Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NUJ in Futile and Pointless Gesture Shock!

Independent Network News has gone wallop and the National Union of Journalists don’t like it. An Spailpín Fánach happened to pass their protest on Mount Street earlier today, and decided to record the event, as per above. After all, ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann. And maybe that’s a good thing. Like the dodo, the NUJ could be just too dumb to live.

Fourteen years ago the NUJ made their single greatest contribution to Irish journalism, by closing down the Press Group of newspapers. Some say the Press bore the mark of Cain anyway, but the NUJ’s lockout delivered the coup de grace.

The world has changed utterly since the Union stood for Colm Rapple at the cost of every other member’s job. At the time you needed an NUJ card to get a job with a newspaper, and you could not get an NUJ card unless 75% of your earnings were derived from journalism. It was protectionist, insular, and doomed.

Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch broke the hold of the press unions in Britain and put an end to Fleet Street. Nobody seemed to realise it here, as the indigenous industry was slowly eroded by the strengthening of British dumps with Irish copy and the rise of the Irish press barons. I don’t remember many NUJ banners protesting then. Vision is seldom a big thing with any union.

And it’s all too late now, of course. The culture was on borrowed time, a decline hastened by the advent of new technologies; first, desktop publishing, and then the tsunami of the World Wide Web that has revolutionised utterly the dissemination of information in our time.

None of the old rules count any more. Those that adapt to the new technologies will survive. Those that don’t are doomed. But nobody seems to have told the NUJ. Nobody at all.

“INN staff have made huge sacrifices over the years and are paid well below the market rate for national journalists,” bleats Mr Séamus Dooley of the NUJ’s Irish branch (chapter? They’re such stonecutters in the NUJ). “They have tolerated a pay freeze and the non-replacement of staff and their efforts are rewarded by this cavalier treatment.”

Nobody cares Séamus. There is no “market rate.” Is George Hook a member of the NUJ? How many non-star names in Newstalk are on the “market rate”? This is just the Union trying to kid themselves that they’re still relevant, when they’re not.

Watching the protest in the autumnal drizzle, An Spalpín thought of Dylan Thomas:

I see the boys of summer in their ruin.
Man in his maggot's barren.
And boys are full and foreign in the pouch.
I am the man your father was.
We are the sons of flint and pitch.
O see the poles are kissing as they cross.

And then I walked on, back into the 21st Century.

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