This seeks to identify what Northern Culture needs to rebuild, rebalance and recover – and help shape Government decision making and policy.
The main focus of our evidence is on the key role local and regional print and broadcasting media have played in nurturing and promoting the diverse range of cultural activity created across the North of England.
We highlight the threats to this crucial role and argue for policies to sustain and protect this vital part of cultural infrastructure.
Both of them are timely. We saw, during March, huge publicity about the attempt to organise a union at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.
I’ve written about this twice now in Yorkshire Bylines. The first was a background piece, the second an analysis of what went wrong. The US magazine The Nation carried a scathing piece by Jane McAlevey, ‘Blowout in Bessemer: A Postmortemon the Amazon Campaign’which came out minutes after the result was announced.
The article was widely shared and criticised, particularly for its attack on one section of media reporting.
‘The media, especially the genre of media called the labor media, should have never overhyped this campaign… When media folks prioritize clicks and followers over reality, it doesn’t help workers, and probably hurts them.’
I’ve always rated Steven Greenhouse’s reporting – he was the Industrial Correspondent (they’re called Labor Reporters in the States) for the New York Times until he retired. His book ‘The Big Squeeze: Tough Times For the American Worker’ (2008) is there prominently on my bookshelves. He was one of the targets of Jane McAlelvey’s criticism and he took issue with this cheap shot against ground-breaking journalism .
This is what he has to say in a Facebook post about the ballot:
‘Even though some critics have slammed the union for losing the unionization drive at Amazon, that union drive was in many ways a gift to the larger labor movement:
The union’s campaign put Amazon on trial worldwide for its harsh treatment of workers.
It exposed blatant Amazon’s union-busting.
It got a sitting president to make an extraordinary pro-union video.
It got the nation to focus more on the need for expanding labor rights.
It showed that many Amazon workers across the U.S. want a union.
It stimulated more worker activism at Amazon.
It even got Jeff Bezos to admit that Amazon needs to treat its workers better.’
There’s another piece by John Logan which covers these points well and also takes up the specific criticism of reporters overhyping the campaign. He is clear:
‘The criticism is utterly preposterous: these journalists, and many others,have published meticulously researched and balanced stories that consistently stressed the enormous obstacles the union faced.
Moreover, their outstanding reporting on the Amazon campaign – which has probably done more to revitalize the “labor beat” than any other single union story – is another great legacy of the campaign, especially the detailed reporting on the actions Amazon took to “crush” the union campaign.’
Media coverage in the UK of trades unions and workers’ rights is the focus of the first Festival of Debate event. Sarah Woolley, the General Secretary of the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) is speaking. She is highly respected for her energy and work around campaigns like ‘Sheffield Needs A Pay Rise’.
Nick Jones, a former BBC Industrial Correspondent with wide experience of covering trade unions, is also speaking. The third speaker is Jim Boumelha representing the International Federation of Journalists.
Those with long memories will recall the Pergamon strike over union recognition by the National Union of Journalists which lasted from 1989 to 1992. Jim was actively involved in that dispute against the media mogul Robert Maxwell.
Another media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, is at the centre of our second event, featuring the outstanding documentary ‘Wapping: The Workers’ Story’.
I have reviewed the film and urge people to see it at this event.
There will be a post-film discussion with Paul Routledge, a Wapping ‘refusenik’, and Ann Field who was at the centre of the Wapping dispute in 1985-86 and played a key role in creating the exhibition and News International Dispute Archive for the 25th anniversary of the strike.
Paul Routledge now writes for the Daily Mirror, but worked for The Timeswhen the Wapping dispute started.
Rupert Murdoch is now 90. His baleful legacy as a media mogul has been to disseminate globally in his print and broadcast media ideas which have fostered hatred, war, division over six decades. And through all that time he has been fiercely hostile towards trade unions.
Our Editor, Granville Williams, published an article in Yorkshire Bylines this week, highlighting the fiercely fought battle to organise an American Amazon warehouse.
In it, he discusses working conditions, the company’s use of intrusive surveillance methods, support for the union drive against threats and coercion – and the impact that coverage of this battle has made worldwide.
‘Fix the Media’ has been written by a group of academics and journalists to kick-start debate and action on media reform.
Granville Williams, editor of MediaNorth, said:
All of the contributors to ‘Fix the Media’ are aware that the prospect for substantial media reform is frozen in the current political situation, but we wanted to highlight the concerns we have with the UK media.’
‘Fix the Media’ argues that there is still scope to promote awareness of what’s wrong with our media and how we can begin to build broad-based support for key policies to repair these faults.
Watch the launch below.
You can buy a print version of ‘Fix the Media’ directly from CPBF(North). Here’s how you can do it:
Send a cheque for £4.00 inc P&P, with your name and address, to: CPBF(North) 24 Tower Avenue, Upton, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire WF9 1EE
Or you can use BACS to transfer £4.00 to: CPBF (North) Sort code 08-92-99 a/c No 65796090.
CPBF(North) had planned to show the film ‘Wapping – the Workers’ Story’ last May, but sadly this wasn’t possible, because of Coronavirus restrictions. It’s still something we hope to do in the future though, so look out for updates.
We thought you’d still be interested to know, however, that Ann Field who played a key role in the making of the new film has a chapter on Wapping called ‘Big Media’ in ‘The Strike That Made the Modern Media’.
John Bailey was a print worker strongly associated with the right of reply during the 1984-84 miners’ strike and one of the 6,000 printworkers sacked when Murdoch moved to Wapping. His chapter, ‘From Orgreave to Wapping: the real enemy within’ is in ‘Settling Scores’.
If you would like to read more on Wapping we are offering the two books for £10.00 (inc P&P).
Send a cheque for £10.00 inc P&P, with your name and address, to: CPBF(North) 24 Tower Avenue, Upton, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire WF9 1EE
Or you can use BACS to transfer £10.00 to CPBF (North) Sort code 08-92-99 a/c No 65796090.
The well-attended conference It’s The Media, Stupid! Post-Election Policies for Media Reform was an outstanding success. We commissioned Route Publishing to record the sessions on the day and they are now available to viewbelow.
If, after you have watched the session recordings, you want to get involved in the media reform work we discussed in the final conference session contact firstname.lastname@example.org