Words and pictures
UPROAR has been followed by constructive discussion... In May, the NUJ training website announced a course to "show you how to transform photography, using inexpensive 'compact' or smartphone cameras, into high-quality images".
Hack or photographer, you'll recognise the alarm bells that rang. Many photographers got on the networks arguing forcefully that the union would be teaching "reporters to take good enough snaps to take work from photographers".
London Photographers' Branch (LPB) got on the case. Chair John Rogers attended the Professional Training Committee (ProfCom), raised the lack of prior consultation with photographers about the course - and got results... namely, the May LPB meeting was told the course content and ad presentation would be reviewed by ProfCom and photographer reps.
But LPB took the chance to address the fundamentals behind the flare-up by inviting ProfCom chair Chris Wheal, NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet, Freelance Organiser John Toner and assorted London Freelance Branch reps and members to debate "Digital Convergence & The NUJ: what do photojournalists and videographers want from our union?"
Comprehensive resolution of that one remained in the in-tray, but various speakers - including the odd wordsmith - explored the difficulties. During a massive economic crisis for professional journalism, how do we frame practical policies to support members, freelance and staff, who do only lenswork, or only word work, or mostly lens but some words, or mostly words but some lens... and all points in between; not to speak of the designers, cartoonists, illustrators... as well as all other members in the Branch.
Michelle said that in reality NUJ staff and members dealt with these tricky matters sensibly all the time, but that a fresh think in the National Executive and then a clear statement of where we stand would be useful.
Back at the original hooha, several members urged ProfCom to consult with the reps of members who might be interested in or affected by any new training course before launching it.
Michelle said that the union is developing further courses on working abroad, working in "hostile environments", on how journalists can protect their own information and data - and that ProfCom remains open to considering all new course proposals: see the note on a presentation by the Federation of Entertainment Unions to the June Branch meeting.