Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Barnet Press strike is about the quality of local journalism

It was a great day for a trip to Enfield Town to join the demonstration of the NUJ members at Tindle newspapers, Barnet Press and the rest of the North London and Herts stable.

I wouldn't have missed it for the world, particularly the experience of turning the tables and questioning the reporters, such as Kim Inam, who are usually phoning me for a quotation, and asking the photographers to pose for a picture for a change.

I spoke to the Father of the Chapel, Jonathan Lovett, the papers' arts correspondent, before the demonstration.
This dispute is not about pay. There are only three reporters now churning out nine papers, it's not enough to do a good job. When I joined, these were good papers.

The veiled redundancy threat made on the eve of the strike galvanised us. It threw petrol on the fire, when we had hoped there was a chance of conciliation, an 11th hour deal.

We are not sure where the paper is being produced now. There were rumours of the South London Press. But the NUJ chapel is strong there and they have seen no sign of it. Perhaps it is being produced at "Tindle Towers", the Farnham HQ of Tindle Newspapers.

The local titles have been losing money, but the company as a whole made £3 million profit: we argue they can support us. Why have newspapers if you are just going to abandon them when they are in difficulty? The readers still need a paper. That's why we are having this protest. These newspapers are suffering death from a thousand cuts.

But we want to raise them from the dead. During today's demonstration I'll be dressed as a priest; my message is one of hope.

We are striking for three days this week and next; we wouldn't have been working on the bank holidays anyway. We've heard, though, that we are going to be docked pay for the bank holidays as well, so for six days on strike we will lose 10 days' pay. We are getting money from the NUJ hardship fund; and we have received donations.

Last night we visited Birmingham and Coventry NUJ who made a generous donation.

Our ballot was for indefinite strike so after these six days we might announce further days.

There are signs that what has been happening to us, posts going unfilled, is happening elsewhere in Tindle Newspapers. The business model Tindle is trying to impose includes relying on readers to send in the stories.

We have been in negotiations for 12 months over pay and over unfilled posts. We wanted at least a guarantee that any more journalist posts coming vacant would be filled, and we were calling for another journalist to be appointed. We thought we had agreement on that, but at the last minute that demand was rejected.

We got nowhere. We understand that everyone is under pressure, and so pay is not the issue in this dispute. This strike is about the quality of local journalism.
Visit the strike blog here. Set of pictures here.


David Duff said...

"This dispute is not about pay. There are only three reporters now churning out nine papers, it's not enough to do a good job. When I joined, these were good papers."

Let us pause and parse that opening paragraph from someone who calls himself a journalist.

Does the "now" in the second sentence refer to the first clause or the second? As there is no comma we are left to guess.

The expression 'to churn something out' is defined in my OED as "to produce something routinely or mechanically" which, judging by this example of his English, is what the writer does.

"... it's not enough...". The writer uses "it's" to refer to the three reporters and should have used 'they are'.

His final sentence contains a redundent comma - perhaps the one he forgot to use in his second sentence!

I couldn't bring myself to read the rest of his article. I wasn't sure before but now my synpathies are entirely with Lord Gradgrind who should do the readers of Barnet a favour and shut the whole thing down, they have suffered for too long.

Citizen Barnet said...

Oh, woe.

The punctuation errors are all mine, and by them I have failed in my endeavour to provide a wider audience for Mr Lovett's cause. Now that you know that, will you give the poor man a second chance and read it?

No, you probably have some turgid prose of your own to write.

Actually, I think Mr Lovett's theatrical bent might appeal to you - did you look at the pictures? At least there are no punctuation mistakes there.

baarnett said...

DD: Would you concede that the fewer journalists there are (do you go into Tesco and complain about the "Less than 10 items" instead of "Fewer than...", by the way?) now where was I? Ah yes, would you concede that the fewer journalists there are, the less chance local politicans are going to be held to account?

Couldn't you advise Lord Gradgrind to make a better fist of his internet presence, like the Barnet Times, before the call of retirement becomes too great?