Friday, October 22, 2004

Bloody corporate whores.

Honestly, I despair at the times we live in.

This morning was hectic enough as it is, with half of my team at the newsdesk away at conferences or business trips. The rush to publish all our aticles on the site before deadline was even more frantic than usual, if that's possible. And my two biggest stories of the day came in late. That's where the problems began.

The second article, which arrived a good ten minutes after the deadline but which was too important not to put up, was a monster at well over our 1,000-word limit. But the real problem came five minutes later when I got an e-mail from its author asking me to magically "hold" the article while she sent it to one of the company managers for his approval. Why? Because it was about one of our clients having re-jigged their profit numbers (legally) to give the impression that they had earned more than in fact they did. Not really having the time to explain why "hold the front page" doesn't really apply in online journalism, I said fine and began to hack away at it anyway, assuming that the manager in question would only make a couple cosmetic changes that could be quickly incorporated into the piece.

Thirty minutes later... after having completely edited the original version and having missed the chance to include the slug on the daily e-alerts we send out, I finally receive the updated version.

Half of it's been re-written. Not only that, but the new bits do everything possible to soften the blow for the client company, making it seem like it was being unfairly criticised and treated by the markets for trying to put a positive spin on things and for "making the best out of a bad situation." Aaaaargh! I'd like to say that this was the first time this kind of situation has arisen, but it's not, and I'm sick of having to publish this watered-down dross when we could be actually having an impact by telling the truth!

There's so much more I need to say about this, but I don't want to go into too much detail for fear of losing my job. And yes, I am aware that there's more than a tinge of irony about that.

Monday, October 18, 2004


Can I just say how hard it can be sometimes to avoid slipping into Glenda Slagg mode on this blog?!?! Not that I should need to justify my writing style to any of you, but the last thing I want is for my faithful readers (bless you both) to perceive me as some sort of bimbo instead of the witty, perceptive, erudite creature that in fact I am. (!?!??)

But all in all I make no apologies for my last post, because I'm in a rare happy mood, and if I want to be girly and wide-eyed about politics, then I will, so help me god. The Left - dontcha just love it??!

*all loved up*

Eeee! Attended a workshop at the European Social Forum this weekend and it has totally renewed my faith in left-wing political activism! There are always a lot of kids at these lefty-activist gatheings, and fair play to them. But at the meeting I attended, and at the obligatory ensuing pub and restaurant rehash, it was an older crowd, a group of people who came together during their student days in the 1970s and have been working ever since to promote awareness and a voice of active dissent to social repression in a certain Middle Eastern country. Okay fine, so they haven't brought about regime change or anything. But it's the fact that they're genuinely building solidarity and working towards change without trying to further their own personal agendas that I found so refreshing. Maybe it's to do with the fact that these are people who've already established themselves in various fields - they've already got "day jobs" and they're not looking to make names for themselves as political messiahs, they just want to get things done. Go old-timers! The youth these days are going to hell in a handbag anyway. But yes. Working with and within the unions to draw attention to the issue and hopefully make it heard in the mainstream political press. Not fighting amongst themselves, no splitters, no scabs. Just unity and solidarity, and I'm going to stop this right now before it becomes any more bile-inducing.... Sorry. But yes, the Left and I are all loved up again, and in guise of a rose, I'll be writing a feature article profiling the situation. For various reasons, it may be the trickiest piece I've yet had to write.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Union City Blues

I attended my first NUJ meeting last night. I think it's fair to say that it will also be my last.

On a certain level it was exciting; a small group of people are trying to set up a new media branch, and I thought this was going to be their first branch meeting, which is why I went. However, it turns out that they've run into a lot of staunch opposition from both within the NUJ and *ahem* from certain large broadcasting corporations who are afraid that creating a new branch from new media will cull members from the existing branches, causing them to lose standing and presumably imbuing the workers with a newfound sense of solidarity - shock horror!

So the end result is that we have no branch, and because we have no branch we have no funding, and because we have no funding we're unable to organise to anywhere near the level needed. Best of all is the fact that the NUJ website has no section for new media workers! Oh, the irony.

I am a newbie to the world of unions. I joined about 10 months ago and had yet to attend a single meeting until last night, and if I'm honest, the only reason I went was in the hopes of scoring interesting contacts from the likes of Guardian Unlimited. Gi's a job! Yeah right. The meeting was attended by a total of six people, including my boyfriend who isn't a new media worker but who tagged along for support. Bless.

The point is that I now know why hardly anyone goes. I'd been "warned" beforehand that the meetings would be "full of Trots", but that wasn't entirely true at the meeting I attended. What I did find was people who seemed to be much more into active union politics than they were into journalism, which seemed a bit of a shame. But fair play, unions need members like that to keep them going.

What I didn't like was how two-faced the organisers were. If you're going to go on for ages (two bloody hours that I'll never get back) about how you want to recruit new members and proselytise about how most media workers out there don't realise what the union is and what it can do for them, that's fine. But getting so caught up in your own politics often means that you forget about the very people you want to join your cause. I must have sat through a good half hour of what was supposed to be the introductory talk (!) listening to phrases riddled with acronyms of organisations that I had never heard of and nobody bothered to explain.

