NUJ: “effing blogs”

One of the things I love about blogging, and digital journalism generally, is that you get a much clearer picture of who is reading your work, and how they get to your site.

For instance this was in my referrer logs in my analytics package:
Thumbnail image for effing blogs
So, the “/exchange/” and the “.EML” extension indicates that the person came from an e-mail on an Exchange server account, and that the subject line was “effing blogs”.
Lets do a quick reverse DNS lookup on shall we?
Thumbnail image for reversedna.png
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 wonder who LindaK is, and if she enjoyed the post?
  • Clever clogs!

  • I disagreed with something I heard on the radio this morning.

    Effing radios.

  • Amend previous headline to “NUJ doesn’t get any aspect of the web” – you’re always on the record online…

  • zamiel

    To be completely fair, I’ve been known to follow Subjects of “Effin Blanks” with “They’re onto us!” Just to be completely fair.

    Ah, who’m I kidding? 😛

  • Great post – it’s nice when you catch people out.

  • Let me reiterate a principle of journalism: You contact the subject of a story and put the allegations to them before you publish.

    Had you done so – contacted the NUJ or me, as you know I chair the Professional Training Committee – 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.

    Linda King, who runs training at the NUJ came to your website because, exasperated at the ill-researched, inaccurate and unfounded allegations made against the NUJ’s training department – one of the most progressive parts of the NUJ – I emailed the whole of the committee at 22.48pm, just before I went to bed (I start work at 6am), urging them all to look at this and another blog.

    A fellow committee member did respond as a result (Chris Frost), so all in all it was a successful email and you got more comments.

    Surely that was what you wanted?

    Unfortunately, your posting this has started in internal witch-hunt against Linda, because it appears she has been rude to a member.

    Linda is entirely innocent of any wrong-doing. It will be cleared up, because all she did was as I requested to look at your site.

    But please consider the implications of your actions in future and follow basic journalistic standards and ethics before pressing the “publish” button.

    Is that too much to ask of a journalist?

  • I just responded but it seems to have vanished.

  • Adam Tinworth

    I’m on the road at the moment, and will respond more later. However, I have Twittered a link to your comment just as I did the original post.

  • Chris, I’d much rather you engaged with journalists and tried to raise their standards. I mean, 13 year old dads? School children photographed provocatively having been called “sluts”? Constant misinformation about MMR?

    Firstly, this is a blog not a national newspaper, and one thing bloggers do is talk about what they observe. We, and the majority of readers, know that. 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.

    If you want to engage in a conversation, then please do so firstly with some civility, and secondly, please put some effort into trying to comprehend what blogging is. Try to understand how the internet exposes certain types of action, and how that can be viewed from outside. Try to get just a little bit savvy about technology and what using it means.

    Every time I come across an NUJ representative, I see anger, aggression, and an almost wilful ignorance. If you want your union (it was my union for a whole year, but never again) to remain relevant, take a little bit of time to self-reflect, then come and engage politely with the people who know what you need to learn.

    There are plenty of us that work on social media for a living – I’ve been a social media consultant for five years – who can help you understand all this stuff and what it means. But you have to be willing to get off your high horse, give bloggers, geeks and techies some respect, and be open to learning.

    Don’t witch-hunt LindaK. Get some tech training for all your people so they don’t make mistakes like this again. And, more to the point, get Linda to come here herself and engage in conversation with us bloggers. We’re actually quite nice people if you talk to us politely, you know.

  • Just to be clear, the Exchange information shows that Linda was the recipient of the email – she can’t be held responsible for the subject line in an email sent from someone else.

    I don’t think journalists are the problem – I think newspapers are. If you have to fill 50* pages every day – quality will suffer.
    When you’re being financially hammered by free sheets which soley report on which “sleb” is shagging their way through a football team**, it must be very tempting to follow suit.

    As a former member of the NUJ***, it doesn’t surprise me that there is some internal resistance to “new” media. The Internet provides a challenge to every “traditional” industry – banking, journalism, record labels – and it’s very tempting to stick one’s head in the sand or try and kill off the new kid.

    It’ll all work out eventually. I imagine that the telex operators sent the same snide comments about the fax machine, and lamplighters about Edison.

    *I don’t know, haven’t bought a paper in years
    **Mind you, plenty of blogs also do this.
    ***Student branch. Many years ago.

  • 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.

    We cannot pretend to influence all the bloggers but we would like to see journalists who blog upholding higher standards.

    The story that stated this thread was aimed at the wrong person. I used the term “effing bloggers” and that could have easily been found out. It has caused distress to an innocent member of staff, which could have been avoided is the most rudimentary of checks had been made.

