Will they boycott reality?

The National Union of Journalists in the UK is planning a Europe-wide day of protest against cuts in journalism.

One wonders whom they’ll picket: the internet? the economy? their readers? reality? Whom can they boycott this time (at least this isn’t Israel’s fault; that was the NUJ’s last grand political act). Protesting is so empty, so unproductive, ultimately so silly.

Media Guardian reports:

The union said the day of protests was a response to the “accelerating threat to journalism and journalists from devastating cuts across the industry, resulting in chronic under-resourcing, downward-spiralling working conditions, job losses and falling editorial standards”.

“This will be a day of huge importance. The time has come for us to stand up as one and send a loud, clear message that our industry is in deep crisis,” said Jeremy Dear, the NUJ general secretary.

But what are they going to do about it? Perhaps instead they should have a national brainstorming day to find and invent new ways to serve the public in all media. Or perhaps a national training day to show all these keyboard addicts how to use and make audio, video, blogs, wikis, search, social networks, and more. Or I’d like to see a national networked journalism day in which the pros share the tricks of their trade with the public to encourage more and better acts of journalism. Or maybe even a national efficiency day, in which the journalists find cuts that can be made instead of reporting. Or maybe a national entrepreneurial day to find ways to create new sustainable journalistic businesses that will not only pay those journalists but give them a piece of the equity.

Media are changing and so are their business realities. Not much — not anything — one can do about that but find new opportunities and change alongside. Protesting and wishing things wouldn’t change might make you feel better. But what does it accomplish?

: Roy Greenslade would disagree.

: The NUJ likes boycotts. This organization of journalists — professional journalists — showed their stripes when they voted to boycott Israeli good.

: Here was the NUJ’s effort to regulate citizen journalists and here was some professional reaction at the Guardian.

: See the discussion on this post at Comment is Free.

  • Along the lines of Mark Glaser’s “old think/new think” post of several months ago:

    old think: Stage a protest or rally
    new think: Get busy solving the problem

  • I am a member of the NUJ and although I gain little from my membership when I think about it, I do believe there is a place for them as long as they are willing to push things forward.

    I remember writing a wee while back that they could stay relevant if they thought a little differently, please see:

    NUJ as advertising sales manager?

  • Fundamentally, this isn’t even about journalism. This is about them having a 100-year-old mindset that for every problem, there must be a boss whom you can bring to his knees with a strike and get back to your previous state of lifetime guaranteed employment. That the boss is the customer and the change is coming from technological advances they need to master doesn’t even occur to them.

    Really makes you feel good that these guys are reporting on economic issues, doesn’t it?

  • jazzone

    Boss as customer…hmmmn…I know this rhetoric passes for Gospel here

    But last time I looked virtually all the media groups in the UK were still run by people taking home substanial six figure packages (no matter how bad the performance of their business) who spend a great deal of time telling the hacks that inflation-only pay increases are a shocking liberty which would drive the business into bankruptcy.

    The NUJ is very far from perfect but a bit of solidarity and collective action in the face of owners/commissioners who will screw you at the drop of a hat is still necessary.

    Incidentally the models of journalism which Jeff proposes are bascially about freelancing and in my experience it’s somewhat easier to get paid as a freelance if you have the assistance of a union.

    And despite Jeff’s tiresome, cliched union baiting I think he’ll find that most NUJ members are willing to re-skill and innovate in a changing media environment.

  • I tend to agree with jazzone here, to the extent that these people are likely willing to try to re-tool and refit themselves into the new technological mainstream. Whether or not they actually have the wherewithall to do so might be an issue, though. I also agree with jazzone insofar as the typical boss does, indeed, try to discourage the serfs from wanting too much money…after all, they’ll only spend it on more liquor, which will make them ill and ruin their families…right?

    However your point is valid, Jeff, about actually DOING something about existing situations, rather than simply protesting. The concept of a strike here is a bit lame, given what’s happening to the industry as a whole. The unwillingness to face the reality that their industry is mutating is a tacit boycott of reality.

    Organization is one of the keys – but not necessarily organization to protest or strike. Organization to get management to listen in terms of restructuring the business…now THAT seems a worthy goal. Organizing also to get the company to institute a retraining program would be a very constructive idea.

    In the end, though, management does hold the reins of power, and you cannot force people to become intelligent. You have to teach them. If, like the American auto makers (who are now making advertisements, I understand, to try to get the America public to turn against Congress for trying to implement fuel efficiency standards for the Auto Industry) the news industries do not realize that the terra firma upon which they formerly stood is rapidly becoming a tar pit, then they deserve to become a part of the industrial fossil record. Ah, here’s a rare specimen of Journalistes Scripticus, from the late Offsetiscene Era! Note the low brow, suggesting reduced brain capacity… This was a placid herbivore, who was swept aside by the gradual environmental changes that carried the world into the later Electroniscene Era…