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28/01/2006

Witness Contributors protected by new code. Jubilant bloggers thank NUJ.

* * Updated * *

When some people think of political life, they think of the thrill of debate, the hustings, the Machiavellian scheming in the corridors of power, the opportunities for wild indulgences and perversions, all available safe in the  knowledge that your most creative misdeeds, along with your most devious triumphs, will be bragged about for you by the media.

But not me. Apart from a past that would shame a Liberal Democrat, there's one very big reason that I will never become involved with politics again in my life: committees.

Committees are the grey reality of political and public sector life and they just are not for me. I've been close to one or two of these beasts in my time and I still shudder at the memory of the topsy-turvy world views, the savoured inertia, the cloying group dynamics, the horrific inevitability of bad plans, laid out by people who know will they fail, but also that no one will blame them, going unchallenged.

When I read PR Blogger's post about the NUJ (the UK's National Union of Journalists) launching a code of conduct for "citizen journalists", I thought it sounded like a great idea, so I went to the site for a read of it.

Immediately I saw that the dark hand of a committee had been at work on it. The big clue is that the authors of the code could not bring themselves collectively to utter the phrase "citizen journalist", preferring to call them "witness contributors", a phrase which has rarely, if ever, been used in connection with this subject.

The phrase reeks of compromise and maybe loses some of its usefulness as a result. I might, for instance, consider myself a citizen journalist of sorts. I'm certainly not a professional, but I publish short articles on the web a few times a week. A citizen journalist code might be useful to me for guidance. The NUJ would be good people to hear it from.

Of course, I'd got the wrong end of the stick. The code was intended for use by organisations (read media newsrooms and intermediaries like Scoopt) not a helpful guide for non-professionals to make sure they don't fall foul of the law or get taken advantage of by media organisations looking for low or no cost alternatives to paying professionals.

: : Update: Neil McIntosh of Guardian Unlimited agrees and expands on the subject, tkaing the code on line-by-line here. Not just me then.

: : : Jeff Jarvis reports here that:

The pissing match over the British National Union of Journalists effort to slap a code of conduct on newspaper relations with bloggers and citizens is getting pissier.

Read the whole post. Hilarious. Frightening. Hilarious.

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