Category Archives: freelance

Stuck in the doldrums: notes from a freelance editor

Drawing of a person sitting in a huge rut in the ground.IT IS NOT just newspaper publishers that are cutting costs and seeing quality drop: this is becoming prevalent across many sectors within the NUJ. A branch member with long experience in educational publishing reports on the issues facing freelance editors. Continue reading

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Dreaming Spires branch Inspires


More than 60 journalist from every sector came to Oxford NUJ branch’s ‘digitally-converged summer social’.

Those attending included a sizeable contingent from BBC Oxford – whose chapel co-organised the event – on-screen reporters from Meridan TV’s newsroom, Chapel representatives from the Oxford Mail and Oxford Guardian and members working in book publishing.

Anna Wagstaff, branch secretary, explained the thinking behind the event:  “Our local media is interlinked. And in this fast-changing media sector, we all have an interest in fostering a local media ecosystem that offers opportunities to earn a decent living, doing whatever we do to the best of our ability. We wanted to bring together the broadest possible range of members to start to explore common areas of interest.”

The energy generated by the event – which was held in an arts centre near BBC Oxford – was palpable.  Alison Campbell, a Banbury-based PR said: “I can’t believe it when I meet PRs who aren’t in the NUJ – this event is another example of how relevant the NUJ is to us”.  Several others at the event were equally committed to building NUJ membership.

Paul Jenner, BBC Oxford FOC, said: “I was delighted at the wide range of people who came to the social, and as a result we have had several new membership enquiries. We truly are stronger when we work together.”

NUJ president, Tim Dawson, who was invited to the event to speak, later described the social as one of the best NUJ branch meetings he had ever attended.  “The plan to bring people together from every sector really worked.  The mix of people made for an enormously stimulating event – if other branches could emulate this success it would be an enormous boost to the entire union,” he said.

Cross-posted from the

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Filed under broadcasting, digital, freelance, newspapers, Oxfordshire, recent events, union

Our first digitally converged summer social: will you be there?

If you play a role in Oxfordshire’s interlinked and multi-platformed media ecosystem then  you’re invited to our summer social. Don’t let us down.

When? Thursday July 7th, 7.00-9.00pm

Where? North Wall Arts Centre, South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7JN

Who? News reporters, photographers, documentary makers, press officers, comms workers – staff and freelances, print, broadcast and online, working for small outfits or global giants, serving hyperlocal or international audiences…

Why? Because news and information know no boundaries, because we all care about ethics, quality and professionalism, and getting a fair return for what we do, because you never know where you might find an opening to change job… and because all of the above are a good excuse to party

The social is being hosted by the BBC Oxford NUJ chapel, complete with free buffet and first drink and a bar. Continue reading

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Filed under broadcasting, digital, freelance, newspapers, Oxfordshire, PR, reporting, upcoming events

Confidence, Camaraderie and Contacts

Anne Hall - Jan 2016

Anne Hall

Eleven branch members signed up to the first NUJ professional training course to be organised right here in Oxford. Anne Hall (@AnneHall222) was one of them and reports on the experience.

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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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Making money from hyperlocal journalism: open meeting


Rich Coulter

Rich Coulter, founder and editor of the Filton Voice


We’re opening up the first hour of our October branch meeting for a discussion on making money from hyperlocal journalism, led by Rich Coulter, editor of the Filton Voice. 

 7.00pm, Thursday 15 October, Panel Room, Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates, Oxford. Everyone is welcome. Continue reading

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Travel, politics and political travel


Branch member Matthew Teller will be speaking at our October branch meeting about his work as a freelance travel writer specialising in the Middle East.  

The meeting is 7.00pm Thursday October 9th, upstairs in the St Aldates Tavern, St Aldates, opposite Oxford Town Hall, and it is open to non-members

matthew tellerIn this guest blog post, Matthew talks about his efforts to navigate “a journalistic path between the unthinking demands of tourist board PR, and the equally unthinking demands of breaking news”, and asks whether political aware travel writing is gaining ground.

Come to the branch meeting to hear more and join the discussion, 

WRITERS work alone. Freelancers tend to, anyway, and I’ve freelanced most of my life. That’s one of the reasons why the NUJ – alongside writers’ guilds and other trade bodies – is so valuable, creating networks and fostering working communities among writers and journalists.

So I’m honoured and delighted to have been asked to speak at the NUJ’s Oxford & District meeting on October 9th. It will be an informal affair: hearing about other people’s lives, and how they got to wherever they happen to be, is always fascinating. I’m proposing a hefty dose of that.

I write mostly about the Middle East. I’m lucky to have lived in Jordan, Jerusalem and other places, and privileged to have been able to travel widely on assignment across the region. A couple of clips: I wrote this from Egypt last summer, just before the military coup:

And my Radio 4 documentary on military relations between the UK and the Gulf aired last month – details here:

Beside the BBC, I write for newspapers and magazines both here and around the world.

