The election is currently underway to appoint one of the safest jobs in journalism (for the next five years anyway) – the editorship of NUJ house magazine The Journalist.
Incumbent editor Christine Buckley is facing just one challenger in the election, Tim Dawson.
The job involves editing the magazine three days a week (it comes out six times a year) and then helping with other union communications work for the other two days.
Voting forms have already been sent to the NUJ's 30,000-odd members and the ballot closes on 5 November.
Press Gazette has invited both candidates to explain in 600 words why they deserve to edit the title.
I’ve had the privilege of editing The Journalist for the past five years and also of being the first woman editor in the union’s 108-year history.
I came to the magazine from national papers after being on the staff of The Times and the Financial Times for nearly 20 years.
I was Industrial Editor for The Times and one of my major areas was the trade union movement. In the job I got to know the major unions well – how they won their battles and the main challenges that they faced. It was an area I loved covering. I’ve been a strong supporter of unions for all of my life and a member of the NUJ for most of my career.
I have tried to use my journalistic experience and knowledge of the union movement to make The Journalist a professional publication that appeals to as wide a readership as possible and encourages people working in the media to join the union. The vast majority of the NUJ’s members are not union activists; they are journalists doing demanding jobs often under huge pressure. They want a magazine that engages them rather than preaching to them and one that looks outwards and not inwards.
Not only are The Journalist’s readers busy but they are also the most discerning readers it is possible to have. They are professional communicators who expect the highest standards of journalism – to be balanced, interesting, objective.
I changed The Journalist radically when I took over and have been very pleased by much positive reaction to it. The last readers’ survey, conducted in 2012, showed that 85 per cent of readers liked the news content; 81 per cent liked the design and lay-out; and 63 per cent like the features.
It is very gratifying to get such encouraging feedback because the magazine is produced on a tiny budget and one that was cut this year. I work alone and part-time producing The Journalist with only a small amount of freelance proof-reading/sub-editing.
We cannot buy our way to popularity. The small budget means we have to be realistic about what we can do.
It would be nice, and easy, to promise to do lots more with the magazine. But until the budget is boosted, that is unfortunately not possible. Hopefully that situation will change in the future.
I change the elements of The Journalist regularly to include the variety of our members’ work and interests. If re-elected I will continue refreshing the magazine and have a new page for new workers in our industry and students who want to be those new workers.
Union membership is challenged across the movement and in the NUJ. We need new and enthusiastic members who are going to stay, not just join while they have trouble at work. I strongly believe that unions have to be more outward facing, offering members news and debates about their industries as well as about what the union is doing to help them.
I have tried to lift the standards of the magazine to make it a publication that a journalists’ union can be proud of. I would love to continue that.
My supporters include: Jilly Cooper, author and long-standing NUJ member; Kevin Maguire, associate editor Daily Mirror; Zoe Williams, Guardian columnist; Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC technology correspondent; Raymond Snoddy, former FT and Times Media editor and Journalist columnist; David Hencke, investigative and political journalist; Paul Routledge, columnist, Daily Mirror; Steve Evans, BBC Seoul correspondent; Error! Contact not defined., practice editor, Nursing Times; Stefan Stern, business and management writer; Pat Wooding, deputy night editor Daily Star.
I am standing for election to edit The Journalist because the NUJ can’t afford to produce an embarrassing throw-away magazine, of little relevance to members.
Why waste ink on stories the NUJ’s website published weeks ago? Why devote space to re-cycled information and quotes that were emailed to members when they were truly breaking news? Or waste resources on recycled arts press releases and celebrity-style interviews? It’s exactly the kind of cheapo content we criticise the industry for churning out. A journalists’ magazine must be better than that.
The Journalist needs its own approach to reporting. Press Gazette provides an excellent daily industry news service – why replicate that? The NUJ has a much deeper engagement in stories – from our BBC members in Scotland, backed by colleagues throughout the UK, whose bravery has twice this year clinched important concessions from management, to Trinity Mirror reporters grappling with the implementation of ‘Newsroom 3.1’. Our members, reps and officials offer a rich seam of stories that should be shared in our union magazine.
The Journalist must also – finally – make good the winning candidate’s promises five years ago to create ‘a strong online presence’. Excuses about paltry budgets are a red herring – the union’s National Executive Committee has never turned down a request from the current editor for funds and, for its six issues a year, the budget of £170,000 is ample. After fifteen years on the NEC and as long chairing the Freelance Industrial Council, I know how our union works and how to get things done. Whinging about imagined budget cuts is pointless. When more funds are needed, a compelling case must be made to the NEC or our Delegate Meeting. I have a track record of doing just this – and of transforming costly paper products such at the Freelance Fees Guide and the Freelance Directory into efficient, nearly cost-free web products.
The costs of printing and posting are inelastic – creating digital content mainly requires energy and imagination. Judge for yourself how much of either I have from my campaign website vote-tim-dawson.org or from tim-dawson.com and newmodeljournalism.com. I certainly have the journalistic track record – I have written for pretty much every British broadsheet, was a section editor on The Sunday Times for a decade, and have produced both newsstand and membership magazines.
A London-dinner-party agenda is insufficient. Scotland, Ireland and Wales have provided a wealth of compelling NUJ stories over the past five years, yet have been largely ignored by the incumbent editor. Stories from our nations and regions – including our continental branches – would have a vital place in any magazine and allied content that I edited, as would the countless individual initiatives by NUJ members to improve terms and conditions and safeguard our media.
Our union’s tradition of electing an editor is rooted in its commitment to journalistic integrity. This independence to edit must be cherished. NUJ members should be able to rely on a dispassionate reporting of news from their own union – even if it makes uncomfortable reading. Much better that, than learning about difficult union issues elsewhere.
Elect me, and I will publish lively, dispassionate web news about our union and the industry from week one so that members and the wider journalistic community can access the many amazing things that happen in the NUJ. I will reimagine the magazine so that every story contains angles and insights unavailable elsewhere. And I will deploy social media, podcasts, webinars and video, to take the NUJ’s stories to members and the wider journalistic community.
Why settle for the churnalist when you could bring back The Journalist?