Labour and News, Vol. 12 - 2005, No. 1
Conditions of Work and Life of Journalists Excerpts from an International Survey, 1925/26: An Introduction
This article contains excerpts from a 1925/26 survey by the International Labour Office in Geneva, published in 1928, and involving journalistic organisations in 33 countries in Europe and the Americas. As a historical document the results of the survey anticipate and reinforce the development of a professional model of journalism – they call for adequate financial compensation, job security, and personal welfare for the individual journalist. As such the survey illustrates the plight of the rank and file after World War I in several countries.
In the closing years of the Victorian Age, thousands of labourers from China and the Indian subcontinent were imported into Canada to help build the new country’s infrastructure. In particular, these workers were employed laying the tracks for the cross country Canadian Pacific Railway. Although most workers professed to be only temporary wards of the state, hundreds if not thousands chose to stay in the Pacific Northwest and establish communities. This sense of permanence brought a strong reaction from Canadian labour unions most of whom adopted official policies demanding that Chinese and Asian labourers be deported from the country. The depth of their opposition appeared in many forms in the Canadian labour press of the period. It is here that one can sense precisely how emotional, irrational and racist the commentary was. The labour community, which pictured itself as the agent of reform in the country turned violently reactionary when confronted with this issue. The vitriolic racism that appears in journal after journal has done much to diminish the sense of reform to which labour subscribed in that period.
Media Tactics and Taste: Organising the Southern Labour Movement at Highlander Folk School, 1938-1946
Between 1938-1946, the Highlander Folk School’s socialist faculty fostered a collective identity formation process among union workers and officials by teaching these students to write autobiographical statements of purpose, dramatics, music, and journalism. This historical essay considers the role of media education at Highlander in the labour movement that emerged in the American South just prior to World War II. Based on archival materials, it asks why the interpersonal media of labour theatre and music were more popular and effective as organizing tactics among the labour students at Highlander than the mass medium of journalism. Within a discussion of social movement theories that considers how and why social movement participants act as they do, the argument presented here suggests that American labour movement activists acted on the basis of their prior experiences and affective connections to those contexts.
Reporting on Labour: Class Consciousness ond the Uncertain Ideological Boundaries of Canadian Journalism
One of the central questions in this study was whether a group of mainstream labour reporters could create a culture of resistance in their journalism practice. This research also tested a dual conception of the group as an interpretive community and a culture of dissent, rather than as just members of a profession adhering to the rigidities of their professional roles in the mainstream press. The goal in this study was to shed light on the reporters’ unique roles during a specific period of change, and to view them as interpreters of unfolding social events during a time of significant political change.
Substantial research documents the central role of the U.S. media in delegitimising and marginalizing the labour movement. U.S. journalists cover labour only rarely, and then through the prism of a “public” interest frame that submerges class relations, privileges commodities over the workers who produce them, and implicitly supports capital over the workers whose actions threaten to (or do) disrupt the ordinary flow of commerce. This coverage is deeply rooted in the patterns of thinking taught in academic journalism programs. Leading American journalism textbooks rarely suggest seeking information or comment from labour leaders or union members, even for stories in which unions would be deeply involved. When textbooks ask students to write articles about hiring freezes and lay-offs based solely on press releases or “notes” from news conferences by corporate officials, students are being taught a clear lesson about whose perspective matters. Journalism textbooks largely ignore the vast majority of the population – those who must work for a living. Workers and their unions exist only on the margins, as a disruptive force that inconveniences the general public. That reporters trained in this way go on to ignore labour concerns and perspectives in their own reporting is hardly surprising.
Elián González, an unknown Cuban boy, became the unfortunate star of one of the greatest media stories of our time, when he appeared floating in the sea after the sinking of the boat in which he, his mother and his stepfather abandoned their country. Between December 1999 and June 2000, international media were full with reports of the dispute for the child between the Cuban exile in the United States and the government of the island, which involved the Clinton Administration and was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. According to the polls, the story of Elián González had relevance in terms of public attention, similar to other great media stories like the Clinton-Lewinsky affaire. This article explains why a six-year old boy from a remote Cuban city, who must have had a life like any other child, outside of the world of newspapers and television news, was transformed into a media character, and the hero of a campaign of intensive political propaganda inside Cuba. The author examines the political circumstances surrounding the events and the symbolic components of the story as presented by Cuban media, particularly issues like family, race and nationality.