My background is in travel writing, nowadays perhaps the most degraded and discredited branch of journalism of them all. It wasn’t always inconsequential, PR-driven and irredeemably fluffy, of course: there was a time when what we would now recognise as travel writing was virtually indistinguishable from foreign affairs reporting – and I’m interested in how we might be seeing something of a return to that today.

Challenging perceptions

With the enormous growth in tourism, the point of much mainstream travel writing has changed. Edginess has dissipated, description has faded and discovery has atrophied. For most people, most of the time, travel writing now means glorified tourist-board copy, telling safe stories about safe destinations from familiar standpoints. That’s not always the case, but travel journalism, digging below public narratives, and travel writing, challenging perceptions of people and places, both face existential threats amid the shrinking of our industry. Editors willing to push boundaries are hard to find. My word rates not only haven’t moved in fifteen years, they’ve mostly gone down.

A new genre?

Yet, along with the ubiquity of travel “content”, especially online, I’m sensing change in the air. The hunger for good stories, well told, will never die, and travel writing feels like it may be splitting. TripAdvisor and its ilk – clearly hugely popular – serve a purpose, as do Lonely Planet and Rough Guides (for whom I’ve written several titles), but have you been reading the website Roads & Kingdoms, for instance? Or have you been tracking Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Salopek, blogging for National Geographic?

Politically aware travel writing is gaining ground. Navigating a journalistic path between the unthinking demands of tourist board PR, and the equally unthinking demands of breaking news, feels new. And the countries the weekend supplements prefer to cover – the Frances, the Italys, the Antiguas and the Australias – aren’t at the core. It’s the places that don’t count as destinations – Central Asia, say, sub-Saharan Africa or my neck of the woods, the Middle East – where this new approach is being honed, feeding into how we, at home, imagine different places to be “newsy” or “touristy”. It’s an exciting time.

I’d be interested to discuss all of this, and more, on the night. See you there!

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Making digital journalism pay: doable. Making a living: difficult.



SA Mathieson was one of three speakers at an NUJ Oxford event on 3 July on how to make digital journalism pay. In a guest post, he sums up the key points.

It is perfectly realistic for journalists to make money out of digital journalism, but the problem comes from making a decent living.

That was the theme to emerge from the NUJ Oxford event on making digital journalism pay.

Speaking first, Tim Dawson, vice-president of the National Union of Journalists and a long-time writer and editor for The Sunday Times, has literally written the book on this area: Help Yourself – new ways to make money from writing. (It’s also available free for NUJ members – details here.)

He outlined some of the methods for raising money, which can be divided into three types: advertising-funded, marketing for other business and reader-funded. (More on his New Model Journalism site here.)

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by | August 22, 2014 · 4:52 pm

Making journalism pay in the digital age – a networking event

Thursday July 3rd, 7,00pm, upstairs in the St Aldates Tavern,
Opposite Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates


An open networking event for journalists and would-be journalists working online and/or in broadcasting and print, as reporters, feature writers, photo/video-journalists, editors, PRs, designers, bloggers, front-end developers and more.


This is the second in our new-style branch meetings which aim to be more informal and inclusive, and follows a very successful June meeting where we piloted the new format.

Tim Dawson, chair of the NUJ’s Freelance Industrial Council, who writes regularly for a range of national newspapers and magazines including the Sunday Times, New Statesman and Times Education Supplement, blogs at and is co-publisher of, will present a short overview of some of the innovative ways journalists are using the internet and digital media to find new ways of working, and new ways to promote themselves and earn a living from what they do.

Steven Mathieson, a freelance member of the Oxford NUJ branch who has spent many years on the Guardian, specialising in information technology in healthcare and government, will talk about his experiences using the internet to reach a wider audience, build his profile, gather information, advertise his book CardDeclined, and crowdfund his reporting on the Ends of Britain via the Beacon journalism platform. He will set out why he thinks raising money from subscriptions is a more workable model than advertising for sustaining quality journalism.

We will also have contributions from Sonja Francis the editor of, who moved from a background in local newspapers to set up the web-based news service, as well as from members who started off on the web development side and are now looking to expand into creating content.

If you have experiences good or bad in using digital media to earn money from journalism – offering web-based services or using the internet to boost your profile, find new clients, network within your specialist area, gather information – please come to the meeting and share them. If you are looking for tips and advice on getting started, or maybe for opportunities to collaborate, then this is the place to be.

The meeting is open to all NUJ members, whatever media sector you work in.

If you are not a member but are interested in joining or learning more about the union and getting started in journalism, you can apply to attend the meeting by sending an email to subject line ˂making journalism pay˃


Filed under broadcasting, digital, freelance, PR, publishing, upcoming events

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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