Branch member Lynn Degele shares her experience of attending DM for the first time.
Category Archives: union
Branch member Lynn Degele shares her experience of attending DM for the first time.
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
This comment piece is entirely my own personal view and not that of the Oxford Mail, The Oxford Times, or any other journalists there, nor of Newsquest or Gannett.
I KEEP hearing and reading scathing descriptions about how terrible regional and local newspapers have become.
It’s a sad truth that many UK local titles have been axed or reduced to a shell of their former selves and that is a tragedy and a scandal.
But as we mark Local News Matters week, please don’t tar all regional and local newspapers with the same brush. Continue reading
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
How can 12 journalists produce 11 local papers and 8 websites? Last week, the journalists at Newsquest’s South London titles got a feel for how when, after a week on strike, they returned to work for a few days before walking out again for another week.
Speaking at a meeting called by the Oxford branch at The Punter last Thursday, one chapel rep described the process. “You just have to get the paper out: Do we have the age of this girl? No? Do we have a name for her? No? F*** it! That’ll do. Off it goes.” Continue reading
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 nuj.org.uk
The Oxford NUJ branch sent 3 delegates to the NUJ national conference, Southport April 14-17, to participate in deciding on union policy and electing officers for the coming two years. Paul Jenner represented the branch for the first time, alongside Anna Wagstaff and Bill MacKeith. He blogs here about the experience. Continue reading
Our after-work get together with journalists at the Oxford Mail and Times, February 12th, offered the first opportunity to review the impact of losing almost the entire team of subs.
Over recent weeks, the papers have moved to a new system of production whereby reporters send their copy to a subbing hub in Newport. Here it is assigned, call centre style, to the first person available, who will upload it onto a template, check it, cut it to length, give it a headline, and deal with any picture and caption.
The content management system they use goes by the name of Knowledge – perhaps to remind everyone of the wealth of local knowledge, experience and critical input that it has been brought in to replace.
So what difference has the shift to the new system made?
We learned that the past weeks have been pretty miserable ones, particularly for the departing subs who were asked to smooth the way for their own replacement by continuing to report for work until such a time as management considered they could get along without them.
The reporters don’t have a lot of confidence in the Newport subbing hub. They know that most of the staff there are newly out of college and are on rock bottom pay. And they doubt very much that the sense of collective responsibility for and commitment to the paper is as strong when you are sitting in Newport and working on a wide spread of Newsquest titles, as when you are part of a team of subs and reporters working side by side on a daily basis and seeing the product on the news stands the following day.
Concerns range from: what happens if something slips through? Who is responsible in the case of libel? to a general awareness that the overall quality of stories suffers when the daily interaction between reporter and sub is lost.
The Newport subbing hub does have a system for raising queries or asking for clarifications, which it does by ringing the newsdesk, though experience so far seems to indicate that this facility is rarely used except for front-page leads.
But reporter–sub interaction is anyway not only for formal queries and clarifications. It can also be useful, for instance, when subs are looking for a catchy headline that can do justice to the story, but want to avoid striking the wrong note. There’s a feeling that this may partially account for the bland character of many headlines coming out of the hub. Subs can also contribute depth to a story through their own knowledge, see links with stories appearing elsewhere in the paper, or alert reporters to possible stories in their patch.
Indeed as one reporter pointed out, the sub on one of the weeklies had effectively been acting as the paper’s editor, so key had he been to locating stories.
Equally if a reporter felt a sub hadn’t got it quite right, a short walk across the newsroom could sort that out. All of that has now been lost.
Nor is it just the quality of the papers that stands to suffer. Without a team of subs who feel a shared sense of responsibility and can be relied on to cast a critical and knowledgeable eye over stories, to query ambiguities and double-check names, places, titles and dates where necessary, reporters are left feeling exposed and under unreasonable pressure.
They care about the quality of their stories and the papers as a whole, and they feel they need to spend time they don’t have doing some of the work they don’t trust the subbing hub to do.
The good news is that there are fewer vacancies for reporters than there have been for many years. There’s a sizeable group of young journalists none of whom have been at the Oxford Mail/Times for more than a year, and they clearly have confidence in one another, enjoy working together, love journalism and are optimistic about their future.
But they know, as does anyone who has worked on a newspaper, that they can’t sustain a quality paper through their own efforts alone, as has already been demonstrated at other Newsquest titles that have already completed the switch to a subbing hub.
The Oxford branch and NUJ national officers will continue to work with the Oxford Mail/Times chapel, as well as MPs and others to bring the subbing role back to Oxford.
We will also all be watching closely to see whether the considerable savings Newsquest is making by getting rid of the Oxford subs go the same way as all previous savings from almost a decade of continuous cost cutting – straight into the pockets of the shareholders of the US parent company Gannett. Year on year pay freezes have seen real pay at Newsquest papers drop by between 15% and 20% over recent years, and the NUJ Newsquest group chapel is now putting in for a rise of 3% or £750, whichever is greatest.
The union will also continue efforts to address the gap in pay and conditions that makes the Newport subbing hub such a lucrative option for Newsquest. At a national level, in the run up to the general election, the NUJ is raising the alert over the threat to informed democratic debate that is posed by underinvestment in local papers, and it is calling for a short sharp inquiry into the future of the local press.