all sectors of the union and, after a little bit of discussion to make sure the mapping exercise of the new media stayed in, it was passed overwhelmingly. So expect to see some results from that fairly soon.
But, back to Drogheda. Due to some overlong speeches, the planned running order of the conference got a bit messed up, but that ended up being for the best for the debate. The Drogheda debate, which had its own order paper, ended up coming before the general Wages, Payments and Conditions motions. As the latter included a motion on the Multimedia Commission Report, that could have become a debate on Drogheda. As it happened, though, there was a robust debate on the two main Drogheda motions themselves, leaving the WPC motions to mop up.
The first Drogheda motion was the more extreme one – calling for the resignation of the NEC's Emergency Committee (which would have led to chaos as the President, Vice-President and General Treasurer were all on the committee) and for the adoption a principle that all Chapel agreements be approved by a higher body. So much for Chapel power, eh? That motion was roundly defeated and so, thankfully, was the following motion, against which I spoke. That motion called for the return of a variation on the old point in the union's Working Practices about writers not normally taking photographs – a proposal I called regressive and out of touch with the reality faced by many of our members.
With those out of the way, the scene was set for Composite H, as it was called, which endorsed "Shaping the Future", the Multimedia Commission's report and planned the way forward – protecting quality journalism online through negotiation on pay, conditions, health and safety and training. All these are, of course, hugely important for our sector and, if you haven't read the document, you should do so, it's easily accessible on the NUJ website (under Activists). The Commission, which features three members of NMIC, Gary Herman, Jemima Kiss and yours truly, is to continue its work on an ongoing basis with elections at the next ADM.
On top of this endorsement was the adoption of a new principle, which added a positive statement to the rejection of the regressive motions about Drogheda. ADM agreed that the NEC should "ensure demarcation rules do not prevent members from seizing the opportunities available to them." In other words, the union's highest body has recognised that multimedia journalism is increasingly the norm in our industry and that we can't let old ideas of who does what stand in the way of our members engaging completely in a multimedia world. For our sector, where, of course, multimedia working is the norm and always has been, this is great news and it will hopefully aid in the recruitment the union has made its priority for the year.
There were a couple more bits and pieces of relevance to our sector, one long-running issue, in particular, took a step forward – that of online branches. For a few years now, European branches or the Continental European Council have brought a motion calling for the rules to allow for branches that exist online only to help branches with geographically disparate members. Each time, it's been knocked back after a long (and sometimes humorous debate), despite regular support from NMIC. This year, though, the movers rejected a call for the issue to be remitted for consideration by the Structure Review and there was a debate. This year, though, the vote was won and the NEC is now obligated to bring a motion calling for a change in the rules to next year's ADM.
Finally, there's the question of the online future of The Journalist magazine. The NEC had put forward a couple of specific issues about the Journalist, such as restricting the number of print editions, but ADM voted instead for a review of the magazine and its relationship to the Campaigns and Communications office and rejected a number of the specific recommendations. So, that's one to watch over the next few months.