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TUC LGBT conference: Unionised workplaces promote ethical journalism

Mike Smith speaking at TUC LGBT conference

Mike Smith speaking at TUC LGBT conference  -  © Michael Preston

11 July 2012

Bad journalism can have a significant impact on the lives of LGBT people and other groups of vulnerable workers, Mike Smith told the TUC's LGBT annual conference. Fortunately, the vice chair of the Equality Committee added, we also see much good reporting by NUJ members and those journalists need our support, praise and encouragement.

Mike Smith said:

"I note that there are no motions on the agenda this year attacking the media for the portrayal of LGBT people. I hope that doesn't mean you have given up on improving the representation of our lives – the NUJ certainly hasn't."

Speaking to a motion that emphasised "a trade union presence provides security so members and workers can raise concerns and challenge poor practice and poor management", Mike Smith said:

"Our work at Leveson is in line with this strategy: that a strong trade union presence in the workforce makes for a healthy culture, improving ethical awareness and workplace practices. Journalists in a unionised workplace are more likely to stand up for and comply with our union's code of conduct.
"To achieve this, we need protection for journalists and crucial to that is the incorporation of a conscience clause in journalists' contracts, based on our code of conduct, backed by statute.
"The NUJ and others are calling for a serious regulatory body to be set up across the media, which would uphold ethical standards and guaranteed protection for ethical journalists and impose serious penalties for media organisations that break the code as well as reliable mechanism to deal with complaints from the public: and that means us and our organisations."

Adam Christie, NUJ NEC member, seconded an Equity motion on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships which called for "the media to portray alternatives to the hetero-normative model of marriage". He said:

"Journalists should accurately reflect the communities of which we are part. We need to work with our colleagues in Equity and the writers of drama to challenge management attitudes – so that what we see, hear and read honestly portrays every sort of relationship."

NUJ members joined 20,000 campaigners celebrating WorldPride in London on the 40th anniversary of the first gay pride march in the capital. The event was described as a great success, despite the reduced funding for the event. Peter Tatchell, a leading human rights campaigner, gave a speech and there were messages of support from the Prime Minister and Mayor of London.

A statement from Pride London said:

"Forty years on from the very first Pride London march, we need to show that this fighting spirit from 1972 lives on. Not just for us, but for our brothers and sisters across the world who are still fighting for their rights to be human, their rights to love and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the place that they live."

The NUJ's motions to the conference were:

Unionised workplaces and ethical practice

Conference endorses the National Union of Journalists and NUJ members for their continued efforts to promote good practice covering LGBT and other equality issues.

NUJ members' experience in unionised workplaces demonstrates that a trade union provides security so members and workers can raise concerns and challenge poor practice and poor management. Evidence presented to the Leveson Inquiry substantiates the NUJ's position that journalism and journalistic practice are significantly more sensitive and responsible in unionised workplaces.

Conference instructs the TUC, in conjunction with the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) and other media unions, to campaign to:

i) raise awareness that NUJ members agree to uphold a code of conduct as a membership condition, that ethical journalism and collective strength within unionised workforces more effectively counter commercial and political pressures that insidiously encourage poor practice
ii) promote union membership among all workers handling news and information (including PRs and website practitioners) to increase the quality and accountability of journalism (through joint memberships wherever available)
iii) ensure that unions and any organisation concerned with ethical journalism should, to promote the principle of "union work for union members", wherever possible deal with NUJ members.

Read the NUJ code of conduct.

Same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships

In the light of the impending government consultations and legislation to allow gay marriage, the TUC LGBT Conference calls on the TUC's LGBT Committee to:

i) support the campaign to end the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships
ii) urge the media to portray alternatives to the heteronormative model of marriage
iii) encourage all educational establishments to celebrate not just academic achievement but also diversity, and reflect and validate the diversity of family units in which their pupils live.

Tags: , lgbt, nuj pride, ethics, leveson, equal marriage, equality