    The fact that the NUJ picked this up on Twitter and I was called about it while out discussing Yahoo pipes and the new Webvison CMS, would suggest that the NUJ is not as out of touch as people suggest.

    I imagine you see anger and aggression in this response too.

    Have a look in the mirror.

  • NickiR

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

    Wow. Words fail me.

  • Heidi Foster

    Chris, if this were an infomercial for the NUJ, you’d be full of fail. I don’t believe Adam’s post was all about LindaK – any witch hunt as you have put it seems to be a wholly internal NUJ fueled thing, from reading (a very basic journalistic approach – reading !!) a blog post incorrectly.

    No-one needs imagination to see not only anger and aggression in your responses, but also arrogance and an exceptionally blinkered viewpoint.

    The NUJ have been caught treating the web as they have always done, with disrespect – and fear. I am a member of the NUJ, and have been for a number of years, since they begrudgingly allowed “new media” into their ranks.

    Time to stop banging rocks and evolve.

  • Chris, you’re sounding very aggressive again, and it’s not really helping that you’re making some very broad assumptions, some of which are rather flawed.

    Journalistic standards should apply to journalistic endeavours across all media, I totally agree. Where I think things get a little difficult is saying that a journalist’s blog is an journalistic endeavour. And I’m not saying you’re out of touch, but you need to understand what blogs really are, rather than just run with your assumptions. As with newspapers and news sites, blogs can break news, publish opinion, explore observations – don’t confuse the tool with the content.

    But the lines between what is journalism and what is not journalism is, however, very fuzzy. Some blogs are journalism. Some blogs are not. Applying your logic, no observations should ever be published by anyone, but that would probably wipe out a good 80% of all journalism, if not more.

    Adam has some of the highest standards I’ve ever come across – he is open, honest, genuine, and willing to put his hand up when he has made an error. And by blogging his observations publicly he gives you, and anyone else in the NUJ, ample opportunity to discuss them. How do you construe this as having lower standards?

    Adam’s making a point – and it’s a fair point – about the general terms with which blogs and bloggers are discussed within the NUJ. “Effing blogs” is not a positive phrase.

    But we have to discuss these things out in the open, where anyone can read and contribute do the conversation, because that’s how we widen the debate and bring in different points of view.

    I am astounded that you say that “bloggers themselves rejoice in having lower standards”. That is utterly incorrect and shows yet again the contempt with which you hold bloggers. How can you keep telling bloggers to ‘come and engage with the NUJ’ when the only things you say are rude, dismissive and contemptuous? Do you really think that your tone is one of encouragement?

    Who, exactly, caused distress to an innocent member of staff? Adam didn’t accuse her of anything, just wondered if she’d enjoyed his blog post. Terence rightly points out that it wasn’t LindaK’s term – she was the recipient, not the sender, so the NUJ’s witch hunt is doubly wrong. (And I should have spotted that myself, so apologies if I implied LindaK was in the wrong – she clearly wasn’t.) But if people are accusing Linda of attacking a member, then that’s because they misunderstand what Adam has posted. You can’t lay the blame for that as his feed.

    Finally: “I imagine you see anger and aggression in this response too.”

    Oh dear.

    Yes, Chris, I’m afraid I can see a lot of anger and aggression in your response, and clearly you can too else you wouldn’t have said that. Maybe it might be an idea, when writing your next comment, to try to step back, re-read it, and remove some of the angrier and more aggressive phrasings. There are many ways you can talk to others – why not try a friendly tone next time instead?

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

    Sweet Lord. Regardless of the other posts and comments, this particular comment is utterly without merit or any comprehension of online publishing.

    Anyone can use online monitoring of keywords, Twitter, Yahoo Pipes etc. They’re just tools.

    But dismissing 133 million+ publications ranging from individuals to the Huffington Post, Techcrunch etc in one comment makes me think there are problems that need solving before even thinking about using social networks.

  • 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.

    It sounds incredibly out of touch, velocirapor christopherwhealus.

    Blogging is not, in itself, journalism, and therefore, journalistic standards can not be applied to it. You don’t need a qualification to blog, and therefore anyone (not just opinion columnists paid obscene salaries by the big media companies) can have their say.

    True, if a blog claims to be a newspaper, or a news source (e.g. the HuffPost) then journalistic standards should apply—but they have to be self-regulated. The thought of there being any regulation on blogging undermines the concept of the Worldwide Web, and makes me shudder.

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

    Whoah there.

    I think you’re going to be surprised very soon, when several non-Journo bloggers break a very big political story in a few days.

  • Great stuff Adam – this is the perfect blog post.

    Found some interesting info and put it out there.

    The NUJ clearly feels it should have had its right to reply BEFORE you published.

    What it has failed to realise is that the right to reply in blogs is built-in. It’s called the comment box. And they wasted it.

