NUJ “effing blogs” email link sparks comment furore

Filed as News on February 20, 2009 9:42 am

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When I first read this on One Man And His Blog I just had to blog it, even though I couldn’t really claim it to be news. However, that was before I read the ensuing comments left on the post. It may still not be “news” but it’s pretty interesting reading.

What am I talking about? Well, Adam Tinworth wrote a blog post, presumably with the intent of being humorous, entitled NUJ: “effing blogs”. In it, he shows that he’s been linked to from an internal email from the UK’s National Union of Journalists entitled “effing blogs”.

Ah, yes. The NUJ’s e-mail system. Well, thanks folks. Nice to know that my union people associated with my union (self correcting in the interests of fairness), which I have been a member of for the last 15 years think that the journalistic field in which I work – blogging – is “effing blogs”.

I thought it was quite amusing, although unfortunately because Adam chose to name the person that the email was sent to, a number of people have taken offence.

Chris Wheal, chair of the NUJ Professional Training Committee, left a long comment on the blog reiterating “the principle of journalism”:

Had you [contacted me] you’d have had an explanation.

The story would have been much less interesting. It would have been: Tired NUJ training chair, angered by poor journalistic standards on blogs, asks committee to engage with bloggers to try to raise standards.

Wheal accuses Tinworth of starting an “internal witch-hunt against Linda” (the employee named in the referrer log, albeit only by user name, and only because she received, not sent, the email).

This leads to a backlash against Chris Wheal. Suw Charman-Anderson suggests that blogs don’t always have to adhere to journalistic standards because:

“one thing bloggers do is talk about what they observe. We, and the majority of readers, know that.”

And the problem with the NUJ?

You don’t seem to actually understand much about what blogging is, how it works, or our ethics. And yes, we do have very strong ethics, comprising transparency, honesty, authenticity, admitting when you’ve made a mistake.

Can’t say that I believe much of the press adheres to even those basic principles.

You are a representative of the NUJ, but you don’t seem to realise how your contributions to the discussion make you and the NUJ appear to be small-minded, defensive, and entirely out of date.

Chris retorts:

The NUJ believes that journalistic standards should apply across all media. If that sounds out of touch, and old-fashioned then sorry, I must be a dinosaur.

The NUJ fails to police those standards as well as it would like in the tabloid press due to the powerful media owners, weak industrial relations legislation, lack of a contractual right to refuse to do unethical stories and a host of other reasons.

The NUJ fails to maintain standards in blogs because bloggers themselves rejoice in having lower standards.

Bloggers rejoice in having lower standards? Well, excuse me! I think this shows just how out of touch Mr Wheal is.

Of course, some bloggers will knock out any old rubbish from time to time, but then some “journalists” will stalk celebrities and invade their personal space for a salacious bit of gossip, or print misleading editorial to shift units. What kind of “standard” is that?

To their credit, though, the NUJ apparently “picked this up on Twitter” and Chris “was called about it while out discussing Yahoo pipes and the new Webvison CMS”. Nice.

No doubt the conversation will continue for many scrolls more than the original article. If you can stand the increasingly entrenched points of view, it’s worth a read.

All that from an innocent entry in a web server’s referral logs.

NUJ: Effing blogs

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  1. By Adam posted on February 20, 2009 at 11:27 am
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    I didn’t name the person who received the e-mail. Their Exchange username was there, but I very carefully didn’t extrapolate to who it might actually be. Only someone within the NUJ who knew how their login naming protocol worked could name the user with 100% certainty.

    And, to be honest, humour wasn’t my main intention. My main intention was to point up both how some people associated with the union view blogging journalists, and how their understanding of the technology behind modern publishing is somewhat lacking.

    Reply

  2. By Andy Merrett posted on February 20, 2009 at 12:01 pm
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    Hi Adam,

    Yes, I did think after I’d written it that, actually, humour wasn’t the intent. It’s certainly sparked a lively debate / argument over there! :)

    Reply

  3. By art paintings posted on October 8, 2010 at 1:47 pm
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    That it is “Bloggers rejoice in having lower standards? Well, excuse me! I think this shows just how out of touch Mr Wheal is.”

    Reply

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