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Workers Online ceases production

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  • Sue Bolton
    Below is the final editorial of the final issue of Workers Online, the weekly email newsletter published by Unions NSW. The final issue was published today.
    Message 1 of 8 , Dec 1, 2006
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      Below is the final editorial of the final issue of Workers Online, the
      weekly email newsletter published by Unions NSW. The final issue was
      published today.
      Sue

      **************************************************

      Seven Year Itch

      For the past seven years, over 335 issues, Workers Online has been
      chronicling events in the labour movement and passing our judgments on
      all things union.

      With the support of the NSW Labor Council, now Unions NSW, the
      publication has occupied a privileged position of working from within
      the movement, yet having an independent voice to comment as an outsider.

      But after much reflection, in consultation with the officers of Unions
      NSW, I have decided that this will be the final year for Workers Online
      and that this is its penultimate edition.

      The reasons for this are both complex and obvious.

      When we began publication back in 1999, we created a clearly defined
      role. In the absence of a coherent media policy for the movement,
      Workers Online would package the news that should be published, the way
      we wished it would be - tabloid and in your face.

      It is perhaps a reflection of the success of this idea that in 2006 the
      media does cover union affairs again, tabloid press and TV in
      particular. The niche we set out to occcupy has been back-filled.

      Back in 1999, it is fair to say that Workers Online was at the cutting
      edge of political activism on the web. Even our dearest friends would
      concede our look, and more importantly, our model is getting a little
      retro. Back then, we thought we were constructing virtual universe -
      today, post dot.com buts - we know this was only ever a communications
      tool.

      Over this time, my interests have broadened too. More and more unions
      have come on board to take media advice from me - and my colleagues at
      EMC - allowing me to develop more sophisticated public strategies than
      merely running a lairy headline on a website.

      What this means is that where once Workers Online broke the news, these
      days our team are forced - often reluctantly - to hold back on stories
      so we can implement releases in the mainstream press. So instead of
      leading the debate, we have forced ourselves into a position of following.

      With this increasing responsibility to the movement has also come a need
      to pull back on the provocative agitprop - when your one-time targets
      become your clients it is, sadly, a little harder to tip the gratuitous
      bucket.

      But there has been a more profound concern about our model emerging in
      my mind over recent months: that while it is easy to chart the weekly
      news in bite-sized chunks, the real intellectual heavy lifting of
      building a model of politics for the 21st century has been sliding.

      Despite the quality of some of our features, the weekly news cycle does
      not give the chance to reflect, develop policy ideas and build
      campaigns. And a broadcast format, where ideas are merely printed, does
      not make for dynamic debates

      That is where Unions NSW and EMC have determined to take the web
      activism in the next few years - with the nascent Working NSW think tank
      we want to build a centre of policy debate and formulation to help
      imagine an economy that operates in the interests of working people and
      their families.

      Our team of journalists will help drive this project, developing what I
      believe will be a ground-breaking partnership between academics and
      writers to not just develop, but drive the public debate.

      That is not to say there is no need for a service that chronicles the
      ebb and flow in IR; to this end we will continue to produce a regular
      email bulletin that will link up the leading news stories and debates.
      Current subscribers will get the opportunity to convert to this service
      when we relaunch in early 2007.

      But as for the tabloid yarns and my pontificating editorial, this is it;
      one more edition to sum up the seven years of Workers Online will be
      published before Christmas, but then we will be history.

      It is not an easy decision, but I have always argued that institutions
      need renewal and I must apply that logic to my own work. And after 335
      missives on what I think about the world, I feel like it is to time step
      back for a while for some quieter reflection.

      Peter Lewis

      Editor
    • dave_r_riley
      To state the obvious -- with the specific and rather ALP Laborism narrowism of WO passing from the scene, that leaves a big hole in labour movement coverage
      Message 2 of 8 , Dec 1, 2006
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        To state the obvious -- with the specific and rather ALP Laborism
        narrowism of WO passing from the scene, that leaves a big hole in
        labour movement coverage here in Australia.

        Aside from what the various unions put out in way of news feeds and
        press releases; and the very limited ALP centric coverage offered by
        (Eric Lee's) LabourStart Australia(which mainly aggregates the bosses
        media)
        http://www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/show_news.pl?country=Australia&max=9999

        or, as a shorter link:

        http://masl.to/?C48B32B4E

        -- and I guess some of the radio emanating from 3CR in Melbourne --
        such as The Stick Together Show -- there's now this huge gap
        precisely at a time when the labour movement needs sympathetic
        coverage and truthful reportage most.

        We've known that in regard to the WA campaigns and Work Choices abuses
        there that it was primarily through Green Left Weekly that the story
        was carried to the eastern coast. I thought that knowledge of events
        in the labour movement, the solidarity and the incidences of employer
        abuse of workers rights was a key feature recognised at the October
        National Trade Union Workshop and it seems to me that a way to grab
        information and deliver it to a broad audience within the labour &
        solidarity movement is something we need to seriously consider in the
        new year.

        I've thought about some podcasting options in this regard but that
        would require a network of committed reporters or a handy, effective
        and systematised use of phone interviews that could draw on first
        person information at the scene of the activity. Now with mobile
        phones and the like, & if we accept the use of 'rough' audio as a
        consequence-- maybe thats' something that warrants exploration?

        I think so anyhow as I've been wondering how to explore that very option.