    A clear explanation of what happened would have done…

  • Sorry – forgot to subscribe to the entry.

    It helps me keep track of ‘the conversation’ (not ‘the story’ NUJ) you see? 🙂

  • Lol – Chris, if this were an infomercial for the NUJ, you’d be full of fail.

    Am tempted to submit this exchange to the Failblog under “NUJ Engagement Fail”.

  • John S

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

    At a time when journalistic standards are very much in the public eye, this is a silly thing for a NUJ official to say. That the union fails to police standards in the tabloid media is evident. I am sure that the reasons for this are legion.

    That the NUJ fails to encourage higher standards in blogs is almost certainly related to the fact that senior NUJ officials believe that bloggers rejoice in low standards. To this outside observer, that would seem, at best, to be a very convenient excuse for doing nothing. After all, if the bloggers wish to revel in lower standards, then there is little that the union could do to change that, is there?

    I’m not a member of your union. I’m not even a journalist. I am an occasional blogger, and I am extremely surprised at the level of contempt towards blogs and their writers as displayed in your attitude, Mr Wheal. Perhaps it might be more constructive (and isn’t that what you have appealed to others to offer) if you were to acknowledge that the poor quality of blogs (perceived or actual) is down to more than just a wilful desire to churn out poor content.

    Either way, I’d hazard that you are winning few friends within online communities with your current attitude.

  • So the NUJ doesn’t employ a single soul who can figure out that Linda didn’t write the email in question?

    Not encouraging.

    The referrer link suggests merely that she read the message in question. Leave the woman alone.

    (Where’s Mike Holderness when they need him? Perhaps Chris Wheal could ask him for a little training course of his own.)

  • Well, this is quite interesting.

    I do read papers regularly, though I have not bought one in more than two years. I was put off by the generally dreadful quality of reporting, and the lack of direct-to-reader accountability. When I started fact-checking published articles by searching on line I knew it was time to just stop buying.

    You see, Chris, the thing about bloggers is not that they ‘rejoice in lower standards’ but they [we] have a completely different set of standards. Bloggers know that when they post a story or opinion that they will have to argue their case against an unknowable number of people. Some will want to agree, some to argue and correct. It is more often the case that a blogger will be writing more or less unedited stream of thought based on known facts or theories, and readers appreciate this. It gets a discussion going, in which – somewhat cheerfully – pretty much everyone will learn something.

    It seems you are suggesting that bloggers are just not worth your time. If that is the case then please do return to your rapidly collapsing market and leave the ‘amateurs’ to get on with their babbling. Or, alternatively, you could start paying a little more attention before alienating yet more people from both your profession and linked publications.

  • A truly wonderful post and comment exchange.
    It’s bad enough how the NUJ fails to understand the nature of the new journalism. But what is really sad is the idea that the NUJ thinks it knows what ‘standards’ are and that it has any role in ‘improving’ them.

  • Please hum the Hovis advert theme as you read this, because I am so, so, so old.

    When I were a lad and worked at Reed more than 20 years ago, the kind the inaccuracies in this blog would never have been accepted.

    People were sacked for less.

    Adam – do you have higher standards for the blogs you do for work or do you encourage work blogging and the comments to be this poor too?

    This argument summed up the differences of opinion perfectly:
    “the thing about bloggers is not that they ‘rejoice in lower standards’ but they [we] have a completely different set of standards. Bloggers know that when they post a story or opinion that they will have to argue their case against an unknowable number of people. Some will want to agree, some to argue and correct.”

    You can call them different standards but we all know which of those different standards is the highest and which requires the most work.

  • So, Chris, which inaccuracies? You keep banging on about them. Can you list them?

  • Trip Baker

    OMG! I’ve stopped laughing and now I’m cringing.

    Are we sure that this really is Chris Wheal posting. The real Chris teaches “Writing for the Web” and has “Public Relations Adviser” listed on his CV. This unwarranted belligerence and willful ignorance surely has to be a troll?!

  • Chris (if I may), I’m an NUJ-trained journalist and former trade magazine editor.

    The online environment demands a completely different approach, which you clearly view as lazy, unprofessional and devoid of standards.

    But, every generation thinks that of the generations that follow. Getting angry about it I guess is just one of the stages of grief that ends in acceptance. But, until you get there, you really should leave others to represent the NUJ in places like this. You’re currently doing it a large disservice.

