Hackles rose among some of the ranks in the National Union of Journalists when an article in Prospect magazine suggested the Britain’s largest journalist’s organisation had taken a position against the News International paywall.
Union vice-president Donnacha DeLong was quick to point out that the magazine’s article inaccurately represented his and the union’s position – which he set out in the following letter.
I’m afraid Joy Lo Dico’s article about Rupert Murdoch’s paywall rather seriously misrepresents NUJ policy and my views as expressed to her in an interview. I’ll start with the piece directly attributed to me – “DeLong says journalists, unlike singers, are not paid for each piece of work, so such a model won’t necessarily benefit the NUJ’s members.” That’s wrong on two counts, what I actually said was that journalists are not normally paid for each reader (unlike musicians who are paid royalties from every copy of their music sold or played in public). I would never say that journalists are not paid for each piece of work when a large number of our freelance members are paid per article (others, and most staff journalists, are paid by time rather than output).
As to whether the NUJ supports the paywall, we are not so much withholding support, but adopting a wait and see approach. If it works, great, it will be one way to help pay for professional journalism. However, it is unlikely to be the only solution to the funding problems the industry currently faces. The NUJ is investigating a range of different ways to help fund quality journalism, as we don’t not expect a one-size-fits all solution to work. Also, we do not oppose those newspapers who continue to offer their content free on the web and are looking for other ways to make the money to pay for it.
There is no love lost between the NUJ and Rupert Murdoch, but there’s no advantage to the NUJ if his plans fail. We want to see new models to make journalism pay, but we need to be sure that they work and that they’re appropriate to the sector of the media they being applied to. Any other position would be irresponsible.
Donnacha DeLong, Vice President, NUJ.