Wednesday, 28 November 2012
If the National Union of Journalists won't defend journalism, what's the point of it?

Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph has resigned from the National Union of Journalists because of that body's failure to stand up for its members over the trifling matter of the freedom of the press. Its a little late, the protocol imposed on them by their union in the reporting of matters involving race, multiculturalism and allied matters should have caused journalists more concern than it did, but better late than never. I fear he will be alone. Incidently the by-election in Rotherham tomorrow was triggered by the resignation of MP Denis MacShane who was caught fiddling his expenses on a scale way beyond that of most crooked MPs. MacShane (or Mac Shame as he is aptly nicknamed) was the man responsible for the NUJ Guidelines on Race Reporting during his time as President of the union. Gilligan says of his resignation:

I’ve been a member of the NUJ for about ten years. To be honest, there was never all that much point. But I support the principle of trade unionism, I was grateful for the NUJ’s backing during the Hutton inquiry, and I valued the work it did for people who couldn’t stick up for themselves, particularly on local newspapers.

I’m now resigning from the NUJ in protest at what may be its existential mistake in failing to stick up for its entire membership. The union has decided to back a statutorily-underpinned regulator of journalists – a move taken without the slightest consultation with members, no doubt because they knew we would be against it.

The clincher for me was this chilling piece in the Press Gazette from the head of the NUJ’s “ethics council,” Chris Frost (pictured above), defending the union’s position. Mr Frost, an academic at Liverpool John Moores University, writes:

“The right to free expression…cannot be absolute…the key is to allow as much freedom as is concomitant with the rights of others balanced by the public interest…

“If I buy [a newspaper], I expect the news to be reasonably accurate, gathered ethically and a fair selection of the day’s important events…Those who say free expression is more important than those standards…make it clear they don’t understand free expression.”

Yes, you read that right: the union representing journalists wants a regulator to impose its idea of what constitutes a “fair selection of the day’s important events” on the press. . .

Now the NUJ is not a very important institution – but propaganda value of its stance to our enemies is considerable. If even the body supposed to represent journalists won’t defend journalism, what’s the point of it?

Several commentators believe that the point of the NUJ is contained in their Guidelines on Race Reporting.

"The NUJ believes that the attitude of our newspapers and broadcasting stations is crucial in race relations and the formation of opinion on asylum seekers."

"Outside the newsroom, the NUJ is encouraging its members to get involved with events within the wider trade union movement that are making a stand to oppose the divisive politics of far-right parties."

My own union CPS rejected its duty of care to long-standing members who were about to lose their jobs in preference to increasing the diversity of the Civil Service. They have sown the wind.

Posted on 11/28/2012 9:00 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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