Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The beat (-ing of reporters) goes on...

NOTE: May I apologise for my absence in recent weeks - there appears to have been some 'suspicious activity' on my account which needed sorting... Interesting... However, let's carry on.

So, the industrial disputes continue as newspaper groups up and down the land continue to preach about 'difficult trading conditions'.

For what feels like the first time, the sacred business run by the saviour himself, Ray Tindle, has been in the news.

The 'Enfield Nine' - union members of Tindle's Enfield division - walked out of the office on April 19 and returned on May 4, thanks to some handily placed bank holidays.

The resulting spat has proved reasonably entertaining for those of us still struggling to hold down a job in the industry, as the relative inexperience of Tindle comes to the fore.

In a statement that read more like the ramblings of a bitter and jealous child than the reasoned outpourings of a large company the firm said: "During the strike all the papers were produced by the remaining staff and management with as much editorial if not more than a normal bank holiday week."

So hang on, rather than simply make no comment, or issuing a stock quote saying the dispute is on-going, blah blah blah, the group instead goes on the offensive like a wounded animal.

The statement, translated, seems to say (with a thumb clearly pressed to nose): "Well, they weren't here and we did even more editorial than before, so fuck you journalists, who needs you anyway. Na na nana na."

Clearly, this will be bullshit, and is offensive to everyone involved, including those journalists not in the union who probably bled themselves dry trying to fill those papers.

It's also offensive to readers, who are not stupid and would be well aware of the inevitable drop in quality those editions would have experienced.

As if to make things worse, Tindle actually published a statement in one of the editions produced during the strike which was, frankly, embarrassing.

It read: "Nine journalists of this newspaper who are members of the National Union of Journalists remain on strike for a second week so this is the second edition produced by the remainder of the staff and management.

"The dispute is about the paper’s non-replacement of staff leaving by natural wastage in this recession and is despite the company making huge and unsustainable losses.

"The group is the only one so far not to make journalists redundant in the downturn. That meant non-replacement of those who left for other jobs. We hope this edition is both local and acceptable to you, our readers."

Why run such a statement if the papers were as good, if not better, than previous weeks?

Tindle, who are you trying to kid?

Elsewhere in the world of industrial dispute, our friends in south west London have hit another barrier.

Earlier this week, editorial staff were told every position was under a three-month review with a view to making redundancies.

The irony, as always with these announcements, is in the wording.

Because while that entire newsroom sweats over whether they will get a pay cheque in three months' time, they should rest easy, because it is all in a bid to make the operation "more efficient".

Well thank fuck for that, for a minute there I'm sure they thought you were just looking to dump journalists in a bid to make more money.

Indeed, the week before, I understand the news editors of two of the group's titles - the Richmond & Twickenham Times and the Surrey Comet - were told they would be competing for a single job.

So two news editors, running sizable papers, are to be whittled down to one.

And how the fuck are they supposed to do that? Presumably, the management at Newsquest doesn't actually want to kill people through their jobs, but I can see a severe case of burnout on the horizon for the news editor lucky (or unlucky) enough to land that job...

However, I was mildly amused to read of the south west London NUJ chapel passing a vote of no confidence in the MD Roger Mills and advertising director Dene Stuart.

How refreshing to see an advertising name in there!

All too often chapels will attack an editor, or a regional publisher or whatever nonsense title such people now reign under, when the decisions are often taken by others.

This union seems to have at least recognised that while editorial staff are being thrown away left, right and centre, often the blame lies with an under-performing advertising department.

Good for them I say.

And let it be a message to advertising execs the world over: Yes, you are often too stupid to understand pretty-much anything, but we are wise to your game you muppets, so up your fucking game as what you do affects many, many lives.

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