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Former general secretary intervenes in NUJ election

A former general secretary of the National Union of Journalists has waded into the contest to choose a new editor of its Journalist magazine.

John Foster headed up the union from 1992 until 2001 when he was succeeded by the currrent incumbent, Jeremy Dear.

Mr Foster has revealed he is backing former BBC reporter and Sky TV presenter Tim Arnold, saying he has “the right mix of skills.”

In a statement from his Dorset home he said: “Tim Arnold has sat alongside me in national negotiations with employers, helped to deal with personal cases, and has accompanied me to the conciliation service, ACAS, on behalf of members.

“So he has the right combination of industrial relations experience, reporting skills, and broadcast production knowledge to provide a real boost to the union’s efforts from a standing start.”

Tim said: “I am immensely proud to win the backing of one of the union’s most respected former general secretaries. I will do everything that I can to live up to the high expectations of John and every NUJ member.”

There has also been significant backing for freelance journalist Mark Watts, with some arguing that the post needs someone with an investigative background to ensure the Journalist publishes genuine scoops.

Former NUJ London freelance branch secretary Kevin Cahill said: “Only one of the eight candidates has that combination of editorial experience, proven success as a real front rank investigative reporter – the reason most of us went into journalism in the first place. That is Mark Watts.”

Veteran NUJ member Martin Short added: “We need a digger in this job, someone who can take on both the big issues confronting the industry as a whole and the specific individual tales of unjust sackings, commercial pressures and political influence, from whichever quarter they come.

“I’m sure all the candidates have strong qualifications but for me, Mark Watts has all the necessary skills in abundance.”

Meanwhile another of the candidates, Richard Simcox, has secured the backing of Linda Piper, who helped lead the 1978/79 regional journalists’ strike

Linda, chair of the provincial newspapers industrial council during the 1978/79 walkout, was Richard’s first NUJ mother of chapel and trained him in his first job as a journalist.

“I have worked with Richard as a trade unionist and as a reporter – and he was top notch at both. What more can the NUJ want from an editor of the Journalist?” she said.

Richard also has the support of several key current and former NUJ officials including Northern region organiser Chris Morley and his predecessor Miles Barter.

  • Read the candidates’ statements in full here. Comments have been disabled on the page containing the candidates’ statements in order to ensure fairness. However comments on this story will remain open for those who want to have their say.


    Fiona O’Cleirigh (12/10/2009 14:05:06)
    Having John Foster’s backing really counts for something; as does that of stalwarts such as Martin Short and Kevin Cahill. You can see other supporters of Mark Watts here:

    Guy Roberts (13/10/2009 11:21:22)
    John Foster’s endorsement says it all for me. This is the guy who rescued us from the loony left, and put the union on a firm financial footing. If he is backing Tim Arnold – then that’s good enough for me. And I am sure many will listen.