NUJ takes up challenge to defend quality journalism

By Jon Slattery

The NUJ
is aiming to counter the cutting of journalists’ jobs by launching a
campaign calling for quality journalism and investment in editorial to
be put at the heart of the media.

It follows the wave of pre-Christmas redundancies that have hit
Trinity Mirror’s regional and national titles, the cutbacks at
Northcliffe Newspapers, the closure of ITV’s News Channel and job
losses at the BBC.

A key element of the campaign will be a call
for a Parliamentary Select Committee investigation “to look in to
monopoly control and profiteering at expense of local democracy and
plurality of views/diversity”.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear
told Press Gazette: “Journalists in every media – local and national
newspapers, magazines, TV and radio, new media – have been hit hard by
recent cuts. In every media the ability of skilled professional
journalists to continue to produce high-quality news and information in
the face of these cutbacks is being threatened.

“This campaign is
about saying there must be another way. If talk of quality media, of
delivering the best news and entertainment to readers, listeners and
viewers is anything more than a cheap marketing scam then it is time to
look for another way.”

A UK-wide tour led by Dear, NUJ president
Tim Lezard and vice-president Chris Morley, will start in Scotland in
March and will take in events in major cities throughout the UK. It
will also involve a series of meetings with MPs, members of the
Scottish Parliament and members of the Welsh Assembly.

The NUJ
also plans to meet local councils, hold public meetings and engage with
community groups to try to build an alliance to promote and defend
editorial investment and quality news.

Dear said: “Local
communities, councillors and politicians, special interest groups,
businesses and all those who care about ensuring media are able to
properly reflect their communities, sectors or special interest groups,
must demand an end to the excessive profiteering and increasing
monopoly control of companies who see newspapers, TV and radio stations
or new media firms simply as media cash cows to be milked and milked.”

The
demand for a Select Committee investigation, which will be backed up by
a national petition and lobby of Parliament, follows similar calls in
the National Assembly in Wales and in the Scottish Parliament.

The NUJ also wants high-profile journalists to speak out in defence of editorial investment.

Research
will be conducted for the NUJ into alternative business models for
local media, focusing on recent developments in the US and comparisons
with Europe where, according to the union, newspaper groups are
profitable, but do not expect the 30 per cent returns achieved by some
UK regional newspaper companies.

Provisionally called “Journalism
Matters”, the six-month campaign will be launched in March at the NUJ’s
annual conference in Liverpool.

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