My NUJ: Lionel Morrison

Morrison, the first ever black NUJ president, now heads its 300-strong black members' council and has overseen huge changes in the way the industry reports on race and treats non-white journalists.

From South Africa, he was elected on to the National Executive Council in 1971 and became president in 1973.

A journalist with more than 40 years' experience, he says: "For me the best thing has been getting involved, seeing how it has changed, and become part of the structure of a changing industry."

Morrison said the union could have split into warring factions during the Thatcher years and over-controversial events such as Wapping, but is stronger for working out our internal differences.

"The union is a broad church — we have the left and the right. But we have been able to get through things like Wapping and save the union," he says.

The NUJ started out concentrating on job security, says Morrison, but the union now affects every aspect of its members' working lives. "People now join because they feel they will get support and can confront employers. Very few unions have been able to do that."

Morrison is a trustee of the George Viner Memorial fund, which he helped set up in 1986 to increase the number of black and Asian journalists working in Britain. The fund has helped train more than 100 journalists, and Morrison feels there is more the union can do support them.

"We've had two black presidents, some NEC members, but the problem is in the actual structure of the union itself — we've never had black organisers," he says.

"We can organise journalists, we have a code, we can reach out into the black community, but it will take a little time."


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