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22 April 2007

New Media news from ADM

The National Union of Journalists Centenary Annual Delegate Meeting has already received quite a lot of international attention for one issue, but for those of us in the New Media sector, there was amidst the three days of serious business, a number of key issues addressed.

Most important of all was the final resolution of the long-running issue of the rate of subs for journalists in New Media. Since the sector was established, members have been paying subs at the highest rate. Well, not for much longer! It'll take a couple of months to sort out the details, but come the end of the summer months, our members working on the websites of existing media companies will pay no more than their colleagues, while those working in so-called green field sites will pay at Grade 1 - around half the top grade! So, anyone who said they wouldn't join because it was too expensive, take note - you were right and we'll soon have it sorted.

More importantly for the union as a whole was the establishment of a major multi-media working commission to report in a few months time on the entire range of issues the media is facing as new media takes a serious hold. From local newspaper journalists being handed a video camera to the threat to jobs in the major media centres as individual journalists are expected to do the work of three or four people at the same time, numerous motions were put forwards and passed criticising the these trends and calling for constructive engagement with the union to all journalists to do their jobs properly in this new environment.

The commission will look at all the issues and give guidance to members on best practice and previous successes of the union. And the New Media Industrial Council (NMIC) is strong in the commission, with ADM electing both our chair - Jemima Kiss - and veteran council member Gary Herman and the National Executive Council making it a hat trick by electing yours truly. We're joined by colleagues from both the Guardian and BBC websites. The Commission will be launched at the Educate, Agitate, Integrate conference to be held on 5 May 2007 in London. The conference flyer is available here. Expect more on this soon.

A major fringe meeting on digital convergence organised at conference by NMIC doubtless influenced the votes of delegates. See the ADM blog for more details on this over-subscribed event (people were sitting on the floor and gathered around the door in the corridors outside). Pulling in expertise from across the union, as well as Dr Andy Williams’, who wrote a great report into Trinity Mirror’s online strategy, the meeting really made clear the current landscape and detailed the challenges the union and our members face. Be sure to check out the videos.

This year's China and internet censorship motion was far less combative and confusing. There was general agreement with stepping up the work on internet censorship, both within the NUJ and IFJ, and NMIC was even congratulated on the Yahoo! action of last summer. However, conference stopped short of calling for a boycott of Yahoo! mailing lists, accepting the argument that, with international talks involving Yahoo! on-going, now was not the right time. However, later on, conference agreed that the NEC should investigate ways of facilitating NUJ-hosted email lists.

And finally, a serious topic descended into a rather funny battle of the Luddites versus the Nerds! The subject was virtual branches – the question of removing the rule that says branches must meet in person and allow branches to meet in cyberspace only. On one side those who point out that there's a potential branch in Spain, for example, but the distance between members makes a physical meeting so impractical it's as good as impossible. On the other side are those that argue that physical meetings are a core part of union activity and that efforts should be focussed on improving them rather than creating alternatives.

The serious debate was soon overtaken by one side calling the other luddites and them being called nerds in response! And the funniest contribution was the one member who argued that it was too soon to use things like email – maybe when the bugs are ironed out we should think about it. Ah, bless. The vote went against in the end, though I like to think that was more to do with the perceived issue of defending traditional branch structures and not the bugginess of the technology.

Many, many more motions, on a wide variety of topics covering a whole swathe of issues – showing our union to be democratic and connected to the world in way that still excites its members. Despite all the criticism about one particular motion, that shouldn't be allowed to overshadow so many other things the ADM discussed, debated and agreed.

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At 11:29 pm, Blogger Unknown said...

Begging the (Journalism) Question

Why can't the British media, as represented by NUJ, report the conciliatory acts in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, such as the THOUSANDS of Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians involved in groups such as SULHA.com, instead of inflaming mutual hatred of pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians by DIVISIVE INFLAMMATORY proclamations and reporting? Excuse a naive question, but isn't the promoting of international conciliation and understanding more in the spirit of journalism than the perpetuation and intensification of conflict?

At 1:15 pm, Blogger Donnacha DeLong said...

Hi Marshall, there is a valid question here, but I do question your very specific examples as if it's only the British media (and let me point out here that the NUJ represents media workers in the UK and Ireland, not just Britain) and Israel. Furthermore, I challenge your assertion that the NUJ represents the British media - we do not, we represent journalists who work for the media in the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe.

Now, on the main question, the media in general does tend to focus on the negatives. Not just Israel, but when was the last time you read a positive story about Africa? Or a story about trade unions in Iraq working to combat sectarianism? Or, even, a positive story about Palestinians in the Israeli media.

That's the way the media is, and the media is largely the way it is because people are more interested in explosive events (which tend to be negative) rather than positive processes.

From the NUJ's point of view, we regularly do very important and progressive work on an international level - yet what gets covered? In the recent coverage of the call for a boycott of Israeli goods, very few people mentioned the part of the motion that instructed the union's National Executive Commitee to "support organisations such as the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice in Palestine and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-Britich Understanding and continue supporting the programme of safety training and union building set out by the IFJ with its affiliate the Syndicate of Palestinian Journalists." What does that tell you?


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