The NUJ has finally shed some light on why it allowed News of the World private investigator Derek Webb to become a member of the union.
Roy Greenslade reports that it was told he was a researcher who had worked for a number or national newspapers, that he was seconded by two members and that it does not have the resources to subject all applications to further scrutiny.
Perhaps the bigger issue is the cynicism of senior News of the World executives in encouraging Webb to join the NUJ, as union general secretary Michelle Stanistreet notes:
“We have been consistently transparent about what is an extraordinary case where a private detective was instructed by a senior executive of News International to pretend to be a journalist and to make an application on that basis to join the NUJ, a union that has been blocked from the titles for a generation.”
Editor Colin Myler said it was put to him that Webb should join the NUJ and he said: “It made him more aware of the responsibility of working for the News of the World.”
Yet Webb later said that the did not see himself as a journalist, never wrote a story and was never given a copy of the Press Complaints Commission Code.
And as Stanistreet notes, News International is historically very anti-NUJ – encouraging its staff instead to use the News International Staff Association.
It should probably be noted that the NUJ allows lots of people who are non-journalists to join the union. A range of people working in PR and media communications are also encouraged to join.
Leveson clearly found it strange that people are allowed to join the NUJ (and it should be said, get the privilege of gaining a press card) with so little checking. Perhaps this should provide the NUJ with some cause to reconsider its membership policy.