But that's ok, I thought. The pub will save me.

Nope, don't think so. After the meeting, having spotted one obvious potential organiser among the attendees, the organisers spent the whole time in the pub plotting with him and completely ignoring those of us who were obviously new but were interested to learn more. Ugh. I left after one pint; I'd have more fun watching paint dry.

I did learn one thing from the experience, though: I do not want to be a "new media" worker anymore. Insular, boring people. And they're not journalists!

I have spoken.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Stop acting like you invented the wheel.

Congratulations, you discovered that misogyny runs rampant through the world of left-wing political hacks. Aren't you clever! I bet no one's thought of that before. Because hey, they're left-wing, right? They're supposed to be inclusive, tolerant and the moral champions of just about everyone - even women. But no! No, after a night out boozing with the straggling remains of Hampstead's 'liberal press', you realised that - surprise! - the trappings of sexism are still as depressingly close to the surface of most lefty male journos as they ever were.

The above is directed at my (male) flatmate, an assistant editor who came back from said piss-up last night all in a tizzy over a certain other magazine's news editor commenting on how the only reason a particular article was commissioned for my flatmate's mag was because it was PC to publish something written by someone young, female, pretty and Asian.

While obviously a stupid, ignorant remark (the article was actually written by somebody intelligent, well-informed and eloquent, not that I should even need to justify his comments) made by an unimaginative, overgrown child (who I sincerely hope is not reading this!), what really got me was my flatmate's surprise at his words. Not only his surprise, but the attitude that he had just exposed some long-hidden miscarriage of justice that he was going to make sure was rectified at every opportunity from here on in. Please.

It doesn't take much to realise that women journalists are still treated as second-class citizens across large sections of the British political press. It's actively, almost unconciously made harder for us to break into that sphere. A fabulous article was writen about the situation in the inaugural issue of the Independent's Media Weekly supplement. Unfortunately I can't provide a link to it because the Indy wants you to pay them to access their online content. All I can say is that it was written by Harriet Harman, was called Why the Lobby Needs Women, and was like breath of fresh air to someone like me, who is getting rather tired of being treated as a backdrop/tea-lady/sounding board.

After having watched the political print hack both in his natural habitat and with other members of the species, I'm left with only two words to explain the situation: Boys' Club. And nowhere more so than the left wing, which is riven by an impenetrable degree of factionalism. Most of us would agree that spending time down the pub makes up a fair amount of the average journalist's week. It's where contacts are made, secrets divulged, etc. But from what I've witnessed, it's usually only a short leap from there to drunken tales of poo, vomit and 'bum sex', and all the other sordid topics that boys seem get off on sharing. And the last thing they want is for us women to be around when all of this is going on, because (a) they'd have no chance of scoring with us and (b) their sad geekiness would be exposed to the world at large. Because let's face it, political hacks are, almost to a man, geeks.

And what if our roles were reversed? What if it was mostly women journalists who sat around the corner table at the Winchester, holding court and smoking fags? How would the men take it? Simple. They'd be BORED. Not only that, they'd feel as if they couldn't be themselves, couldn't possibly be real men with all those women around. And from there it wouldn't be long before the old cries of emasculation would be sounded. Same old same old.

In other words, what's unacceptable for women now would be just as unacceptable for men if we swapped places. And while not every male hack is going to agree, a little more inclusiveness and progressive thinking would be very welcome right about now.

So why the sarcastic rant at the start of this post? Why am I bitching at a male journalist who has actually recognised and is appalled by the problem of sexism in media circles? Because I know that he won't do anything to change it. He can recognise the facts staring him in the face all he wants, but despite his good intentions, he (and others like him) is too enthralled by the grubby glamour of the London Media Left bon viveur world to want to see it changed. So that's that. To you, flatmate, I say this: If you ain't part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Booyah!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


...or so it seems, anyway. Paul Anderson puts it pretty well in his latest online rant, which you can and should read here (11 October entry). I don't know if this marks me down as being naive or foreign or both, but I'm amazed at how many high-level social activist events seem to get taken over by a cavalcade of far-left groups intent only on boosting their own membership. Grassroots politics in England seems to be suffering from a level of People's Front of Judea syndrome that you just don't see on the other side of the pond.

Not that a two-party, BushnKerry-style system is any better, by any means. Of course people should put forward their own opinions and try to mobilise for change. But *rant* I'm getting increasingly annoyed that once these groups have sunk their hooks into a media-monster event like the European Social Forum or the Stop the War march, not only does the mainstream momentum to push for change and government accountability get lost (StW), but the organisation goes completely down the pan (ESF)! Bloody incompetence! What's the point of having a social forum if people have nowhere to stay while in the city, and journalists can't get in because the press office is manned by a staff of two (or so it seems)?! Why does the left always seem so incapable of organising anything bigger than a barbecue? */rant* I know these aren't ground-breaking thoughts... But ugh!

I'll be covering one ESF workshop on Saturday, freelancing. Only found out for sure that I was doing it on Sunday, and I sent off for my press accreditation yesterday, so it's looking a bit iffy whether I'll get in at all. Even real journalists - well, the ones that I know - are finding it impossible to get press passes. So who knows, crampons and wall-scaling gear might be in order.