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THE FREELANCE reached 2500-plus LFB members too late to notify them of their June branch meeting because the Journalist, with which it is mailed out, is produced on a shoe-string budget. That's what Tim Gopsill, editor of the NUJ's national organ, told the small throng at London Freelance's June branch meeting.

Speaking, coincidentally, in the Publisher of the Month slot, Gopsill explained that the Journalist had gone to the printers on time but had been delayed by eight days because the film -- "done on the cheap" -- proved faulty and had to be replaced.

In May, on the other hand, the Journalist/Freelance mailing had suffered a similar delay until well after the LFB meeting took place, Gopsill said, "because the membership department computer sent out a lot of blank stickers".

Further, he felt unable to promise future adherence to the schedule linking publication of the Journalist and the Freelance (which was set up a few years ago to save the expense of separate postage). "In the present circumstances, these cock-ups will happen," he said. "And, in fact, it doesn't matter if the Journalist itself comes out a few days late. My view is that LFB should petition the NEC to increase the budget of the Freelance so that it can be sent out separately."

With a motion on the agenda referring to this chronic problem, other speakers suggested various possible solutions to the chronic problem.

In response, the meeting agreed the following:

"This branch requests that the NEC ensures that the Journalist is published on time so that the Freelance and the Journalist can safely be used to inform members of meetings and other time-specific activities. To this end LFB asks NEC to explore the following possible courses of action to make the Freelance available on time to London members:

"a) The possibility of mailing the Freelance to London members separately from the Journalist;

"b) Making funds available to publish the Freelance on the Web.

"c) Increasing the postage rate on the London mailing of the Journalist to ensure that the combined mailing of the Freelance and the Journalist arrives as soon as possible after the publication date."

Apart from these local difficulties, Gopsill presented a generally upbeat view of trade union journals and their relationship with NUJ freelances.

"These journals have an enormous circulation," Gopsill said. "The Unison magazine, for example, goes out to 1.4 million members. Even the Journalist, at 28 000, has three times the circulation of the UK Press Gazette. So it's a market and it's satisfying work. TU journals are a vehicle for communication with working people which is far too often overlooked and carries a lot of material you won't see in the commercial press."

He pointed out that pay rates were "pretty good" because they were were set by a specific section of the Freelance Fees Guide and (fraternally) policed by the NUJ Trade Union Journals group.

NUJTUJ, which meets every two months, also takes on wider issues such as journalists' jobs under threat and challenges to editorial freedom -- never a problem at the NUJ, said Gopsill, because the editor is elected by the membership and his/her rights are constitutionally protected.

Speaking of which, he added, the five-yearly election was coming up soon, so "I'm really glad to have been invited here tonight..."

Jul 1998
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