From the TUC

The way strikes are reported

15 Dec 2009, By

Obviously a lot of coverage this morning of the potential strike by BA Cabin Crew and what struck me (again) is how strikes are reported by the media.  Coverage of strikes usually contain some of, and often all, the following three ingredients;

1.  Interviews with members of the public inconvenienced by the strike in question.  Obviously and understandly these people are pretty annoyed, but I wonder do all of them instinctively blame the union and workers as those featured in news programmes always do?

2.  Interview with the relevant manager/company CEO who is rarely asked just how they’ve managed to get themselves into a situation where staff are so annoyed at their treatment by the employer that they’re prepared to lose pay and risk the ire of the public to register their anger.

3.  Interview with the relevant trade union officialwho is always only ever asked to speak about the inconvenience/disruption the strike will cause and rarely given the chance to explain the background to the strike.

The report on this morning BBC Breakfast News was a master class containing all of these ingredients with a few new ones thrown in.  For instance the unfortunate reporter who was sent to comment on the strike from just outside the perimeter fence at Heathrow airport included in his report the comment that the union appeared to have the support of the cabin crew; as if the union had announced the strike and then frantically tried to get members to vote for it.  The fact that on an 80 per cent turnout, over 90 per cent of the cabin crew balloted had voted in favour of the strike managed to escape his report.  Apparently there’s no story in finding out just what is going on within BA to make staff so angry.

More details of the BA: United we stand campaign HERE

12 Responses to The way strikes are reported

  1. Aussie Unionist
    Dec 15th 2009, 11:48 pm

    Excellent blog. You’ve highlighted the typical tricks the media use, trying to separate the workers from their union as if they’re completely different.

    The union is the workers!

  2. uberVU – social comments
    Dec 16th 2009, 12:12 am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TIGMOO_UK: Stronger Unions: The way strikes are reported

  3. Donnacha DeLong
    Dec 16th 2009, 1:50 am

    Your last point is just a variation on the “blame the leadership” approach we regularly see, in particular when it’s the RMT. It’s always Bob Crow calling a strike, never Bob Crow following the instructions of RMT members.

    The fact that there are virtually no industrial correspondents left is a major factor – the journalists covering union stories have no specialist knowledge and are usually just assigned to the story when the strike is announced. At least a few years ago, you knew that when they were union-bashing, they were doing it deliberately. Now too many know no better.

  4. John Geary
    Dec 16th 2009, 3:20 am

    So few people in the Western World realise or even care that many of the workplace conditions and pay have been fought for and won by UNIONS. May God go with you.

  5. Dave Plummer
    Dec 16th 2009, 11:57 am

    The TUC issue press releases and statements which, alas, nobody really pays much attention to and the traditional media certainly seem to have it in for us.

    It’s down to us to counter the media’s stance. One of the good things about new media is that we can get on to newspapers’ websites to comment on articles, we can blog, we can use Facebook etc to link to the misinformation and challenge it.

    I sometimes wonder how NUJ members feel when they have to follow an editorial line which is hell bent on slagging off and weakening the trade union movement.

  6. Tubeworker
    Dec 16th 2009, 5:04 pm

    There is a detailed critique of the media’s coverage of RMT’s London Underground strike earlier this year here:

    It makes similar points to yours, plus a few more.

  7. Janine
    Dec 16th 2009, 5:29 pm

    My comments on coverage of the BA cabin crew dispute here:

  8. Donnacha DeLong
    Dec 17th 2009, 1:37 am

    @Dave –
    “I sometimes wonder how NUJ members feel when they have to follow an editorial line which is hell bent on slagging off and weakening the trade union movement.”

    Usually very p—ed off! The union’s recent Delegate Meeting criticised the media’s coverage of the Lindsay dispute and the attempt to portray them as being racist. You’ll probably note that some of the worst coverage is in newspapers where we don’t have recognition – the Mail, Evening Standard, Murdoch’s shedload.

  9. John
    Dec 17th 2009, 9:51 am

    Donnacha’s hit it on the head there. Over the last couple of years, the reporting staff on the dailies has been shrinking, and the Guardian, FT, Indy and Times have all lost their industrial specialist reporters. Their more insightful stories were often getting spiked anyway, but they were informing the wider coverage. Combine it with 24 hour news hungry for the latest micro-development or vox pop at the expense of time for reflection, and the media are covering union stories in an ever more process-obsessed fashion, not stepping back a little to look into the issues.

  10. Danny Hanks
    Dec 17th 2009, 10:22 am

    The Daily Mail also strongly attacks some union official,but never never compares tthem to the excesses of senior management

  11. Carl Roper

    carl roper
    Dec 17th 2009, 10:57 am

    Thanks to all for the responses to this post. I think that John and Donnacha in particualr make well founded points on the pressures that journalists face and the lack of jopurnalists with specialist industrial relations knowledge.

    I wouldnt want my post to be seen as an attack on journalists per se many of whom are committed and active members of the NUJ.

  12. Dave Plummer
    Dec 18th 2009, 9:15 am

    Aye, I think most of us probably have to do things professionally that rub against our union ideals.

    The press seem to be attacking everyone at the minute. I long to read the headline saying ‘Fat Cat Public sector pensions are, on average, only £4-6k. Maybe we were wrong about the Fat Cat bit.’

    Alas, it ain’t gonna happen.