Update 26/10/09

In view of the postal dispute, the deadline for your ballot to reach the Electoral Reform Society is extended to 16/11/09. In the same view, that still means you should post it now.

Journalist candidates address freelances

By now you should have got your ballot paper for the election of a new editor of the Journalist (www.thejournalist.org.uk) the NUJ's magazine (the one that comes with the print edition Freelance mailing). If you haven't, ring NUJ head office. You have to post the ballot in the pre-paid envelope to arrive by 6 November. In view of the current postal situation, best send it as soon as possible after you've read the candidates' statements.

See www.nuj.org.uk for announcements of Journalist editor election hustings meetings.

Recent NUJ elections for Deputy General Secretary and for National Executive Council posts have had shockingly low turnouts - well under 20 per cent, at great expense. We should all make the effort to ensure that as many NUJ members as possible vote this time around.

 

The candidates

London Freelance Branch offered each of the candidates in the Journalist editorship election the opportunity to produce a statement specifically for members of the Branch, asking for 400 words by 2pm on Thursday 15 October, and if they wished to provide a link to their general election address for reference.

Here are those we received, in alphabetical order of last name. Statements which did not arrive by then will be added later as time permits.

 

Tim Arnold

London Freelance Branch members alone can decide the election's outcome. So I urge you to ensure the editor's chair is occupied by a fellow branch member - who has spent more than half his 30 year career in freelancing.

It's likely that fewer than 2 000 people across the union will vote. That's less than ten per cent of the national membership. So our 2 500 LFB people could well be the deciding factor... if we can get the vote out.

So please vote in this enormously important election. Put me, Tim Arnold, as your first preference vote... and fellow LFB member Mark Watts as your second choice.

The reason that you should give me your first preference vote is that I am the only candidate with proven production skills in international television and radio to bring network broadcast standards to our webcasts. I can record, and edit, audio and video material without any outside help. And use TV lights creatively. My track record includes making such contributions to organisations like Sky, Reuters, and Amicus the Union.

No other candidate can compare with my skills set. This is a crucial point - because whoever takes over the role will need to be multi-skilled, since there is no realistic budget to bring in outside technicians for the webcasts.

Think about it. You're an experienced journalist. You know that simply buying yourself a quill pen doesn't make you Charles Dickens. That getting a download of Adobe In-Design doesn't make you a sub-editor. You need training, experience, and skill. The same is true for webcast production - which are just radio and television programmes transmitted over the internet.

Otherwise, the result is an embarrassing mess... at best. Don't believe me? Log on to the NUJ website and look at the webcast featuring Paul Mason. Editorially, superb - when you can actually hear what's being said; technically, appalling. Is this the image that professional journalists want to present to the world?

So vote for me, Tim Arnold, and ensure the NUJ's communications are as professional as you are.

More than that, I am pledged to improving the frequency and quality of industrial sector communications, with regular pdf newsletters distributed by email to each member.

I will also ensure that the freelance voice is heard loud and clear in the printed magazine, reflecting your career, your concerns, and your needs.

Give me, Tim Arnold, your first preference vote.

 

Christine Buckley

Freelance journalists are a very important part of the NUJ and one that is likely to grow in the wake of job losses and the increased casualisation of much media work.

The NUJ and especially your branch does great work. I know that your supplement to the Journalist and particularly the information you produce on the right rate for the job is invaluable to freelances.

But I only know that through my freelance friends and seeing their copies of the magazine. Your practical and important help to freelances has not been very visible from the Journalist

More people who are not yet freelance members need to know about the services available from the union. It could be the difference between them staying or leaving the union when they lose their job or decide to go it alone. And it could greatly encourage staff members to say to freelance colleagues and friends, look you really should join, you can get all this information and help.

I think the Journalist needs to have more focus on each of the different sectors of the union. It also needs to have a contacts list and links to information like the rate for the job so people know it's there.

Years ago I worked freelance twice in my career. I know the demands and the pressures. I also know it's much worse for many now.

Freelances face many and increasing challenges. They suffer when organisations cut their costs and consequently the work available; they are hit by the downward pressure on rates; and they face competition from the growth of citizen journalism where many enthusiasts will work for little or nothing.

Freelances can lose regular income literally overnight with little recourse. They can find themselves trying to compete for work on e-lance sites where sometimes just cents are offered for hundreds of words.

The union offers support but through the Journalist we need to make freelances, who often work alone, feel well connected with what's important in their world and with each other. And to the uninitiated we need to spread the message of what the NUJ can do for them through cost effective marketing on things such as the e-lance sites.

There are a lot of freelances out there that need the NUJ's help and the union can benefit from them as a strong pool of membership.

 

Michael Cross

I'm a freelance. I first went freelance - by choice - 20 years ago, after staff writing and editing posts on nationals, consumer magazines, trades and locals, in the UK and overseas. I enjoy the freelance lifestyle and I've carved out a profitable niche.

