Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bloggers of the world unite! (You have nothing to lose but your acne).

I attended the Bristol Festival of Ideas meeting on What's the Blogging Story on Friday and the Bristol branch of the National Union of Journalists' workshop on blogging yesterday.

It kicked off with a vid of Andrew Marr's notorious ad hominem generic attack on bloggers. We were informed, tantalisingly, that he had personal and private reasons for his remark. It became clear that journalists are worried about the impact of the interweb on their sales. My feeling is that we still need primary news collection from journalists, but that they can stuff their comment; we can comment as well as if not better than them. I raised the matter of the blatant failure of UK newspapers (apart from the Guardian, Indie, and Channel 4) to cover the Coulson scandal. There was a fair amount of criticism of the PCC, who had sent a representative.

I have never previously considered the matter of a quality "Kite Mark" for blogging. Like most bloggers, I blog as a means of self-expression, as a way of communicating ideas without going through the media - the middle man.

As a result of the discussion, I am now sold on the idea of having a quality mark on blogs that wish to do so, and also, to my surprise, of taking out some kind of bloggers' associate membership with the NUJ.

The quality mark would be modelled on the NUJ Code of Conduct, a set of standards. Emphatically, it will be voluntary. Bloggers are mainly an anarchistic bunch, and rightly so, and many will reject the idea. That's fine. They can carry on as before. But those of us who are attracted to the idea can freely choose to subscribe.

As for the NUJ, the advantages will be:
  • training and technical asistance
  • legal advice in the case of libel actions
  • solidarity in the case of political oppression in the future
  • advice on copyright infringement and copy theft
In the course of the discussion, I asked it the NUJ was any good? It turns out that it has been campaigning on the Coulson scandal. No part of the NUJ subscription goes to the Labour Party. Since bloggers are unpaid in the main, their subs to the NUJ would be on a concessionary basis.

So there we have it, in a nutshell. I'm on board, depending on what kind of deal the NUJ actually comes up with. If I do join, I will be pushing for the NUJ to press for an amnesty of all journalists who have been engaging in mobile phone hacks, since this is the best way of breaking the silence over Coulson. We have 13 anonymous witnesses who testify that Coulson knew about the hacks. They stay anonymous because they fear legal action and career destruction if they actually come out. A legal amnesty would mitigate this problem.

The event was stimulating in that it is always a pleasure to meet correspondents in meatspace. The excellent Sunny Hundal was there, and Roy Greenslade was there on Friday, along with many other influential bloggers.

Here is a video stream of the Friday event.
Here is Sunny Hundal on the blogger ghetto. (vid)
This is Marc Cooper's blog on the event.
Should we create a bloggers union?On Daily Blog Tips
Here is the twittersetream from the seminar.


Anonymous said...

Just briefly re: the NUJ/Labour - I don't think any union automatically takes a portion of a member's subs to donate to the Labour party. Some will give the option on the sign-up form, but individuals are quite able to say "no" and then that portion of subs goes to the general campaigning fund.

(also gives the lie to the idea that the monolithic unions prop up Labour - it's individuals in trade unions who *choose* to donate)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is right, but the NUJ isn't affiliated to the Labour Party at all, so therefore has no relationship to them and gives them no money. Parliamentary work on behalf of the NUJ is done by the NUJ Parliamentary Group - a group of any MPs who agree with the NUJ's basic policies and are willing to help out. Historically, the Parliamentary Group has been cross-party and featured individuals from all the main parties.

DocRichard said...

Thanks for the clarification guys.

Simon Chapman NUJ said...

I feel the NUJ's position on legal assistance needs clarification. Provision of legal representation from the union depends on the individual case. And the NUJ does not provide legal assistance in respect of libel, slander, malicious falsehood and any other area relating to defamation of character.

However a deal has been negotiated for freelance members that gives a good discount on insuring for both Public Liability and Professional Indemnity including libel.