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April 19, 2007

Axegrinder goes to the NUJ annual delegate meeting

By Axegrinder axeblog

Hard times at Johnston Press

A delegate confided in Axegrinder that reporters at a northern Johnston Press centre fight a daily battle to get their hands on stationery. But they finally reached the end of their tether when they were told by bosses they would have to share pencil erasers one between two, making hacks feel like pupils in a failing, underprivileged school.

Axegrinder’s mole says: “They say we cannot have a rubber but they have just spent a fortune on new media equipment that nobody knows how to use.”

Pay attention at the front!

The geek shall inherit the Earth

During a debate on whether “virtual” online chapels should be officially recognised at this week’s ADM, one unreformed non-believing delegate warned against us “handing over our industry to nerds”. Heading up the NUJ interweb revolution is NUJ new media council member and MediaGuardian.co.uk new media reporter Jemima Kiss who began her defence of the motion saying: “Well, I’m a nerd.”

Norris ‒265 and going strong

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Spare a thought for recently retired NUJ activist Bob Norris. The recruiter of hundreds of impressionable students across the land and champion of all things NUJ is described in this year’s annual report as having been on the NCTJ board since the union’s inception.

Norris addressed the conference floor in outrage: “This is wrong, it is ageist and I want it changed. I haven’t been a NUJ member for 100 years ‒I’ve been an NUJ member for 200 years, and I would like a correction.”

NUJ debate sparks extreme boredom

During a particularly long series of debates on international affairs on Saturday morning, some delegates were delighted by the reprieve offered when a fire alarm went off. They were less pleased when it emerged it wasn’t a test, and one grizzled comrade was heard to remark: “They don’t usually resort to setting the fire alarm off until Sunday morning.”

Benn’s advice on how to win an election

Tony Benn, the activist, former Labour minister and NUJ member since his days at BBC Radio in the ’50s, was given two standing ovations at the ADM, one before he had even said a word. Benn has also been made an honorary member and he said the best thing about the award was that he “does not have to pay”.

He recalled that The Sun found an original way of disparaging him during a by-election in Chesterfield in the 1960s.

“They fed everything they knew about me to a psychiatrist and he said I was barking mad. There were 16,000 people in the constituency and a lot of them read The Sun. And
what happened? The vote went up.”

Calls for millionaire to give union a Halpin hand

Even distribution of wealth was high on the agenda, which was bad news for chairman of the British Communist Party and treasurer of the union Anita Halpin, who came into a £20 million windfall this year after being reunited with a painting looted from her family by the Nazis.

Her comrades unanimously passed a tongue-in-cheek motion suggesting that in future any union member to land more than £20 million should take all branch chairs and members of the
standing orders committee out to lunch.

Lazenby (moustachioed, white) on discrimination

Delegates agreed that a clause in the NUJ’s code of conduct should be amended because, strictly speaking, hundreds of journalists breach it every day. In a clumsy attempt to avoid discrimination, the clause states that specific details of people such as their race or sex should only be mentioned if relevant to a particular story.

Peter Lazenby, father of chapel at Leeds, jibed that if he had abided by the rules when writing a story about a 94-year-old woman who died on a crossing, his report would simply have read: “It is dead”.

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