Why should I want to trade this life for five years editing The Journalist? Because there's a job that needs doing - that of ensuring The Journalist communicates with the whole profession, not just with NUJ activists. I believe that if the union is to survive in the modern media world, it must engage with all practitioners throughout their careers, not just when they need our help.

The Journalist, through its print and online editions, is our main chance for doing this. I have the energy and experience to make it happen.

It goes without saying that I understand the challenges of freelance life. If elected, I shall take with me to the job the lessons I learned campaigning on behalf of freelances on the Freelance Industrial Council and the Healthcare Freelance Network.

Please read more about me and my ideas on the material accompanying the ballot paper and at the Facebook group Michael Cross for Editor.

There is a simple choice in this election. Whether you want a journal that speaks just to activists or whether you want one that speaks to the whole profession, including a generation for whom the NUJ may appear archaic and irrelevant.

If you share my belief that the NUJ needs an outward-facing multi-media journal, please return your ballot paper now with a 1 in the box next to my name.

Thank you.

"I'm supporting Michael for Editor of The Journalist. While there are many good candidates I think Michael is ideal for the job.

 

Frank Morgan

VOTE FACIAL HAIR, VOTE MORGAN!

There, caught your attention, didn't it? But I'm a serious player in a serious election.

I know how hard it can be freelancing. I was thrown on the pavement in 1990 after spending 11 months on strike with the NUJ in Aberdeen to defend union recognition. I then spent two years - at a time of economic uncertainty, rather like today's - scrabbling around for any work I could find. I survived, like most of you do today, by sheer hard work. I appreciate my circumstances were different and that most of you are freelance by choice. I just wanted you to know that I can empathise to some extent with you.

My experiences then meant, as FoC at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail for 8 years until 2007, I tried at every stage to involve freelance members in our house negotiations. We managed to get the first rise in rates in 10 years - not great but an increase all the same.

If elected, I would work hard with Freelance Organiser John Toner to convince all chapels and negotiators to do the same. (If I had a magic wand I'd make it the law that freelances get the same pro ratio rises as staffers - but that's a long time off, I fear).

I belong to no political party.

I pledge, if elected, to give fair coverage to ALL freelances, in the UK and Ireland and, indeed, the growing number we represent globally. I'd also give The Journalist a revamp and inject some much-needed humour into it.

I've been a journalist for 35 years and an NUJ activist all that time.

I've been a sub, reporter, feature writer, news editor, business editor.

I'll give you the skills, the commitment and the experience - please give me your vote.

 

Richard Simcox

I want the Journalist to put freelances at the heart of our union.

Hopefully you agree this is necessary and achievable.

Our industry is under attack. Media owners have abandoned journalists and journalism.

Freelances are particularly vulnerable through shifts and commissions suddenly being lost, rates being cut, and copyright grabbed.

But my Journalist would never assume that all freelances are the same.

Like any large group of members - and freelances are a very large group - you are a diverse bunch.

It would be crazy to just glibly claim to be the champion of freelances and expect that to be enough.

Worse, it would be counterproductive.

I know freelances have their own networks for photographers, subs, broadsheet contributors and so on. There are sector-specific concerns, but also skill-specific issues.

The editor of the Journalist needs to respect and understand these nuances.

I would give you space to share your ideas between yourselves, and a platform to highlight them to others.

A Journalist I edit would help the experienced among you to support the less experienced, with practical tips and advice.

I am not a freelance worker. But I know plenty - friends and family. And they are all individuals.

But you have chosen to join the NUJ, and mostly I think freelances want recognition that they are a part of one union - not a splinter group.

This means ensuring that our freelance and staff members work together and use the Journalist to talk to each other.

It also means ensuring that when the NUJ campaigns industrially in chapels, that we involve freelances from the start - whether they work in offices, on the streets or in their living rooms.

Only a fool, or a very poor journalist, would disregard or deliberately alienate a quarter of his or her audience and contacts book.

Some freelances have already said they trust me to do a good job for them and the rest of our union http://richsimcox.co.uk/supporters

If you elect me, I will use your work in the magazine on paper and on the web.

I will pay you proper rates and fiercely defend your right to ownership of that work.

I will spotlight you as professionals and as NUJ members.

And I will fight your corner - and all its nooks and crannies.

More about me and my ideas at http://richsimcox.co.uk

 

David Tilley

THE media industry and the NUJ face their greatest ever challenges and it is vital members of this strong union have the tools to get the most from their careers and the best possible deal for their work.

I have experienced and witnessed big changes in my career, particularly in the last 12 months and during my campaign I have heard from many of the most vulnerable journalists in the current economic climate, freelance members. I have heard their views on the Journalist, the major challenges facing them and what the union can do to give them the best possible help and support.

