Organising The Digital World

January 2020

Hey Christine,

I hope you’ve had a good week and congrats on winning your re-election! I had two ideas which I didn’t know if might be of interest to a future edition of The Journalist, do let me know if it’s of interest:

Younger Journalists Are Finally Reaching For Unions – But How Do We Best Serve Them?

Trade unions in the USA are having a bit of a moment. In February, in the wake of huge lay offs, workers at Buzzfeed US voted to unionise, following in the footsteps of digital lifestyle title Refinery29 in January, politics outlet Slate at the end of 2018 and even satire magazine The Onion, with other news outlets forced to run with the headline ‘this is not a joke’. More keep coming too, with podcasting company Gimlet Media voting to unionise in March, Vox Media’s US division winning union recognition in June and Hearst’s US magazine’s earlier this month.

What’s more, not only are these unions made up of a younger, digital-first demographic, they’re doing things differently, with strong individual social accounts, public-facing campaigns, and self-organised cross-union bargaining. And now, the movement could be making its way to the UK, after journalists at VICE UK officially signed a recognition agreement with management this month. Reports say those behind the campaign took learnings from BuzzFeed UK’s previously unsuccessful union attempt.

I’d like to explore why these younger writers and digital publications are now turning to unions, and what we as a body can do to support them. I’ll speak to those involved in successful unionising campaigns on both sides of the globe about their motivations, tactics and goals, as well as industry and union experts about why the tides have turned, and the different kinds of support these members are looking for.