Author Archives: Penny Kiley

About Penny Kiley

Writer, editor and web content consultant, based in Oxfordshire, UK.

DM – an experience of a first-time delegate

Branch member Lynn Degele shares her experience of attending DM for the first time.
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Supporting the UCU strike

Poster for UCU strike.

Our branch, which has many members working in academic publishing, has resolved to support the recent industrial action by the University and College Union (UCU). The NUJ has many other issues in common with UCU, such as the fight to defend academia against marketization, and we are hoping to have a speaker from the UCU at a branch meeting soon. Continue reading

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Branch secretary becomes Member of Honour

At the recent NUJ Delegates Meeting, Oxford and District Branch secretary Anna Wagstaff was made a Member of Honour. Anna was nominated by the branch in recognition of her untiring grassroots, branch level activism.

Members of Honour: Anna Wagstaff, Jim Boumelha, Dave Rotchelle and John Horgan

Members of Honour: Anna Wagstaff, Jim Boumelha, Dave Rotchelle and John Horgan – © Paul Herrmann

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Freelance Salon: new ways to make online journalism pay

London Freelance Branch have always been an asset to freelances throughout the NUJ – their newsletter (mailed to all freelance members) is full of pertinent information, their Freelance Fees Guide is an excellent resource, and they have run some inspiring conferences on new ways to make journalism pay.

Their latest venture, the Freelance Salon (in partnership with Freelance Industrial Council), is an offshoot of those conferences, designed to reflect the way the freelance world is changing and to share new ideas. Continue reading

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The future of The Journalist – our union magazine

Cover of The JournalistNUJ members are about to elect the editor of their magazine, The Journalist. The vacancy was not well publicised – resulting in a shortlist of only two candidates – but our branch will be doing as much as we can to publicise the election.
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Why freelance journalists should stop working for free

Stop Working for Free logoAs NUJ freelance organiser John Toner observed at the recent Delegates’ Meeting, “unpaid work is the curse of the freelance classes”. The joint threats of unpaid “internships” and the expectations of free content – a worrying symptom of the digital transition – have combined to make it harder than ever for freelances to make a living.

It would be great if the union movement started to tackle freelance rights seriously – as John is calling for.

Meanwhile, some freelances are fighting back.

Yes, there’s a lot of support and solidarity in being part of a union. But there’s also support and solidarity in other places – like Facebook.

Last year, I joined a Facebook group called Stop Working For Free. Run by journalists Barney Hoskyns and Mark Pringle, it now has over 8,000 members: writers, photographers, musicians and others. Many are also NUJ members.

The group has a great manifesto, starting off: “Join us in WITHDRAWING UNPAID LABOUR from the creative and media industries. The exploitation of freelance content providers has gone on too long, and we are all responsible for letting it happen.”

They argue that if you accept unpaid work now, for “exposure”, you jeopardise the livelihoods of experienced freelances now – and your own in the future. And they ask: “If you have any concern at all for your economic future as a content provider – and for the future of subsequent generations of such providers – please don’t ignore this issue.”

The message to “the exploiters” is simple: “If you are making money from the labour of others, then you should share that wealth with them.”

You can read the whole thing by going to the group’s Facebook page and clicking on ‘About’.

The group is a place to let off steam, share experiences, and name and shame some of the media organisation that tell freelances “Sorry, we can’t pay you”. But it’s also a place for campaigning and information sharing. Members have shared advice and negotiating tactics, and passed on their knowledge about tricky copyright issues. And they have compiled excellent stock replies to requests for free work.

I will always advise fellow freelances to join a union. But I will also advise them to Stop Working For Free – and to join this group as well.

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Is it time you had your own digital shop window?

A personal website where people can find out more about who you are, what you can do and where you main interests lie, can be an important asset, particularly if communicating is your business. Penny Kiley, a member of the Oxford branch, has just set one up for herself. Here she explains why she thinks other members could benefit from doing the same.


When I found out I was being made redundant, one of the first things I did (after contacting the union) was to start looking at freelance journalists’ websites. After eight years working for a commercial publisher, one thing I’ve learned is the importance of what my now ex-employer calls ‘competitor analysis’.
Other things I’d learned in that job were how to plan, write, edit and manage websites. If I was going to be self-employed I wanted to continue using those skills to make a living. And if I wanted the credibility to sell myself in that area, I’d need my own website.
I’ve already got a pretty large digital footprint (social media was part of my old job, and you learn by doing; I also find social networking enjoyable and useful). But a website is a step above that: a professional showcase.
To me, it seemed a bit of a no-brainer: as a small business, why would you not want a website? It’s a shop window, something that says you exist, a chance to highlight what you do and what makes you special.
So when I started going through the NUJ freelance directory I got a surprise. I thought I’d be looking AT freelance websites – in fact, I was looking FOR freelance websites. To narrow things down, I’d searched for freelances working in the south east who advertised themselves as ‘online journalists’. I’d estimate that around 50 per cent did not have a website included on their listing. And these are people who say they work online!

Who would you commission for online work if you were an editor? Someone with a website – who appears to be at home online – or someone without?
I did find some freelances with very good websites, enough to make me realise how strong the competition actually is. My own website ( is pretty basic at the time of writing, which is my first day as a freelance. But it was live by the time I left my job and it’s something to build on.
I’m not expecting that a website on its own will cut down the time I need to put into networking and pitching. But once I’ve made those initial contacts, it will be something that people can use to check me out – to tell them a bit more about who I am, and to confirm I am serious about what I do.  

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