  • Karl

    Whealie – good to see that you still like a good argument. But you’re wrong on this one, mate.
    Not all blogs are journalism, but some of the best journalism today is to be found on blogs.
    Our profession is going through its biggest change since the invention of the printing press. And while most of the principles remain the same as they were pre-Web, the way we apply them is often completely different online. So you can’t just take the old rules and apply them blindly.
    For example, two enduring principles of good journalism are accuracy and fairness. In the print world, applying these principles means doing lots of things before we publish a word (such as exhaustive fact-checking and actively seeking alternative viewpoints). That’s because once something is printed it stays printed exactly as it came off the presses, with no easy way to correct errors or add nuance and no opportunity for other voices to be heard.
    On the Web, because the medium is real-time and interactive, the process of journalism can be carried out in public, with information shared and discussed throughout rather than only at the end of the process. When it’s done well, the principles of accuracy and fairness are better met than in print, as far more pairs of eyes get to see and check what is written, and alternative viewpoints get heard directly, not filtered through the notebook of the journalist and the pencil of the sub.
    The big mistake that many journalists still make is to fail to distinguish between the principles (which still apply) and the rules we have learnt in order to apply these principles in print (which often no longer apply).

  • I’m a journalist, and a blogger, and journalist-blogger, and just about any rearrangement or tweaking of those two terms you care to think of. I’m not a member of the NUJ right now, which so far has been largely as a result of apathy rather than any anti-NUJ feeling (I’m entirely pro-union in general). But, hoo boy, are you doing a good job of changing that, Chris.

    I think you maybe should to make it clear some time soon that you’re not speaking for the union here, because your tone and attitude and general aggressive ignorance is reflecting pretty badly on the organisation you apparently represent – and up to this point, it’s really not clear if what you’re saying is the NUJ’s official line. It’s unfortunately plausible that, in fact, it is.

    Your repeated insinuation that Adam made an accusation which he plainly didn’t is bad enough. But the sheer chutzpah with which you then assert that “bloggers themselves rejoice in having lower standards” is, frankly, weird. Which bloggers? Compared to which journalists? For just one counter-example, look at the work that the loose coalition of ‘bad science’ bloggers does – not just fact-checking and correcting the mainstream press, but breaking stories the papers never bothered to investigate in the first place. Rejoicing in lower standards? They’re begging, pleading with newspapers to raise themselves to their level. And doing it all with open comment threads, which they actually read and respond to.

    I work for the mainstreamiest of mainstream press, and I’m not ashamed of it. There’s room for many approaches to news gathering, dissemination, and analysis in this world – frankly, the more and the more varied, the better. But bloody hell, I hope that the attitude you’ve demonstrated in this thread isn’t going to be one of them. I’m really, really sure you’re a much better bloke than you’ve come across as so far – so please, take a step back, realise that lots of people here really want to be on your side (no, seriously, they really do) and stop being so dismissive and… you know, gittish.

  • Curse you Tom for getting in a full five minutes ahead of me and typing roughly what I wanted to say.

    Chris, reading this thread is really really depressing. Like Tom, I never joined the NUJ, largely because I never got round to it. Reading what you’ve written is really unlikely to change that any time soon.

    There are a lot of journalist bloggers and bloggers who are journalists and journalists who are bloggers and the like. Some of whom may be members, some of whom may not. But, if they’re working in an online medium, they’ll be crying out for their union to help them and their offline colleagues ride out this transition into a digital world. Instead they get your words that bloggers rejoice in lower standards.

    I’m sure all journalist-bloggers out there would be delighted to hear that.

    I’d also like to echo Suw’s call. You’ve kept repeating the charge that Adam’s published inaccuracies on here. Care to share exactly what you think they are?

    You also seem to be confusing this – Adam’s personal blog – with anything he blogs in a work capacity. If you read his ‘about’ section you’ll see that this isn’t a work blog (although it doesn’t make the opinions ay less valid).

    And the comments… most of them disagree with you. Is that why they’re of poor quality in your opinion?

    I don’t think you’d find a single commentator on here that wouldn’t like higher standards in journalism across the board. Those publications that have blogs (and, in one fell swoop, you seem to have condemned all who blog, be it for Reed, The Guardian, the Telegraph or for an online-only publication) and blogs that aspire (or are already on a par with) to these journalistic standards probably work to quite a high level. It’s much easier to call out errors on a blog than it is in print or broadcast. It’s why comments are so great.

    When you post what you’ve done on here, you’re damaging the NUJ as a whole. You may not be speaking their official line but many will see it as such. Any young digital journalist-cum-blogging who has read your comments would be completely put off by joining.

    The NUJ can have a great part to play in journalism’s future. Please give it that chance to do so rather than attack people who genuinely want to help journalism move forward.

