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DM 2014: NUJ healthy and fighting, president declares

NUJ president Barry McCall  -  © Mark Dimmock

11 April 2014

The National Union of Journalists is healthy and thriving and still fighting for journalists and journalism, union president Barry McCall told the NUJ delegate conference in Eastbourne.

“But there remain some very serious threats to be faced, not least of them being the avarice and incompetence of media owners. I don’t know which I prefer – clever monsters who know what they are doing such as Rupert Murdoch and Denis O’Brien or idiots like the fools who ran Dunfermline Press and Johnston Press into the ground over the past ten years.

“At least the clever ones stay in business and give us something to fight for. Johnston Press and the management of Newsquest seem to have some sort of shared death wish for regional press in Britain and Ireland.

“And don’t be fooled by anyone who claims the decline in regional media is due to anything other than the greed and stupidity of the owners and managers.

"If you cut back on news content; if you stop covering local courts; councils; sports and other matters of public interest you shouldn’t be surprised if people stop buying your newspaper.”

He said the union hads adapted and changed with the times and with members’ workplace realities.

“We have seen the advent of photocomposition, direct input technology, the creation of new media as the result of the birth of the worldwide web, the birth of satellite TV, and through it all we have continued to organise and represent journalists and journalism.”

In an impassioned demand for fair treatment of young people entering journalism, Barry McCall said that perhaps the single most frightening word in the English language at the moment was now ‘internship’.

“This almost invariably means working for nothing and we are seeing employers throughout the Britain and Ireland trying to use internship schemes to replace jobs.

“We are also seeing more and more editors soliciting free features and other contributions.

“Very worryingly we are hearing reports that students are being encouraged to offer to work for nothing by their lecturers.

“While we can all understand how a young person can see the attraction of getting a by-line in a newspaper as a way of getting a start what we are seeing is much more widespread and dangerous.

“If the only people who can get into journalism are those who can afford to work for nothing or next to nothing for an extended period ordinary people without the backing of wealth will be locked out of the trade.

“Journalism will become the preserve of the Chipping Norton Set – the same people who gave us phone hacking, the corrupt News International Staff Association deal with the Blair government, and the disgraceful freeze on the BBC Licence Fee.

“We must fight against this with all our might. We must say to journalism students and others who want to get into the trade that working for nothing will bring us all down.

“Any editor or employer looking for journalists to work for nothing must be told loud and clear: ‘No Pay, No Way’,” Barry McCall declared.

Tags: , Eastbourne, president, conference, dm2014, nuj democracy