There is a lot to say on this issue and I will get back to a number of points later.
But for now just a quick reply to Jonathan:
I think you are making it a bit too easy on yourself.
The argument that journalists have no power within an organisation is (I believe) a false one. As individuals I agree we have limited influence and firing off some memos to the MD wont have a huge impact (though it sometimes does, and done systematically often does).
However as a collective we have influence. That is what the whole concept of a union is about. It is here I believe we have failed, both as individual journalists and as a collective entity.
The NUJ is an organisation that should represent the needs and
aspirations of its members. On a very simple level, we can not make
demands for change (which we want our unions to do) if we do not have a
reality-based understanding of the situation we find ourselves in.
This encompasses the economic models and structures our industry operates in. But we have (and I generalise here, I know) abdicated the individual responsibility we have in this area.
The ideology of journalism that allows us to, in Joanna’s words,
“leave the understanding and running of media businesses to financiers and advertisers with their incentives and bonuses. Instead (we) are happy to be striving for the praise of peers of a good story written”
re-enforces that trend.
This would perhaps be less frightening if it were not for the fact
that our refusal to learn even the basics of the economics of the
industry exactly mirrors the way we have refused to understand the
basics of the IT issues we face. Here we have abdicated our
responsibilities to technicians. This has led to us allowing the
technology to create systems that we then have to suit our content to,
instead of our journalistic needs dictating the shape of technology.
There is a pattern here.
I am not saying that journalists should all become economists, nor
am I saying that journalists should become IT systems specialists. What
I am saying is that we need to have a good understanding of the basic
forces that shape the future of our industry and our livelihoods.
Our Unions should be providing us with the tools and information to help us. I fear that won’t happen however (though I may be, and hope to be. proved wrong as I believe we need a strong NUJ and hope more of us join) because they themselves do not seem to understand the issues.
Where is the equivalent to the employer-based think tanks that pump out facts and figures from around the world that would help us make sense of the changes from our point of view? This is not a cost issue. In Sweden, where I am based, there is a think tank [www.mindpark.se -worth a look, use Google translate] that is manned by three people and financed by a number of regional newspapers, which has had a huge informational impact on decision making. We need a similar one from the NUJ.
But no matter what central campaigns are driven, no matter what
information is gathered, the responsibility is ours as individuals.
Structural change is occurring all around us. The industry is shifting and the economic models are changing.
They may change to our disadvantage. The new order could be one that makes journalism (as we see it today) even less relevant, less exciting, less challenging and even more commodified.
If we refuse to learn and gather the knowledge that would allow us to mount a challenge to the changes, based on a solid economic understanding of the market place and a vision of a relevant and useful journalism, then we deserve what we (don’t) get.