Michelle Stanistreet NUJ

Michelle Stanistreet: 'These are not isolated examples'

Credit: Yui Mok/PA

"Far too many journalists" are being subjected to bullying and intimidation in the workplace, according to evidence given to the Leveson inquiry by the National Union of Journalists.

The union has collected anonymous comments from working journalists which NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said pointed to "a much greater collective experience" of "bullying, of sexual harassment, of sexism within the workplace, of journalists who are put under intolerable pressure to deliver by bosses".

The full written evidence is being redacted by the Leveson inquiry team and is not yet available on its website – however, sections from the evidence were quoted in court yesterday and can be found in the official transcript.

One senior journalist, who worked at the News of the World for three years, told the NUJ: "You'd quickly find yourself out of work ... you grit your teeth and put up with it. If you want a career in the future, you shut up and you keep quiet.

"The reality is that what happened at the News of the World is not an exception. The culture is macho, it pervades the industry. I worked at [another title] – it's absolutely petrifying there. They work you like dogs. The expectations for a reporter are ridiculous. There are always unrealistic demands.

"Even when you think you've done a great job, there's no reward or appreciation."

The culture is macho, it pervades the industry. They work you like dogs. The expectations for a reporter are ridiculous.Senior journalist
Another journalist, with more than 25 years' experience across national newspapers, including many years at the News of the World, said he would get calls on a Saturday night to say get on the plane at 7am the next morning, and that when one journalist complained of all the calls she was getting out of hours she got more calls every single week and it drove her out.
He added: "The in-house staff association NISA, they're nice people but what are they going to do if you complain about your boss bullying you? He'd have denied it, they'd pay you off, you'd lose your job. Where would you go when there aren't many jobs in Fleet Street any more?"

A relatively junior journalist, working casual shifts on two national titles, told the NUJ: "What people don't realise is that the culture in most newsrooms can be really intimidating, especially if you're a young journalist trying to make an impression, desperate to get a contract. I've been shifting for years now. I get paid holiday, just statutory. I do the same job as other reporters here but I'm paid peanuts.

"I drive myself into work even when I'm really sick, partly because I don't get paid for being off sick but mainly because I don't want anyone to think I'm skiving and that I'm not committed because that will go against me if a contract comes up."

Some people were not even prepared or they didn't even feel able to speak in confidence to me, and they felt too scaredMichelle Stanistreet
Stanistreet told the inquiry yesterday: "I know that these are not isolated examples of unpleasantness in a workplace or isolated examples of unethical practice.

"I'm absolutely convinced of the fact, that these are not 12 individual instances of abuses; these are a much greater collective experience of far too many journalists."

She added: "Some people were not even prepared or they didn't even feel able to speak in confidence to me, and they felt too scared about their experiences being shared through the inquiry because they really were petrified that actually somebody would be able to identify them and that would have negative repercussions on their career and on their future prospects in journalism."

The first phase of the Leveson inquiry hearing, covering the relationship between the press and the public and potentially illegal behaviour, has now ended. The next module, on the relationships between the press and police, begins on 27 February.

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