  • Bronagh

    Chris Wheal’s bluster about journalistic standards in blogs is an exercise in distraction. It is hard to believe he doesn’t realise that many journalists now contribute to blogs in the course of their work just as many in the past have written columns or leaders – opinion is part of many of our jobs.
    The distraction is from what the “effing blogs” email header really says about how at least one person thinks in the NUJ hierarchy. It suggests that there is an attitude that blogs are either an irrititant or that they are in some way less valid than other ways of expressing an opinion. If Adam’s original post about how the NUJ responded to another blog post about training for the digital age had been a column or a letter in Press Gazette, would it have been seen as a more valid expression of views?
    Of course it all could mean what some of other comments here have suggested, that the NUJ either doesn’t want to or is ill-equiped to deal with the challenges presented by the rapid change in how many of us deliver information to our audiences. This furore may be providing a smokescreen for that issue and I wish we would here some more constructive comment from Chris and his colleagues really engaging in how the NUJ will support members through the necessary changes in how we serve our “readership”. By that I mean more than coming in for conversations with individuals but some sort of wider vision on the NUJ’s role in getting from traditional print structures to journalists of all sorts being equipped for the world they now or soon will inhabit.

  • Very well put Karl.

  • If anyone’s actually interested in the NUJ’s policy, rather than deciding that one member represents everyone, the “Shaping the Future” report by the union’s Multi-media Commission is the latest detailed position paper – . We’re currently working on an update.

  • Or even.. Clever Logs!

  • I saw this today Adam – interesting, I’d written a piece a day after you wrote this about how the “proper” journalists didn’t have the bottle to really go after the financial calamity emerging over the last few years, and Allen Stanton recently – but the bloggers did. In terms of getting the information, in this case its a slamdunk – blogging got there.

    Yes its like broadside ballads / gutter press / whatever in some cases, point is it gets the information into the open.

    (My piece here fwiw,-Bloggers-and-Journalists-Balls..html )

  • Karl,

    I understand that you can do the journalism in public – post the start of a story and build the reaction from there.

    But the initial story must comply with a bare minimum of requirements.

    Before you run a story about a corrupt company, you cannot even send an email round to your contacts (let along blog or tweet) asking if anyone can confirm the company is corrupt because that email in itself is libellous.

    Before saying any such thing you would have to put the allegation – even if you witheld your evidence -to the accused.

    In the original blog that sparked this row, the author said ” a look at the NUJ training site reveals that the new skills agenda is not being pushed”.

    I felt that was incorrect. I resonded:

    your analysis of our training provision confused me.

    The courses listed include:

    Dreamweaver Introduction
    Internet Research
    On-line Publishing
    Podcasting for Print Journalists
    Setting up a Blog
    Video Blogging for Print Journalists
    Writing for the Web

    We will be adding to those shortly.

    When you say “Right now the job of the union should be to help members upskill for digital publishing” tell us what courses you think we currently don’t but should offer, the content and expected learning outcomes. ”

    I also pointed out that we worked in partnership with a number of employers, citing an example in the relevant (magazine) sector.

    To be fair to the original poster, I think he took those comments on board.

    This section stared with a post that ended:” I wonder who LindaK is, and if she enjoyed the post?”

    A 30 second search of the NUJ website would have found the answer

    And I had already posted saying I chaired the NUJ’s professional training committee so the author had my email address and a web search would have provided my home and mobile numbers.

    The lack of research was negligent – and damaging. It was another example of unacceptable journalistic standards that you would not accept at work (the wrong person was accused of using the term)

    I am sorry if bloggers are such delicate petals that they, in the words of corporal Jones, don’t like it up ’em, but I am a bit fruity in my language when it come to all factions within the NUJ, so effing bloggers was, by comparison, pretty endearing.

    You know Karl, that I don’t “represent” the NUJ as some people has suggested. The NUJ staff are meant to represent the members and that is a pretty tough job because we all disagree on nearly everything. And I am not paid by the NUJ, just a member.

    I am just one voice within it – often a lone voice.

    But nothing anyone has said has convinced me we should accept lower standards of accuracy an ethics for journalists writing blogs.

  • Chris:

    If Suw had walked past the NUJ offices, seen a brass plaque stating ‘effing new media’, photographed it, and published it without first getting someone from NUJ to comment, that wouldn’t negate the fact that there was a brass plague saying ‘effing new media’ within public view on the NUJ doorway. That fact is noteworthy and publishable.

    You lecturing Suw that she shouldn’t have published a publicly accessible fact about NUJ without first getting comment from NUJ is akin to flak telling a reporter that a publicly accessible fact about a company something shouldn’t have been published without the company first having commented.

    Anyone — blogger, NUJ,, etcetera — can check their Web logs and see where traffic is coming from online. In this case, it was coming from ‘effing blogs’ at NUJ, something anyone in the public can look up and see, a public fact worth publishing whether or not NUJ gets to comment on it beforehand.

