The National Union of Journalists is an inclusive union which is devoted to fairly representing a vast range of professionals working in various media divisions including; photographers, broadcasters, critics and many more. It was founded in 1907 and is currently one of the biggest journalists’ unions in the world; they describe themselves as “the voice for journalists and journalism”. On Wednesday the 23rd of April, Dominic Bascombe, an assistant organiser for the NUJ in Glasgow, came to Stirling to promote the work of the NUJ and publicize the benefits of becoming a member not only for journalists working in recognised media bodies but freelancers and student journalists as well.
Dominic Bascombe outlined specific advantages for student journalists; this could include members of Brig newspaper, students studying journalism as well as active bloggers and citizen journalists. Being a member of the union entitles you to fair representation if your work was ever to come under scrutiny, members are also issued with a press card which is formally recognised by all police forces in the UK and in effect by other public organizations, this makes it an important working tool for all journalists in the UK. As a student member it cost £25 to join and these members will receive a discounted membership fee if they choice to re-join as a professional working journalist after university.
Along with Dominic Bascombe, Nick McGowan; a former member of Stirling University and writer for Brig newspaper, came along to share his experience being a member of the NUJ as well as working alongside them as a volunteer. He shared colourful anecdotes of his early photography career were he encountered pressure from print editors to create a story around an important public figure, Prince William after his 21st birthday when the media was released of privacy conditions which prohibited them from reporting on the Prince. The print editors for the paper he was affiliated with at the time were fixed on uncovering a scandal surrounding Prince William as they were certain it would sell papers rather than reporting on news and events that had happened but may be less ‘juicy’. The NUJ as an independent body can protect journalists from succumbing to such pressures when their ethics are being called into question by giving them legal representation against malpractice.
Students who attended found the talks extremely interesting, valuable and engaging. Thomas Wadsworth, an English and Journalism student, commented on the value of Nick’s first-hand experiences being recounted:
“I feel like that is always a valuable thing; to hear from someone with first-hand experience is extremely useful.” Thomas also found the fact that students can join the NUJ interesting, adding “it is a fantastic opportunity for everyone who’s interested. You can certainly learn a lot from it”.
The students who attended the talk included many studying Ethical Issues in Journalism, so the talk was extremely relevant to their course. Martin Hart agrees: “We’re learning about ethics, and the NUJ is the best example of a professional body who strive to uphold the ethical side of the media”.
Dominic stated how hopeful he was for the relevance of the talk, saying how the NUJ hoped the discussion was “informative for you all. We really want students and student members to recognise that the NUJ was the only organisation to represent actual journalists’ views at Leveson.”
When asked about his visit to the university, Dominic replied: “I enjoy visiting Stirling uni. I’ve been up [here] twice to speak with students. The numbers in attendance can be mixed, but was very pleased to have had over sixty students at the talk.”
He also added: “Hopefully [it] will inspire many more to join the union as you develop your journalism careers and become active members of the union.”
The talk by both Dominic and Nick was engaging and I believe they represented the NUJ in a very pleasing light. It gave encouragement to current and future journalists that there is an upstanding body to protect journalists working in a stressful work force. The NUJ is not only there to pick up the pieces after journalists feel pressurised to act un-ethically but it also outlines specific ethical practices which it expects its members to follow and abide by as well as offering journalists advice and consult when they need. For more information check out their website: http://www.nuj.org.uk/home/