21 April 2014

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Regional publisher recruits ‘non-journalist’ content staff

A regional publisher has been criticised for recruiting people to “gather and prepare content” while describing the jobs as non-journalistic roles.

Trinity Mirror advertised for multimedia assistants for the Liverpool Echo and its weekly sister titles but described the posts as administrative ones.

The National Union of Journalists’ chapel in Liverpool says the jobs should be recognised as journalistic roles so they can be included in its collective bargaining unit with the publisher.

The jobs in Merseyside were advertised at three of the publisher’s newspaper offices, in Southport, Widnes and Liverpool last month at salaries of between £13,400 and £15,000.

The advert said the successful applicants would be responsible for “gathering and preparing market-focused content direct from communities” for publication to readers across multimedia channels.

It added: “This is a non-journalistic role but you will be working closely with journalists and you will need to be self-motivated with the flexibility to work on multiple projects and meet a variety of deadlines. ”

Assistant Northern NUJ organiser Lawrence Shaw said local union reps were due to meet with the company about their concerns and were arguing that the jobs were actually trainee reporter roles.

He said: “The salaries are not very far away from what a trainee reporter there would be paid. I think the fear is that they are saying these jobs are not journalistic ones when they clearly are.

“They are absolutely entitled and would be encouraged to join the NUJ but we think the company are saying they are not part of the bargaining structure.

“We are not happy about that. As it happens, we are in the process of negotiating the house agreement with the company. We are hopeful that the company will see sense and say these jobs should be included.”

Lawrence added that the problem was not specific to Liverpool but affected other Trinity Mirror titles which were recruiting multimedia assistants.

A spokesman for Trinity Mirror declined to comment saying the company was in direct communication with the NUJ over the issue.

24 Comments

  1. Corporal Clegg

    Sad sign of the times that journalism is no longer a valued skill. Accountants are masters of our universe!

    Report this comment

  2. Subbuteo

    Another nail in the coffin of ‘local’ journalism. Outrageous and so, so sad.

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  3. Blonde

    Oh dear.
    *sighs, shakes head

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  4. John Murphy

    I know this is quite ominous to some people but there is also a funny side. What training are these people going to get? are they going to be trained in media law and public administration? will they learn shorthand? will they write stories?
    After a while they might actually get good at it, does this mean that once they attain a certain standard they will be fired and replaced with the next generation of “content robots”?
    I am looking forward to the first time a publisher gets heavily sued because the content-bot didn’t understand the strict liability rule in contempt or the Duke of Brunswick rule.

    Report this comment

  5. onlooker

    It’s all over for print journalism – social media is (tragically) the new king! Politicians, councils, hospitals, police, etc must be laughing their nuts off! Despite the wonder of social media (I’m the first to admit it), we are actually entering a new Dark Age!

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  6. the red postman

    I looked into one of these jobs in another TM regional centre last year; I was never under the impression that it was anything other than ‘citizen journalism’ on the cheap and to be fair to TM (something I don’t do very often), they didn’t claim it to be anything else. For them to be doing so now (albeit in a different regional centre) is disgraceful.

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  7. Me, myself and I

    Expect JP to follow…

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  8. resigned

    I thought all hacks were non-journalists, spending time faffing about with ever more complicated and unreliable systems filling daft shapes and taking snaps. Let’s hope the TM idea doesn’t catch on with the bean counters that run journalism. Oh for a few proper journos at top level of management.

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  9. former journalist

    The pay….£13,500 to £15,000, you aren’t going to get anyone of any talent ‘gathering and preparing market-focused content’ what corporate clap-trap is that…. A once-brilliant job destroyed by sickening greed.

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  10. Disbelieving, Tyneside

    So these roles, based on a contracted 37.5 hour week, would pay £6.87 per hour at the bottom end of the scale.

    From October 1st, the NMW will be £6.19 for people 21 and over.

    Anyone looking at one of these jobs, naively hoping it will be a first step to get into journalism, would only need to work 42 hours each week – very likely given newsroom staffing levels – and they would be on less than the minimum wage.

    TM should be ashamed. They need to admit they are journalist roles, and pay them a decent wage.

    Report this comment

  11. GrimNorth

    Oh dear.
    *sighs, shakes head

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  12. GrimNorth

    Copy and paste, just like the role will be.

    Report this comment

  13. Ciaran Fagan

    Urgh… “gathering and preparing market-focused content direct from communities”. Does anyone know what this means?
    Anyone capable of writing this nonsense should be marched out of any self-respecting newspaper office.

    Report this comment

  14. Voice of Reason

    These people – Trinity Mirror and the rest of them – simply aren’t interested in journalism or newspapers as we know them. The bean-counters have identified skilled editorial staff as being costly and largely unnecessary.The trouble is that once their poorly paid, newly recruited content gatherers have done their gathering there are precious few people left who actually know if it is of any worth and even fewer who have any idea of what to do with it. Real quality journalism will I am sure continue to evolve and will reappear in another form. In the meantime it’s carnage out there as the greed-mongers slash and burn and honourable men and women with ink in their veins desperately try to cling to the wreckage of a rapidly disappearing world.Tragic!