  • Just had a look at the NUJ’s December 2007 multi-media policy. It looks to me as though Chris Wheal’s comments and his email subject line are, sadly, representative of the union after all.

    The policy says:

    Chapels fighting against the overloading of journalists’ work or against the direct uploading to the web of unedited material should be backed forcefully on the grounds of defending professional standards


    All reporters’ copy must be subbed and checked by qualified journalists before posting onto websites

    This is so wrong in so many ways, I hardly know where to start. But I’ll give it a go anyway.

    First, let’s take the fact that the NUJ is officially opposed to “the direct uploading to the web of unedited material” by journalists because it undermines “professional standards”. This is tantamount to saying that the NUJ is opposed to journalists participating in cyberspace on equal terms with everyone else. As a rallying call to journalists in the digital age it is beyond hopeless. If journalism has a future it will involve getting online and engaging with communities of readers – in a direct, unmediated and, yes, unedited way. (It will involve other things too, but that’s beside the point here.)

    Second, the NUJ’s policy appears to be symptomatic of a bigger problem. It suggests that the union does not understand that the old media landscape has been blown apart by communications technologies that are transforming the ways that media of all kinds are produced and consumed, and that have thrown the traditional business models underpinning the media into crisis. It may not be possible to predict the future, but one thing’s for sure: there’s no going back to the by-gone age of traditional print journalism and broadcasting, where every word and every script was read, edited, checked and re-checked by an army of subs before publication or broadcast.

    If Chris’s comments and this policy document are anything the go by, it would appear that the level of debate and understanding within the NUJ of where the media is heading, and the implications for journalism, are way beneath the level of events. I say this with sadness rather than from a hostile position as I’ve been a member of the NUJ for 18 years without a break. But frankly it’s almost getting to the point where I’m embarrassed to admit it.

  • Adam Tinworth

    But nothing anyone has said has convinced me we should accept lower standards of accuracy an ethics for journalists writing blogs.

    Probably because no-one is arguing that. Everyone is arguing for different standards. I have (given that this is my blog, hosted on a server I pay for) published many hundreds of words from you in response to my post – far more than I’ve written myself. That’s a radically different environment in terms of people’s ability to respond to things written about them. And that’s not even taking to account how you could use your own blog – or Twitter account – to respond.

    I doubt any print editor in history would have granted that ratio of original article to response.

    Fundamentally, “different” and “lower” are distinct words. Your insistence on reading the former as the latter reeks of the prejudice that was the point of my original post.



    You said “I used the term “effing bloggers” and that could have easily been found out. It has caused distress to an innocent member of staff, which could have been avoided is the most rudimentary of checks had been made.”

    So, you used the term in what you thought was a private context, but it wasn’t. You then shift the blame from yourself to Adam. Wonderful case of buck-passing.

  • Bronagh

    Thanks to Donnacha DeLong for posting the link to the NUJ briefing from 2007. But the report, as many of us have, struggles with fitting new media into old structures. I hope the updated report helps frame the vision of what journalism teams will look like going forward.

  • Two quick points.

    1 @chris If you’re a commenting on an article outside of a professional capacity, you ought to make that clear.
    The website you link to as yours – – and everything you’ve said, makes it look like you do speak for the NUJ.
    My employer (for whom I am not speaking!) has a very clear blogging policy which covers how you should and should not conduct yourself online.
    Think of it like declaring an interest in Parliament – or in a paper saying “Company X is owned by our parent company”. It avoids any suggestion of a conflict of interest or making people think you’re an official spokesman.
    Perhaps this is an area which the NUJ could improve their training?

    2 @David Shepherd – I disagree with you and – to a certain extent – agree with Chris & the NUJ comments. Subbing is important. Bloggers & Journalists cannot and should not be experts in every field. Many blogs would be improved if they were given the once over by a friend or editor to check for legal, grammatical or factual errors.
    Blogs often fall somewhere between OpEd & “proper” journalism. I don’t think anyone is suggesting the restriction of what people post, just that it is checked before publishing.

    It’s a brave new world and we’re all making the rules – and making new mistakes – as we go along.

    (These views are my own.)

  • Donnacha, you can’t really expect us to fall for your line that Chris doesn’t represent the NUJ. OK, so the NUJ’s made up of members, but that doesn’t lessen the fact that Chris put himself forward as the chair of the Professional Training Committee and therefore as a representative of the union.

    I find it astonishing that an NUJ representative would come on to a member’s blog and attempt to bully them, and throw about accusations about their journalistic integrity and to imply that they should be fired. How else would one interpret “When I were a lad and worked at Reed more than 20 years ago, the kind the inaccuracies in this blog would never have been accepted. People were sacked for less.”

