Cracking the Mirror’s striking problem

This week, NORMAN GILLER has been accused of being an “ideallist”. Nothing wrong with that, he says, but ideally there’d be no selling of press box seats at the 2012 Olympics and Mirror journalists would forget about taking strike action

My old fingertips are sore from typing arguments in various online forums against the idea of Mirror journalists taking strike action in their fight to save the 200 editorial jobs that management wants to axe.

This has led to a faction thinking I am pro-Mirror management. That is like calling Rob Green pro the Jubulani ball.

I just think that in the current economic climate, strikes are the last resort of the brainless. The case I have been putting across the internet to Mirror journos is that there has to be a solution other than throwing yourselves on the bayonets of strike action.

Cost-cutting is only part of the problem. Newspapers are mainly in trouble because there are so many other outlets where potential readers can get their news … TV, radio and, above all, the internet.

This old git (who worked in Fleet Street when papers cost tuppence) will I am sure be ignored, but I am convinced you have not thought long and hard enough about alternative ways to save money and save your jobs.

Try to outmanoeuvre the Bailey Brigade, not outslug them.

When I first came into the Street of Drink you could not move for linotype operators, compositors, hot metal foundry workers, printers of all shapes and sizes … they have all gone to the Wapping wall. If newspaper journos are not to follow them they must come up with those wonderful ideas they are always feeding in print to their readers.

Think your way out of this, don’t try to strike your way out of it. I am a crumbling ruin and can go back to the glory days of Hugh Cudlipp and his vibrant 1950s history of the Mirror: Publish And Be Damned. Now I’m afraid that if somebody inventive does not get hold of the reins, it will be Publish And Be Doomed.

Professor Roy Greenslade commented during discussions on his probing MediaGuardian web page, that I was being “hopelessly idealistic” in thinking the Mirror journos can negotiate a job-saving deal.

For me, idealism has always been the ideal way to go. The Prof, left, who sat in the Mirror Editor’s hot seat during the reign of Robber Maxwell, agrees with me, however, that striking is not the answer.

Greenslade and I are of a generation that has seen the pain and futility of strikes. My conscience still bothers me that I got copy through the picket lines to The Sun when the printers were outside the razor wire, losing their battle to keep their jobs during the Wapping wars of the 1980s. Believe me, there are old, used-to-be-printers smiling to themselves as they watch the plight of the journos. What goes around, etc.

I shall now shut up and go back to my knitting (while sincerely wishing you good luck).

Meantime, everybody who cares should join the Save the Daily Mirror campaign being run on Facebook here.

I was one of the early signatories because I am desperate to see the Mirror flourishing and healthy. Strike action would bring it to its knees.

I NEARLY CHOKED on my cornflakes (actually, it was muesli, but it does not have the same alliterative impact) when I read here Philip Barker’s revelation that the London Olympic organisers are considering selling media seats during the 2012 Games.

The Sports Journalists’ Association is, I am pleased to hear, ready to examine closely this seemingly unseemly commercial idea.

Let’s have a little roleplay: You are Dom Resiniski, chief sportswriter for the Slavania Times, and are down in the Mixed Zone getting exclusive quotes from your national champion hammer thrower, Vladimir Smarkaski, who has just qualified for the Olympic final (all imagined, but please stay with me …).

Sweltering in the furnace of a London heat wave (or, more likely, soaked by an August rainstorm), you hurry back to your stadium seat to file your copy to find, oops, your place occupied by Glenda Moses, a New Zealand housewife in England on holiday and the lucky purchaser of a last-minute ticket for one of the best seats in the house.

Excuse me, miss, but this seat is taken by somebody trying to do his job.

An unlikely scenario? Well, it could easily happen if the International Olympic Committee go ahead with the proposal to sell media seats for the off-peak qualifying sessions in sports like athletics, swimming and track cycling.

The idea, according to IOC director Gilbert Felli, is to beat off criticism of seats being empty when there is a waiting list for tickets.

Yes, a great idea ” but not at the expense of a media army who are the people doing the job of attracting the interest that leads to the waiting lists. If the seats of reporters are sold off in the belief they won’t be using them, I do not need to be Paul the Octopus to predict chaos and confusion.

The concept is being copied from the Vancouver Winter Olympics, where I dare suggest it would have been much easier to work out which media representatives would be missing which event. It is the seats allocated to the “Olympic Family” ” IOC sponsors and their guests ” that need to be targeted. There should be no freebies at the greatest of all festivals of sport.

If they are worried about media seats looking empty when the TV cameras pan the stadium, they could issue blow-up dummies to take their places while they are doing their work elsewhere in the stadium. Yes, I am being stupid now. But no more stupid than the idea to sell media seats.

What concerns me is that the scheme could spread. I can just imagine greedy football club chairmen casting their eyes at the press boxes and thinking, “Mmmmmm, we could make a nice few quid there by selling their seats … ”

I knew a conniving press officer who used to smuggle paying spectators ” friends and friends of friends ” into one of the major press boxes, and would pocket a nice profit. This was back in the 1970s. It wouldn’t happen today, of course…

London’s Olympic organisers must take into account time zones that means one reporter’s breakfast time deadline is another’s suppertime schedule. They will be needing their facilites at all odd times of the day, and to decide who will and who won’t be taking their seats would be a logistical nightmare.

And certain to lead to Mrs Moses sitting in poor Dom Resiniski’s seat.

Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.

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