It is not that the chapel is mute about matters that prick its interest. It has shown Olympian sprinting skills when it comes to racing off to complain about something that has offended the editor. Seemingly it is a chapel that worships at the altar of the management.
Immediately upon my ban from the NUJ by its bombastic Ethics Council a journalist from the paper rang me for my thoughts which didn’t really amount to much other than I would hardly notice the suspension. My reasoning was simple. When a union, steered by a leadership not inoculated against the back seat driving folly of the Ethics Council, buckles to Leveson’s demand for state regulation of the press, I very much subscribe to the view, ‘if the National Union of Journalists won't defend journalism, what's the point of it?’
And so it was in this vein that I told the Irish News that I considered the ban an act of censorship, which the paper both sought and endorsed. I also expressed the view that the ban was comparable to being denied membership of the igloo builders of the Sahara. Perhaps, I reckoned, there were as many building igloos in the desert, as there are people in the Ethics Council protecting journalism from state regulation. The paper did quote me fairly enough. It didn’t carry all I said but media never does, nor can it be expected to. And as it didn’t manipulate what I said out of context I had few grounds for complaint, or none that I was prepared to bring before those upstanding ethical denizens of the Ethics Council.
I did, however, happen to find out later that despite the sweet talk from the Irish News on the phone a member of the paper’s NUJ chapel was, on the day following its reporting of my suspension, tattling to the Ethics Council. It was wrongly alleged that I was making ‘frankly libellous comments about the members of the Ethics Committee’ on this blog. I say Sarah, old girl, the rotter is scurrilous, and frankly my dear he doesn’t give a damn.
Dearie me and my oh my, heaven save us from the profanity of an independent thought. What that had to do with the chapel I am not quite sure. That it was so eager to write ‘Dear Sarah’ letters came as no surprise to me. I wasn’t even disappointed with it. As Nietzsche knew so well, those born to crawl will never fly. The kiss-up kick-down ethic seems to have considerable purchase within that particular chapel of the NUJ. In any event there is nothing that I said about the Ethics Council that I could not stand over. I have said it since its farcical hearing in Belfast and will continue to say it. The Ethics Council is a bastion of journalistic wankerdom. And what?
I neither know nor care if the ‘Dear Sarah’ letter writer’s behaviour was particularly unethical, even if I suspect it had an underhand tone to it. It did strike me that the denunciation was made in the hope of causing me even more trouble than the writer hoped I was already in. If this archer of unsteady hand and dubious aim thought they were going to send an arrow through the heart of my appeal, how disappointed they must have been when the result came through. But that’s journalistic collegiality for you.
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As the reader can see - which the letter writer does not want you to see - is the claim that I was not behaving towards Allison Morris as the paper thought I should. And the point is? I no more have to respect Allison Morris than she has to respect me. Unlike the supine NUJ chapel at the Irish News, I don’t happen to think that is some sort of journalistic crime for which a member of the union should be sanctioned. Then again my views on ethics and those of the people at the Irish News would seem to be radically different and now seem to clash frequently enough. While I have a consistent ‘put up with’ attitude to its views they seem to take a ‘shut up’ response to mine. Not a very rewarding experience trying to shut me up.
One of the complaints is that I published Allison Morris’s ‘confidential’ complaint to the committee (just as I am doing here with the chapel’s ‘confidential’ letter to the same committee). So, what the chapel wanted was secret evidence that the public would not have access to, old style Soviet anonymous denunciation. The concept of secret evidence is enough to send most journalists' noses twitching. Not the UDM type lot who populate the Irish News chapel!
The chapel of course praised the committee for the professional work it did in finding against me. Now, there are many things I am prepared to accuse the Ethics Council of but professionalism does not figure among them.
Not only has the Irish News chapel prostrated itself before the Ethics Council it has also exhibited bovine conformity to what it thinks the editor/bishop wants, leading me to suspect that the virus of co-option has been cause for rejoicing rather than resisting. Just as under a regime of old style corporatism, the chapel has been co-opted into the church of the management. These supposed NUJ colleagues at the paper for reasons yet to be plausibly explained wanted to see me done over at a time when I was immersed in fighting what was one of the biggest source protection cases in recent years — in order to what? Spare the feelings of the person who arguably set the whole thing in motion?
If so, it is a chapel in the wrong church.