Screenshot of NUJ website
Last Thursday Adam Tinworth, head of blogging for Reed Business Information (RBI), wrote a blog post explaining how a referral to his site had come from an email entitled 'effing blogs' sent to a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) email address.

Tinworth's observations followed comments on a post about the union and training in which NUJ professional training committee chair Chris Wheal suggested bloggers did not apply the same standards as journalists did to their work.

The posts have sparked a lengthy discussion about the NUJ's approach to new media and social media both in the wider blogosphere and on the union's own new media mailing list.

Tinworth is just one journalist and NUJ member, Chris Wheal just one other. To open up the debate further, Journalism.co.uk spoke to some key online figures and rounds up the discussion in the blogosphere here.

Leave your thoughts below or comment on our Seesmic video. What is your experience of the union and social media? What would you like the NUJ to be doing in this area? As Donnacha Delong, the NUJ new media representative, says, this is a conversation worth having.



Jump to comments from:
Adam Tinworth, head of blogging for RBI
Donnacha Delong, online journalist and NUJ new media representative
Dave Lee, co-editor, BBC Internet blog
Salina Christmas, web editor
The blogosphere

Adam Tinworth
Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Tinworth said that while there is still a debate about the future of print media, the more important debate 'is about what online journalism looks like'.

The union can participate in this development by encouraging more journalists who are active in social media and online journalism to help shape the union's thinking and decision making.

"The pace of change around publishing is faster than it has ever been, and waiting for the most engaged social media journalists to find the time to holler until someone in the NUJ notices is failing their members," he says.

"A union's primary responsibility is to look after its members interest, not picking fights with management and innovating journalists. In a period of profound change, the union should be proactive at helping its members adjust and reskill, not reactive and (occasionally) reactionary."

Furthermore the union should do more work on engaging with the blogosphere, in particular treating blogs as a way to enter a conversation and not just another publishing tool.

"By not engaging with, linking to, and getting links back from, other bloggers engaged in discussions about journalism, they're [the NUJ] seeing their own ability to affect how their own policy is represented destroyed on the web."

Donnacha Delong

Bloggers need to join the union to make sure the NUJ is aware of how it needs to change, says Delong.

"I do think there's a tendency among some bloggers to argue that they are the future and traditional media (particularly print-based) are the past. The NUJ needs to be able to represent both, though it is, due to the nature of its membership, somewhat biased towards more traditional types of media," he tells Journalism.co.uk.

"Acceptance comes from people getting stuck in and ensuring their issues are pushed within the democratic structures in the union."

The union has a strong social media presence including a large Facebook group, a YouTube channel and more blogs set up for individual campaigns, he adds.

But there are shades of grey in the debate about new media platforms, which are overlooked in favour of 'an awful tendency to portray everything as old versus new', says Delong.

"The union was very slow at getting its online act together. It took work to get new media prioritised. Yet, at the same time, the union made equal pay for Guardian Unlimited [now Guardian.co.uk] journalists a priority a very long time ago. There's also a certain tendency on the side of bloggers and new media evangelists to see the NUJ as part of old media and some show an instinctive dislike for the union," he says.

The union created a new media division four years ago [CORRECTION] to represent journalists, who didn't see themselves as working for a newspaper, broadcaster, PR firm or as a freelance, and this structure needs to evolve to accommodate new subsets, such as journalistic bloggers, with their help, adds Delong.

"I hope, the debate will actually lead to better participation in the union. Posting criticisms on a blog might feel good, but it doesn't necessarily lead to change. Getting stuck in might," he says.

Dave Lee, co-editor BBC Internet blog

According to Lee, there is an attitude problem within the NUJ when it comes to new media, but this is part of a wider stance in the journalism industry and not because of the union.

"I think the NUJ needs to offer relevant advice, taken from people in the industry who are making those decisions. If the union divided its time between protecting jobs and - to use a horrible phrase - 'investing in the future'," he says.

Traditional media, in particular newspapers, are perpetually playing catch-up online and the debate about the union and new media has progressed from print against online, says Lee.

"The 'why do I care about what people say on Twitter' is eerily similar to the 'why on earth would I want to read my news on a screen' argument that lasted for far too long. The problem is that changes on the internet happen to quickly for a newspaper to adapt. So, newspapers should look to innovate, and then let the others do the catching."

Salina Christmas
"Both the old and new media have their own wisdom," Salina Christmas, former newspaper journalist turned web editor, tells Journalism.co.uk.

Both are members of the same community and as such individuals as well as the union should help better this community, she adds.

"If you see your community in trouble (losing jobs, snowed under with extra works, new media needs more positive acknowledgment, old media must be reassured that they are not irrelevant, etc), do you not feel moved to help them?

"It's time for everyone to wrap up the arguments and start working together."

The debate on the blogs so far:

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