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From: "Anna Weekes"

Dear Friends

Please can you do some email protesting as per below. The Independent Newspapers staff from all the unions are being restructured. The press coverage is going to get worse than ever. They own about 9 newspapers in South Africa - all the major dailies. And the joint union statement is really very good.

Please e-mail a complaint to joyce@nn.independent.co.za

She is the MD's PA and refuses to give out his address but I'm sure she will pass it on if she gets enough.

The computer department also refuses to give out his e-mail address.

JOINT STATEMENT BY UNION AND NON-UNION STAFF AT INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

The possibility of imminent strike action and/or interdicts by the editorial staff at Independent Newspapers in Durban against the management of the company should not obscure the important social and consumer issues at stake in this dispute. What has happened is that the company has decided to dissolve separate newsrooms and to dump all its journalists into one pool of writers churning out stories. These stories may or may not then be selected for publication in any of the nominally separate titles by newly appointed and all-powerful "content editors" and "news directors".

While we are convinced that the company is acting unlawfully in the manner it has gone about forcing through it so-called new vision, we are not going to rehash our legal arguments in this statement. They will be aired in the appropriate forum at the appropriate time. There are broader issues than the legalities at stake. First, the quality of the product for newsreaders is, in our view, certain to be compromised by the change despite the best efforts of future pool-journalists. Newsgathering is a vocation that brings out the best in journalists who compete for scoops and develop and research stories that are of interest to their particular readers. In one fell-swoop, management has destroyed this feature of journalism in five of Durban's major titles. Aligned to this is the extraction from the newsroom environment of any motivation to develop a beat in a particular newspaper that has a unique and subtle niche. Now we will have ranks of hacks, sitting like factory workers at machines, simply spewing out copy for random selection.

We are also deeply concerned that the company is dressing up its new vision as something that will enhance quality. This is pure corporate spin. The real reason, it seems to us, is to save Mr O'Reilly bags of money while the reading public of Durban are conned into thinking they are buying a diversity of views when taking out subscriptions to our different rags or buying a morning and evening paper at the robot every day. This is not the case. If the company were honest it would simply print one newspaper, called perhaps, the O'Reilly Tribune, and run two shifts of journalists to provide copy for it. An even greater threat to diversity and journalistic independence is that the relationship between journalist and editor will be severed. All journalists know how important it is to be able to sit down and fight with one's editor sometimes about the public interest in airing a particular story that no one else will touch. Now, content editors, like tourists on the beachfront will simply select which items to take from among a row of hawkers and the producers will have little say. And to cap it all, the content editors that have been appointed are overwhelmingly white and certainly do not represent a fair spread of race, gender or class opinion.

While the present dispute has never been about possible retrenchments of editorial staff, it would seem to us that, once the changeover to the pool has been accomplished, retrenchments of other staff will not be far-off. Essentially then, the company's long-term goal is to get more work out of fewer people. All the while, the content of the product will get worse and worse and soon there will be real operational reasons to retrench many more people.

We have offered to take this dispute to expedited private arbitration. The company has refused. We have called upon the company to suspend its course of action while it considers a broader range of views. It has refused. We are left with no option, then, to fight this matter in the Courts or to go on strike. We ask for the public's support during this time; either by telephoning our managing director, Graeme King at 308-2911 or 308-2300, or else by applying other forms of legitimate pressure. Ultimately the issues at stake are about your access to a real quality newspaper of your choice, staffed by motivated and driven journalists representing a variety of views. Whatever the outcome of the strike or Court case that seems to be imminent, in the interests of transparency and media diversity, we wish to put these issues before the readers of Independent Newspapers and hopefully open a public debate on these important issues.

MWASA SAUJ SATU CEPPWAWU non-union staff.

Contact people Motsumi 0824728899: Mpume 0826901808

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