    I cannot think of a single client of mine who would ever allow a member of their staff to behave in such a way. Indeed, Chris has done pretty much everything that I advise clients not to.

    Which leads me to ask, has the NUJ ever taken advice from a third party social media/web 2.0 specialist? The NUJ’s general cluelessness about how to engage with people via blog comments, and their lack of understanding of the Web 2.0 environment, as evidenced by your publicly available material and the comments here, lead me to think that you’re failing to properly assess and learn to understand the dynamics of this new medium. (Please don’t tell me it’s the same – it’s not. I assume you wouldn’t put together a policy for journalists going to China without fully understanding the culture there, and the web needs similar thoughtfulness and care.)

    Bronagh is, though, totally correct that standards are just a straw man. The real problem here is that the NUJ clearly doesn’t understand how to interact with people online (a fact that’s self evident from this exchange), doesn’t really understand social media (as shown by their bluster about standards), and doesn’t really care (as shown by their aggression and arrogance).

    The entire news industry is in a pinch right now. How, exactly, are these attitudes helping? Or is the NUJ more a part of a problem than the solution?

  • Terence, I see where you’re coming from about subbing. Yes, subbing in a journalistic context is important, but there is a trade off when it comes to journalistic blogs. Most experienced bloggers already know that if they are unsure about something, they get a colleague to give it the once over.

    But instituting a formal subbing process for blogs would damage the very thing that makes blogs valuable – their timeliness. It is incumbent upon the blogger to be as accurate as possible, and to admit when they have made mistakes. Yes, I know some bloggers don’t do that, but the majority do and they do it transparently and label it as an update. Updates are important not just for correcting mistakes, but also for tracking stories that are emerging and changing over time.

    As soon as you try to shoehorn blogs into a formal subbing process, all that timeliness and flexibility goes out the window, and frankly then you may as well not bother to have a blog. This is not arguing that lower standards are acceptable for blogs, but that different standards and methodologies are essential to take account of the nature of blogs. If anything, news outlets should be more careful of who they pick to be bloggers, and choose only the more responsible, transparent and skilled writers.

    However, all of that is totally by the by when it comes to personal blogs. Of course bloggers with jobs shouldn’t write daft things, but this blog is not a journalistic endeavour, it’s a personal blog. In this context subbing is irrelevant.

    Finally, it’s important not to conflate the tool and the content. There are lots of blogs that aren’t anywhere near being OpEd, such as or Even Peston isn’t OpEd, that’s analysis.

    The thing that unites bloggers is the culture, not the content.

  • @Terence Actually I don’t think we disagree. I didn’t say that journalists should always publish everything online without subbing. My point is that the NUJ’s policy says that journalists should never “upload” anything to the web that hasn’t been edited. My point is that this fundamentalist position is untenable because it means that journalists cannot take a full part in cyberspace. Or are we going to divert all our blog and forum posts, comments, tweets etc via the subs desk?

  • @Chris Wheal. How would this have worked on paper? As a journalist don’t you find it fantastic that people are having a debate here? You’re engaging with the readers in a way that is so much more powerful than the letters page on any paper you’ve ever worked on.

    FWIW I think that the NUJ should be embracing blogging.Perhaps the NUJ should concentrate on salaried bloggers, I don’t know. I do know that I’ve been a member since 1989 and I’ve never felt less like I belong than I do now. By taking this line on blogs, the NUJ is missing a huge and important trick.

  • Classic, absolute classic!

  • Long thought that if the NUJ wanted to support journalists of the future it should look at offering an advertising service – act as an independent bridge between businesses and journalists.

    Especially as many journos are likely to have to go solo or have a wide variety of income streams in the coming years.


    One very interesting aspect of this story is Chris Wheal’s admission that the NUJ has started an “internal witch hunt” against Linda King. From the way he describes this, I get the impression that witch hunts are acceptable practice at NUJ headquarters; this one was only inappropriate because somebody didn’t get their facts straight.

    Somebody who read Adam’s original post seems to have embellished “I wonder who LindaK is, and if she enjoyed the post?” into the unwarranted accustation that “she”(Linda King) “had been rude to a member”. That’s a pretty basic mistake. I’d suggest whoever made it isn’t competent to be the editor of another person’s writing, because they can’t distinguish between what has been written, and what else they might think about while they’re reading it.

    But the mistake was made, and a witch hunt was started. So, what does this teach us about standards and ethics? And who needs to be a little more thoughtful before leaping into action?


    A thought here: one could very well argue that traditional journalism is lazy because once published, the journalists work stops. This view would be ignoring the large amount of “pre-writing” work.