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  15. meanwhile, in the real world ....

    Regional newspapers have lost more than 40% of revenue in last five years and are reliant on print for more than 90% of revenue.

    It’s only source of income is disappearing fast. It no longer has the monopolistic position that hid the lack of innovation, the complacent management and the inefficient processes and which gave it a generous cushion of cash.

    So now, in the real world, the business is cutting costs to match the drop in revenue, and to deal with the absence of alternatives.

    Digital advertising has bypassed the regional press.

    I don’t see any positive suggestions or better ways out of the situation than what TM are doing – someone enlighten me – what are the alternatives ?

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  16. Tog

    “gathering and preparing market-focused content direct from communities”. Does anyone know what this means?

    I think it means trawling Facebook and Twitter for scraps, which is what most journalists already seem to have to do already, seeing as their desks don’t let them out of the office much.

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  17. Greeno

    ““gathering and preparing market-focused content direct from communities”. Does anyone know what this means?”

    It means finding something, anything, from anywhere for free to fill those white spaces. And then hope the readers don’t notice a catastrophic drop in quality.

    Report this comment

  18. Marco, Stoke

    It’s not journalism though is it?

    Cutting and pasting stuff from blogs and noticeboards?

    Just because that’s what journalists on local newspapers do these days, doesn’t mean it’s actually journalism.

    Report this comment

  19. Reevo, Manchester

    I started on less than that and I was a junior reporter. The fact of the matter is these people are going to be putting together stuff like photos from community events. If it is actually an administrative role, and doesn’t require legal and media training, then why shouldn’t it be paid as such?

    Comments from people who simply did not work in print journalism when it was a dying industry, with new competitors coming from all angles on a daily basis, can be tiresome.

    I note there isn’t a single suggestion as to how the company is supposed to create an ever-increasing amount of copy across both digital and print platforms against a backdrop of falling revenue.

    The truth is this is evidence of the deterioration of the industry, but if it allows newspapers to survive for a bit longer then all the better. I don’t actually think it is a good idea, but it is an idea, which seem to be thin on the ground. Alternatively, they could throw £50k a year at people for altering the format of emails, but that wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

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  20. Bernard

    for a bunch of people lamenting the death of journalism, you’re making a lot of assumptions. Why does it mean a reduction in quality? Some of the most popular pages in local papers are the community news pages which are often filled with stories and reports from non journalists.

    The NUJ has seen fit to make this an issue but hasn’t presented the whole story, or at least hasn’t answered questions we should all be asking: Will the content be checked by journalists before going into print? I imagine the answer is yes, but I don’t know.

    Whether journalists like it or not, journalism isn’t a closed shop anymore. Anyone can display the skills and traits of a journalist now. Hyperlocal blogs, general blogs, Twitter … All ways people want to share news and information. At the same time, circulations of newspapers fall. Could it be that we’ve just become irrelevant to the areas we serve? This could be a solution.

    The whole discussion of ‘what is a journalist’ is muddied by the NUJ deciding to allow PRs in, and that leads to daft things like the NUJ supporting council newspapers in East London. To me, administrating other peoples’ content isn’t a journalist’s job, but the NUJ will disagree because it is in their best interests to have as wider definition of journalism as possible.

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  21. Localhack

    @ disbelieving and former journalist

    I work on a local newspaper as a reporter (not a TM one), and was going through the NCEs and my pay will not exceed the lower end of the scale specified in the job advert.
    I’m thrilled to see TM will be paying more to people with, as far as I can see, no qualifications than my employer does to people who do have their NCTJs!

    Suffice to say, I’ve left for PR, if only for the reason I can save for a pension and a mortgage – something impossible on the pittance the publisher I work for is willing to pay for qualified reporters.

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  22. hackneyed

    I’m a trained journalist (NCE thanks very much) and my job now involves a large amount of dealing with social media, community reporters etc. If anything, I use my legal and media training more now than I did as a trainee reporter – not just because the material I work with is more likely to be riddled with legal pitfalls than your average council agenda/press release, but also because I put it straight online. I’d imagine these roles are the same, so to be expecting untrained entry-level not-really-journalists-honest to be doing them is insanity.

    But this is clearly a move to stop the new recruits from being included in the bargaining unit. Cynical, cynical Trinity Mirror.

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  23. Mark, Gwent

    You can tell who’s in charge when phrases like “gathering and preparing market-focused content direct from communities” start getting bandied about.

    Why does they have to use such gibberish?

    Market-focused content direct from communities is what we used to call good stories from local reporters.

    That was until local reporters were culled as an unconscionable luxury. Take a look at the latest ABCs to see what a resounding success the race to the bottom has been.

    Report this comment

  24. Paolo

    Interesting that one of the people paid to do this role in another TM centre comitted a contempt of court recently isn’t it?
    This is a disaster waiting to happen.
    As far as what the altertive is, why not recruit trainee reporters, invest in quality and believe in readers’ ability to spot a good product and pay for it. Journalism on the cheap just doesn’t work.

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