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May 5, 2023

NUJ votes to drop ‘mother’ and ‘father’ titles for chapel leadership

Official NUJ materials will now refer instead to chapel "chairs".

By Bron Maher

The National Union of Journalists‘ annual conference has voted to stop using the terms “mother” and “father” to mean chapel leadership in official materials.

A chapel is a group of unionised journalists in a particular workplace. Historically, the chair or chairs of a chapel were referred to as the mother or father of that group.

On Saturday however the union’s national conference voted 61 to 45 in favour of a motion to replace the terms with “chair of chapel” in the NUJ rulebook.

[Read more: ‘F*** me, Doris!’ How’s that for a dog’s dick kicker? Press Gazette’s guide to journalism jargon]

Proposing the change Behrang Tajdin, of BBC Persian and the NUJ’s equality council, said: “Unfortunately many are not familiar with the role of trade unions, and when they hear terms like mother or father of chapel, they may find these gendered terms archaic, inaccessible, part of the language of an exclusive club from a bygone age, rather than a modern, inclusive body dedicated to fighting for them.”

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An NUJ write-up of the vote said some delegates voiced opposition to the move, arguing it was up to individual branches to decide their terminology and that there should be consultation with chapels before a chance was made.

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An NUJ spokesperson told Press Gazette on Friday that the terms mother and father had not been banned and that in practice many chapels already use the term chair or “rep”.

Also on Friday, NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet responded to a Telegraph report that the conference had “refused to defend gender-critical members” in a separate vote. That proposal, which was “strongly supported” by the union’s national executive council, suggested that the NUJ issue a statement to say it “believes that journalists should be able to report and comment on issues of sex and gender, and any debate on these subjects should be informed and respectful”.

Stanistreet wrote: “Journalists accurately reporting any matter of public interest are entitled to the protection of the NUJ and the NUJ’s NEC will always have due regard to the primacy of the Code of Conduct.

“The reality is that in the course of carrying out their work many journalists covering associated issues of public interest, including women’s rights, have been abused, threatened with violence and even driven out of their job. This is wholly unacceptable and no journalist should have to contend with bullying, abuse or threats in the course of their work.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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