NUJ: Multimedia commission reaction

The long awaited report from the NUJ’s commission on multi-media working is out.

Neil McIntosh and Paul Bradshaw have had the highlighters out to try and get an idea of where the NUJ are heading.

Im not going to dredge right through the stuff but here are a few of my initial thoughts/observations:

The report shows a positive move to ‘getting’ the technology. But is saying you’re not blaming the technology enough of a clarification of the point. The accusation of being luddites wasn’t driven by a fear of the technology as much as it was a lack of understanding of its application. It’s too simplistic a defense given the subtlety of the argument.

Just what is a “professional journalist” and “professional journalism”. Am I missing something or does there seem to be a definition missing here. Just what is the difference between a reporter, experienced journalist. When do you stop being a reporter and become a journalist. Is this an NCE thing or is there a secret handshake I don’t know about.

I agree with Martin Moore that “The report – and presumably the NUJ – conflates journalists with journalism”. I would add that they explain neither.
I like the view on education and campaigning and the recommendation to get more involved.

The Union should encourage the formation of a single accreditation body covering all journalism education…

I’m not sure that the idea that a combination of the NCTJ and the BJTC way of working as a benchmark. This could be a great opportunity for a more informed, less platform specific, less historically dogged training agenda.

They have a “two-tier” problem to work out. They identify that there should not be a two tier system that discriminates against website workers.But they also make great play of the concept of volunteerism. Surly you can’t support a system that allows people to opt-in or out without prejudice and then expect them to be paid the same. I think the problem may be the other way round.

Talking to readers is a ‘time-consuming distraction’. (page 15 par 5) Errrm, thats a little patronising. Even worse:

It suggests “customer relations” on the cheap as journalists are expected to enshrine this PR role in the fabric of their increasingly demanding working day

And they were doing so well. As Martin Stabe says

This is unlikely to impress those see virtue in news becoming more of a conversation between journalists and a less-passive audience.

Perhaps its the obsession with new media meaning more work or maybe the underlying message that the public shouldn’t get too big for their boots that results in stupid statements like that.  ‘If that sounds cynical or petty then I would invite you to read that paragraph again in the report with a firm ‘they started it’

Their understanding of the value and implementation of video is clouded by their other agendas. Some of that is for the positive. Most I’m afraid is the same quality vs commercial content debate that I hear every day. Yes a story about a pig-racing will bring in more traffic and be fun content. Most importantly thought it will make good video. An interview with a grieving partner wont make good video. It will make a good story in print and pictures on the web or on the page. Qualified, experienced editors know how to spot a story that works in the right medium and for a particular audience. Not just make judgments on which is more ‘serious’. Get over yourselves.

USG does not make journalists any more or less professional. If your professionalism is challenged or threatened by external influences that says something about your efforts to distinguish yourself as something different from the ‘user’.

As Neil McIntosh nicely sums up:

The final irritation: the union continues to flog the dead horse of its Witness Contributor Code of Conduct, which remains a profoundly silly document. For example, its insistence on, whenever possible, using “material produced by NUJ members […] when such alternatives to witness contributors are available” cheapens the latest, more savvy, report. It speaks more of a fear than an understanding or vision of what users might add to our traditional work. It looks old-fashioned alongside today’s report, and should be spiked

Take care when using ‘investment’ to distinguish between USG and ‘quality journalism’. It makes your other efforts to demonise the need to monetise seem a bit naive.

They NUJ don’t like Trinnity Mirror do they.

Photographers do need more investment. Yes, yes, yes. But is it really the job of the NUJ to perpetuate job titles. A photographer is a journalist. A reporter can be a photographer. I think the NUJ need to be more role agnostic otherwise they may help create ghettos.

Overall

Overall I do think this is a positive document and an effort by the Union to engage. It may not be the cutting edge that some would like but maybe it’s a dose of reality for the new media committed amongst us. A reminder that things are not as far ahead as we would hope or want.

So I’m holding out to see what it means in real terms. I’ll be first in the queue to chat with them about their recommendations on education and training.

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