Regulating the rabble

The British National Union of Journalists has just issued a boggling code of conduct covering the use of material from “witness contributors,” aka citizen journalists, aka us. The ostensible goal is to verify and protect and all that. But it seems obvious that the real goal is to protect NUJ jobs and to try to maintain a separation between the “professionals” and the rest. They want to make it as difficult as possible to use reporting from the people.

It’s braindead. And what’s best is that they don’t even put it up as a web page. So I did here for your edification and discussion.

Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Unlimited, does a fine job filleting the code.

The code, designed for organisations such as ours, who sometimes seek contributions from the public, starts reasonably enough – with a clause that suggests that we do not publish false and malicious material and where we do we seek to rectify it immediately. After that, the suggestions skitter downhill fast in terms of practicality.

It suggests that if using “witness contributions”, media organisations should validate their accuracy before publication, and that they should use material from NUJ members in preference to witness contributors wherever possible, and it includes a clause that effectively rules out the syndication of any material submitted by one of these witness contributors….

The intention, for instance, at the heart of the NUJ’s proposed code is to protect a differentiation between the professional journalist and the amateur. What it actually does is to potentially tie the hands of those who employ journalists to the benefit of those who do not. Wholesale adoption of the code would lead to: no blogs with free comments on them run by established media organisations; no picture streams or video footage from viewers and readers on news channels and websites; and no ability for mainstream news media to experiment with “wikis” or community-built sites.

But, Emily says, everybody else in the world will be doing all those things as newspapers, to paraphrase the gansterism, lie with the dead trees.

: Neil McIntosh, also of the Guardian, also has a proper fit.