One of the main concerns of freelancers I have spoken to is isolation, which I would seek to tackle by creating and maintaining online discussion groups in forums and networks. I would create a secure members' area within a new, integrated Journalist website where freelancers could swap ideas, discuss good and bad working practices and employers, while helping to build up a star rating database of the best and worst media companies.

On the public-facing home page of the Journalist website, a mini site on the main NUJ platform, I would include tips from members on getting started as a freelancer and say how the union helped them. I would also feature advice from some employers on what they look for in shifters and most importantly give tips on how to get paid quickly. This would also include links to the union's excellent courses, including 'aim for better freelance deals'.

If elected I would seek to plan the Journalist a number of issues in advance, so it could focus on one particular sector per issue and at the earliest opportunity look at freelancing, while keeping room for regular features and campaign news from across the union. Such a 'freelance special' could look at the best and worst quoted freelance rates, what is reasonable to ask for and how to pitch a story, as well as the top 10 overlooked areas that might earn members a living. There could also be discussion on who owns contact numbers, freelancers or the companies they work for.

I want to create a Journalist in print and online that builds the strength of the union and helps get the best deal for members.

To find out more and to share your ideas visit my Facebook group David Tilley Journalist Campaign

 

Steven Usher

I had a taste of being freelance once. I didn't like it. It scared me. I had grown used to the golden eagle of a staff job depositing in my bank account on the same day every month. My direct debits and standing orders were all sorted on time. I had a clear financial picture which gave me a calm assurance about the rest of my life. Paid holidays. Sick pay when I was ill. But when the ill-fated Sunday Scot closed down way back in 1990 I found myself in the world of the freelance.

I went to Ireland. I covered Celtic's pre-season tour and an art exhibition in Dublin's Kilmainham Jail. I sold a few pictures and a couple of paragraphs made it into print but I was not earning enough for a pint of Guinness. I then started commuting from the family home in Stirling to London.

I have been at Express Newspapers ever since. But my brief time as a freelance taught me many things. It taught me how much time can elapse between jobs and how long you can wait between doing a job and getting paid for it. It taught me how the freelance has to battle not just for work but to be properly paid for that work. It taught me how the freelance has to be a businessman.

More than 2,000 NUJ members have lost their jobs since July 2008. With staff jobs thin on the ground, that means 2,000 more journalists going freelance. Add to that the journalism and media students leaving universities. Add to that the people so desperate to get into journalism that they will work for unscrupulous employers for nothing.

And the freelance world is suddenly an even tougher place.

As Editor of the Journalist I will trumpet your professional successes, highlight your struggles with an industry hell-bent on negotiating freelance rates down and tightening its financial belt. And I'll help you run your business.

The freelance in print, online, on TV and in broadcasting.

That last line - as you well know - is just me covering all the bases politically. I am not a politician. I am a journalist.

I couldn't be a freelance. I haven't got the balls.

If the NUJ golden eagle is going to be depositing in my bank account each month, I had better be able to justify it.

www.stevenkpusher.blogspot.com

 

Mark Watts

Mark Watts: the independent journalist for editor of the Journalist

I plan to focus the Journalist on providing unparalleled coverage of our industry. I want the Journalist to:

  • increase the frequency of its printed edition (preferably monthly);
  • break more exclusive stories about our industry, while maintaining its strong features;
  • launch a proper website.

Since this campaign began, I have emphasized that, if I were editor, the Journalist would be independent. This includes independence from the NUJ "leadership" or any political group/faction. The magazine would serve only its readers - NUJ members. I stressed "independence" both in my election address and in my answers for the election edition of the Journalist.

In that election edition, I am unique among the candidates to have made a proposal relevant to freelances.

I plan regular "freelance showcases" for reporters/writers, photographers, broadcast journalists - one of each, for every edition. The idea is to give an overview of the featured journalists and their work. I intend to build an online database of these "showcases".

This would bring a greater variety of "faces" to the magazine. I also think that it would really help freelances win more work. I have had positive reaction to the proposal from many freelances, but I would want more feedback before honing the idea.

Throughout my career from 1988, I have been a member of the London Freelance Branch (LFB), except the first two years when I worked on an evening newspaper (Hull Daily Mail). LFB (and the new LPB ) meetings/the pub afterwards would provide a great place for members to tell me about potential stories/features.

I have continuously switched between being freelance and staff. I am conscious that freelances comprise one quarter of NUJ members, and rising. Coverage in the Journalist would reflect that. But the magazine would cover all sectors properly - especially photographers.

I have worked in nearly every sector of the industry: several national newspapers (Sunday Business, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, Sunday Express); television (including World in Action, BBC News, The Big Story, 3-D); and as a freelance, I have written for nearly all national newspapers, many magazines, and I am the author of a book about some of the newspaper industry's "dark arts".

Articles on endorsements for my candidacy:

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