    So, one could also say that bloggers are lazy and have low standards, because they are lighter than journalists on the “pre-writing” work. But that would be ignoring the sometimes huge amount of “post-writing” work which is done on blogs — in comment threads namely.


    gordonrae is right – the accusation seems to be that Adam should have checked his facts before citing Linda K as the originator of the “effing bloggers” email subject. But in fact he did no such thing. A fact which is obvious from the log excerpt he posted and thus also obvious to all the bloggers here who presumably know how to read web logs too.

    However, the lack of fact checking happened within the NUJ and a witchhunt was launched and Linda K suffered (for a day at least).

    But in the process something more has happened, namely that the emotions in play between pro- (and semi-pro) bloggers and their most ostensibly synergistic professional union have become clear to a far wider audience. Twitter re-tweets have spread the word far and wide that there’s a bit of a spat going on here and people have flocked to see what the fuss is about.

    And now it’s regular blogging news!

    Personally, speaking as essentially a bystander, I think I am far more enlightened on the subject than before. Truth is exposed in the debate at least as much as in the original article – this is blogging at its best. Is it journalism? Therein lies the rub, as they say.

  • Miles

    The NUJ has been running an “advertising service” for many years.
    It’s called the Freelance Directory and here it is:

  • @Miles
    Not exactly what I was getting at, and this isn’t really the right place to be discussing it, but was looking at it from being an independent publisher and the NUJ being the go-between in an advertising platform.

    Similar in style to which I’ve been helping in testing.

  • What a load of tosh the NUJ seem to be.

    It seems to be an old organisation that just isn’t moving with the times.

    How about effin old school journalist snobs?

  • Since RyanAir has made an even greater hash of blog engagement than the NUJ, here’s a simple reason why blogs deserve everyone’s respect: natural search rankings…

    Presumably the NUJ and – particularly RyanAir – cares what shows up when people search for their brand?

  • Niall Hunt

    As a member of the NUJ and a journalist who works on websites I thought I would put my two pence worth in.
    Firstly, NUJ policy is driven by its members through a democratic structure, so is made by its members. Therefore, the less members get involved the less change happens within the union. If you are a member, don’t moan that the NUJ doesn’t represent your views, get involved and do something about it, don’t just burn your membership card (which would actually be quite toxic). So I would appeal to you all to get involved and change your union’s policy (if you are a member).
    Secondly, Chris Wheal does not represent the union as a whole, but – while I agree with a lot of what people say about blogging being different than journalism – his point about standards is valid. Not that bloggers “rejoice in their low standards”, but that bloggers, as well as NUJ officials sending private e-mails, need to be aware that the Web 2.x world is a lot more transparent than people think, and a lot more widely read than people think.
    Blogging is still governed by libel law, so standards need to be applied.
    I don’t think Chris is guilty of bullying anyone Suw. Judging to the responses to his comments here, the bullying could be seen as the other way around. Si Gardners comments above back this point. I am an NUJ member and sit on the NEC (although I am not speaking on its behalf), so find his comments quite insulting. I am working towards a more progressive union that suits modern journalism and journalists.
    There are a lot of activists in the union that are pushing towards this, Chris included. And we are engaging with bloggers and Tweeters and web 2.x types. That is why I have invited Kev Anderson to the next London Magazine branch meeting on April 16, to educate us “effin old school journalist snobs”.
    I hope some of you can make it.

  • Disappointed I’ve missed out on all the fun in this thread. Not so disappointed at never joining the NUJ.

  • Michael McGrath ( Ireland )

    Part of the problem, as I see it from this remove, is that it appears that the NUJ has appointed a committee of its own to make, and to try to institute, rules and regulations for blogging and bloggers , especially where the online publication of news and news comment is concerned.

    I do not know of any other organisation that has seen any need to, or which is foolish enough to attempt to do this . I see it as an attempt by the NUJ to try to establish and keep some of the strict control it has always had in the print media .

    On the other hand, news bloggers who work for wages do probably need a union, perhaps a new media union or an existing one outside of NUJ control, to represent them in the collective bargaining process with employers .

    The very last thing most bloggers want is control. Advice and consultation, yes, help on legal matters especially.

    As bloggers will hardly use the strike weapon, especially as most of us work for ourselves, I think that this very fact ruled out the NUJ from Day One as a union or association suitable to represent bloggers.

    The fact that the union also appears to have comparatively as many policies as most political parties – more than some ! – is hardly likely to endear it to bloggers who are independent-minded spirits.

    As a blogger, I stand unafraid to be updated 🙂

  • Michael McGrath ( Ireland)

    P.S. I admit that I still do prefer the smell and feel of a newly-printed newspaper, but hope to get over this idiosyncracy, given time and perhaps counselling – I shall try to kick the habit as part of my New Year resolutions !

    – Unrepentant Blogger .

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