Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Telegraph says NUJ is 'training guns on own side'

Stanistreet: 'Managerial gobbledegook'

First it was the Sun, now the Telegraph is giving the NUJ leadership a hammering for the union's backing of press regulation underpinned by statute.

The Telegraph in an editorial, headlined 'Keep the press free', says: "For supporters of a free press, the weeks ahead are among the most important in living memory. As Lord Justice Leveson and his committee prepare to issue their report into the phone-hacking scandal, and offer recommendations on regulation, those with the most to gain from constraining the press in its vital task of holding the powerful to account are doing their utmost to ensure that the Government endorses the most restrictive regime on offer. What is especially alarming is to find the National Union of Journalists – which claims to represent the industry – training its guns on its own side.

"The NUJ has recently announced its support for a system of press regulation underpinned by statute – or, as its general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, put it, “a structure that involves journalists and civil society as key stakeholders”. There are three objections to this stance. The first is that her statement is suffused with managerial gobbledegook of a kind that ill befits a trade devoted to the written word. The second is that the policy is simply wrong-headed, especially coming from a body that cites “working to protect and promote media freedom” as one of its chief functions.

"Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the statement, however, is its unilateral nature. Doubtless some few of the NUJ’s members would support such a regime, just as some few engaged in the repulsive practice of phone-hacking. But the vast majority will be alarmed that the general secretary has presumed to speak on their behalf on such an issue, with barely a hint of consultation. This may seem a parochial issue, but it is vitally important. The defenders of a free press are few enough in number. For the NUJ to be willing to sacrifice those hard-won freedoms on the altar of Left-wing orthodoxy suggests that it is no longer fit to represent its members – who may now wish to reconsider their subscriptions."

  • The NUJ leadership has for some time made clear it supported independent self-regulation of the press underpinned by statute, along the lines of the Irish Press Council. But there was a Twitterstorm this week after the policy, already backed by the union's conference, was highlighted by Press Gazette and was picked up by the national press. It has led to some NUJ members threatening to resign from the union and others calling for a ballot of the whole membership on the issue.
  • The NUJ has responded to the 'Leveson backlash' here
  • MediaWise director Mike Jempson defends the NUJ from 'Fleet Street bullying' here.
  • Pic: Michelle Stanistreet by Jon Slattery

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