I would like to begin by offering my heartfelt thanks to our Immediate Past President, Paul Leighton. Paul assumed his presidency much earlier than expected due to the sad death of Charlie Harris during his term of office and under difficult circumstances has steered the Institute through a tough couple of years for journalism. I am sure you will join me in extending your thanks for his service.
We have many challenges ahead of us over the coming years as our industry evolves with the emergence of new technology, and I see one of my tasks as positioning the Institute to ensure that it remains both relevant and at the forefront of journalism.
The first of these is to address the issue of online journalism. We have seen the Independent move to an on-line only format, and only time will tell whether this will prove to be a model others follow. Certainly the online press is growing, and the Institute should move to embrace our digital brothers. I would hope to see a new class of membership created, the eMCIJ, to recognise the growth of online news, and proposals for this will be forthcoming over the next month or so.
Then there is the issue of our own membership, and our need to sustain membership growth. The Hon. Treasurer and Chief Executive will with myself form the core of a new membership and marketing committee, but of course this is a task which cannot be successful without the participation of the entire membership. You all have colleagues and friends within the industry, and I would ask that each of you become an advocate for what the Institute can offer from the professional cachet associated with the “MCIJ” after your name through to the benefits of our pension and benevolent funds for journalists who encounter difficulties during and at the end of their working life.
Many of you will know Janice Shillum Bhend, our new Vice-President, who will succeed me in 2018 and I offer hearty congratulations on her election. Janice has many years of experience of both journalism and journalistic training, and has kindly agreed – with the minimum of arm twisting – to head a new committee organising ongoing training that the Institute can offer to its members from the basic through to Continuous Preofessional Development.
Elsewhere, I am very pleased to announce that the former President of our Professional Practices Board Amanda Brodie is making good progress in her recovery from illness, and I am delighted to announce that Council has advanced her to a Fellowship of the Institute in recognition of her many years of hard work. I am sure you will join me in hoping she can make a rapid return to Institute affairs. Her replacement on the PPB Professor Tim Crook is carrying on with her good work in the most sterling fashion.
Recent news in the wider world of journalism is not heartening. The government continues to press for the introduction of its “Snooper’s Charter” and journalists ignore the progress of government interference at their peril. It is difficult to imagine a more Orwellian piece of legislation, particularly as we have already seen existing legislation mis-used to uncover journalistic sources. The guest speaker at our Presidential handover – Paul Nuttall MEP – touched on the subject as he called for more impartiality in the press, specifically in regard to the ongoing EU referendum, but more widely as something to be desired. The thrust of his speech was that the job of the media is to serve information, not opinion dressed as fact.
Meanwhile, the post-Leveson fallout continues with the NUJ backing the attempt by IMPRESS to be appointed as press regulator. One can only stare open-mouthed as the NUJ assists in nailing the coffin lid shut on a free press. There appears little likelihood that IMPRESS will prove successful in its attempt, but it would be foolish to be complacent and the Institute will with your support continue to oppose such efforts.
There is much to be done. Ever onwards!