Thursday 26 February 2009

'NUJ needs to be part of the solution'

Media finance commentator Peter Kirwan has called for the NUJ to come up with some solutions to the problems of the newspaper industry, including helping redundant editors start local websites and journalists to launch bids for their own titles.
Kirwan makes the call in the latest issue of the monthly print version of Press Gazette (which is not available online) and says the NUJ as well as fighting for journalists should "strike out in unconventional directions".
He proposes it should recruit a standing team of entrepreneurs and out-of-work publishers to advise redundant editors on how to set up viable local sites.
Kirwan argues:"Very few organisations have an interest in developing ideas about alternative ownership. The NUJ could turn itself into a well-connected centre of expertise quite rapidly."
He says the union should run conferences where experts - lawyers, investors, publishers, entrepreneurs, charity directors - would look at alternative forms of ownership.
It should also help journalists who want to launch bids for newspapers they work for, something Kirwan suggests "could happen quite frequently if the big chains experience a really harsh 2009."
The problems facing the regional press are highlighted by today's ABC figures which show a number of daily newspapers have suffered circulation falls of more than 10 per cent, as Press Gazette reports.


Donnacha DeLong said...

The NUJ is already gearing up to work on this issue. The Jobs Summit in January agreed to:

"...launch a high profile, active campaign to secure the future of quality content in our media."

"Triggering a public debate about media ownership, state aid, regulation and alternative business models, including support for community, local and regional media start-ups."

One of the first steps in this was the public meeting organised by the NUJ Left last week: (which you, of course, reported on!)

Donnacha DeLong said...

Just looking back on your blog post about the NUJ Left meeting, don't worry, we do plan to bring together people to come up with big ideas. It's difficult given the amount of work on officials' plates with all the disputes, but we're well aware that, without lots of creative and well-structured proposals (rather than slogans), the media's in serious trouble.

Jon Slattery said...

Donnacha, Thanks for comments. I think it is a fair point that the NUJ through its Jobs Summit and NUJ Left meeting on ownership is looking for constructive solutions to the newspaper crisis and the future of journalism.
I also think Peter's idea of involving a cross-industry group of experts is a good one. And I think the NUJ is looking at setting-up some kind of commission on the press.
Any moves that help create new jobs for the increasing number of journalists being thrown out of work must be welcomed

Anonymous said...


Jon summarized my column very diplomatically.

Actually, the point of the piece was that much of the NUJ's "campaigning" is frankly irrelevant.

I appreciate that conferences (and marches and the rest of it) under the banner "Stand up for journalism" might make a small number of participants feel better.

But they will do zero, nothing, zip to change the situation on the ground.

The old tactics of trying to generate support for a single-issue mass movement are totally redundant in the face of the kind of structural change sweeping the industry.

On this score, the NUJ Left meeting sounded a bit more productive, particularly the discussion of ownership models. (Sorry -- I would have included it, but the meeting occurred after my deadline).

But what I'm after is more.

Specifically, an acknowledgement from the NUJ *itself* that (apart from looking after members in dispute) its no.1 priority is now the fostering of alternative ownership models.

For example, the union can play a valuable role in helping would-be entrepreneur journalists by connecting them with sources of advice and finance.

For the avoidance of doubt, I'm talking about helping people to launch and run real, live capitalist businesses that create real jobs.

To work successfully on that, the union must stop moaning and start enabling.

Question: can you do it?