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The NUJ Picks an Editor

This is a guest post by Micky Flong

The slightly dizzying theory that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) would do a better job of protecting journalism if it devoted even more attention to organising boycotts of Middle Eastern democracies receives one of its regular electoral tests this month. All the signs are that it will fail.

Eight candidates are standing in an election to replace Tim Gopsill as editor of The Journalist, the union’s “independent” publication for 35,000-odd members. Comrades in the CWU willing, the postal ballot closes on 6 November.

Constitutionally, the choice of editor lies entirely with the membership – to make the short (sic) list, candidates had only to be paid-up members with the ability to submit a legible application by deadline. (Two apparently fell at that little hurdle.)

In a classic tactic, the faction known as NUJ Left picked its man before the candidates were even announced. Richard Simcox is currently editor of the PCS union’s Activate publication, which despite having much on its plate with the public spending crisis, usually manages to find a page a month to devote to Gaza/Palestine and other worthy international causes.

According to its website, NUJ Left’s agenda includes:

“Co-ordinating branch activity to propagate NUJ Left aims and objectives”, ensuring “senior lay and elected left officials are accountable to NUJ Left”…  “Identifying and targeting key elected posts and NEC seats, democratically agreeing slates for elections, and campaigning for NUJ Left candidates, to advance our influence and further develop equality representation on policy-making bodies and through other structures of the union”.

What “accountable to NUJ Left” would do for the already flimsy editorial independence of The Journalist is predictable enough.

Not all the candidates are bent on self-destruction. Scottish candidate Frank Morgan has gone on record about the “schoolboy politics” of the current incumbent while freelance Michael Cross says that under his editorship The Journalist would have “less space for political campaigns of only peripheral relevance to journalism”. At the London hustings meeting earlier this month, Steve Usher of the Daily Star and broadcaster Mark Watts spoke up robustly for editorial independence.

NUJ veteran Chris Wheal has blogged on the voting process here.

But unless an understandably apathetic rank and file membership can be persuaded to turn out, another key post will be in NUJ Left’s grasp.