An open letter to Roy Greenslade: Why I’m not leaving the NUJ

Dear Roy,

For someone who believes in the merits of the web conversation, your decision to leave the NUJ strikes me as strange.

You say you

“cannot, in conscience, go on supporting this crucial plank of NUJ policy when it is so obvious that online media outlets will require fewer staff. We are surely moving towards a situation in which relatively small “core” staffs will process material from freelances and/or citizen journalists, bloggers, whatever (and there are many who think this business of “processing” will itself gradually disappear too in an era of what we might call an unmediated media).” 

The thing is, I agree with what you foresee. And Jeff Jarvis has a point when he calls the forthcoming NUJ report a “whiny, territorial, ass-covering, protecting-the-priesthood, preservation-instead-of-innovation faux report“, although I’m glad he’s since calmed down.

But I’m not leaving the NUJ.

I am a member of the NUJ for two reasons:

  • part insurance policy (if I ever end up fighting a big legal battle)
  • and part charitable donation (because I want to support others’ legal fights; campaigns for good journalism; and good pay and conditions for journalists)

If you look at what the NUJ stands for, which part don’t you support?

  • fighting for journalists,
  • their pay and conditions,
  • their working rights
  • or their professional freedom?

Although I agree that news organisations will have smaller core staffs, I don’t agree that we will have fewer journalists. We may actually have more – but these will be dispersed across a variety of mainstream, niche, online and voluntary platforms. In that situation, who protects pay and conditions? Who protects them from abuse? And who supports them when they’re taken to court? We shouldn’t be so enamoured of independence that we overlook the potential for divide-and-rule.

I don’t agree with everything the union does, but I do agree with its broad principles. And if the NUJ is sounding protectionist or Luddite, then I’d rather engage with it – as Neil McIntosh has done with his five things the NUJ could do to get more clued-up – and join the conversation, than leave the room to those who think the web is a “problem”.

Paul Bradshaw

3 thoughts on “An open letter to Roy Greenslade: Why I’m not leaving the NUJ

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Stand Up For Journalism

  2. joannageary

    Hi Paul,

    After a few days mulling this over, I also came to the conclusion that it would be better to stay in the union.

    Greenslade is in a better (financial, influencial, legal?) position then I to make such a dramatic gesture. Not that this is a criticism of his actions – I think, it was important he did what he did.

    There are many who disparage the union for its fear of the web, but I don’t think the issue would have taken off in the same way without someone demonstrating that they felt NUJ was becomng irrelevent.

    Hopefully, now a strong debate has been ignited, there’s an opportunity for the union to reassess its approach to the web.

  3. Pingback: I’m not leaving the NUJ… « Joanna Geary

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