        While I'm just been thinking free form like, from my own experience as
        a listener -- one of the most effective formats in way of reportage
        I've come across is Free Speech Radio News.

        http://www.fsrn.org/

        or for a background & its split from Pacifica and its relationship
        with the genesis of Democracy Now!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Speech_Radio_News

        Previously the cost of these same phone calls was a drawback but maybe
        with these new VoIP setups like Engin
        http://www.engin.com.au/
        We can now look forward to a very cheap possibility coming to
        fruition. And I'm basically talking about short sound grabs too --
        less that 2-3 minutes a report. So I think the technology at a very
        very cheap price is almost there -- one that lives off a massive
        contact list of phone numbers to pull in reports from anywhere
        anything breaks out.

        But I think it has to be both audio and hard copy as the audience
        isn't either one media form or another but content needs to be
        delivered regardless of its form.

        Anyway, it warrants consideration -- especially now that WO has passed
        into history.

        I'm certainly pondering the topic...

        dave riley
      • Peter Perkins
        Maybe a revamping and enhancement of the UACT Solidarity web site is in order to fill the void on industrial issues. Often we are bombarded with information on
        Message 3 of 8 , Dec 1, 2006
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          Maybe a revamping and enhancement of the UACT Solidarity web site is in
          order to fill the void on industrial issues.

          Often we are bombarded with information on the industrial front. This is
          often not suitable for the GLW discussion groups or web site but could
          be handy for those active or interested in labour issues.

          There is often fragmentation of information over many outlets which is
          unhelpful. People usually have to choose where and with what priority
          that information is sought. Linking, as you do with Ratbaggy Spot, Dave,
          is one way of achieving some sort of encompassing reach to information,
          but central repositories are often more useful.

          I am often amazed at the volume of information which is turned over on
          GL discussion groups. Much of this is useful because it is focused. It
          also it doesn't inhibit (yet encourages the inquisitive amongst us)
          anyone from seeking further information.

          Maybe we should all use the uactsolidarity groups much more than we do?

          It could help if subscriptions bases in this group were broadened out
          to attract more debate on the labour front.

          The best postings from the UACT and GL discussion groups could be
          incorporated into a "Workers Online" type (but not content or political
          line) continuous news update bulletin of labour issues and struggles. A
          moderator/editor would be required to do the sorting once or twice a
          day. This could then enter the public domain in place of WO, with links
          to discussions and direction to Alliance resources.

          This does not cut across the production of GLW and could be an adjunct
          in updating information which is not possible in a weekly publication.
          GLW would still be the flagship and the standard against which all other
          things are measured.

          This is another chance for us to fill in a few more gaps.

          Peter Perkins
        • dave_r_riley
          ... political ... In fact that s easily done, Peter, and I have experimented with it in a few contexts. To take the example of this group -- all you need do is
          Message 4 of 8 , Dec 1, 2006
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            --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, Peter Perkins
            <retepsni@...> wrote:

            > The best postings from the UACT and GL discussion groups could be
            > incorporated into a "Workers Online" type (but not content or
            political
            > line) continuous news update bulletin of labour issues and struggles.

            In fact that's easily done, Peter, and I have experimented with it in
            a few contexts. To take the example of this group -- all you need do
            is tag the urls these posts reference on a folksomony
            site like del.icio.us
            http://del.icio.us/
            or technorati and offer that either as a url directory or RSS feed.

            Anyone can do it from within their own everyday browser with two
            clicks. Theres' one blog site I use -- Planet Web 2.0 -- and it puts
            out a deli.icio.us reference/tag list everyday by labeling it with the
            date. The beauty of this is that you have these lists avialable not
            lost somewhere in the bowels of Yahoo Groups.

            Unfortunately the left hasn';t discovered folksomony yet but I
            believe it's a very useful tool. If it is to work there has to be s a
            sense of shared rationale about it -- that the exercise is indeed
            useful and has a collective component. For the moment this list and
            any other left email list you are on is utilized to tag and reference
            these urls although this isn';t a very efficient way to do it
            primarily because the tag to the url on a list like this is avialable
            in anyone's awareness for such a short moment of time -- maybe for
            even less than a day before it is buried.

            There's a site in Perth that has done something akin to that --
            http://solidarity.redrag.net/
            It's run by Trevor Cormack And what he does is aggregate many feeds
            into his own custom built labour movement news service such that in
            effect its more useful that WO alone, for instance.

            I did it for this list for about 2 weeks as an exercise earlier this year.

            If you take the example of Lee's Labourstart(for Australia) -- thats'
            so darn easy to do its a no brainer and could be done in 10-15 minutes
            a day. But despite overtures to the anchor for Labourstart here they
            will not include Green Left Weekly in their service -- preferring
            instead to rely on Murdoch and whatever WO puts out or some unions in
            way of news feeds.

            So at stake here is politics too not just mechanics.

            dave riley
          • Peter Perkins
            What I suggest is that this be built into and synced with the almost unused UACT website or some other site. Forget about Labor Start, we could fill the void
            Message 5 of 8 , Dec 1, 2006
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              What I suggest is that this be built into and synced with the almost
              unused UACT website or some other site. Forget about Labor Start, we
              could fill the void and thus gain some kudos in the local labour movement.

              Labor Start has a different agenda, though we should not miss an
              opportunity to work with them or any one else. Invite them to contribute
              to our site. They may or may not participate.

              Any new website project could be a rallying point rather than just an
              exercise in flying the flag.

              Peter

              >
              > If you take the example of Lee's Labourstart(for Australia) -- thats'
              > so darn easy to do its a no brainer and could be done in 10-15 minutes
              > a day. But despite overtures to the anchor for Labourstart here they
              > will not include Green Left Weekly in their service -- preferring
              > instead to rely on Murdoch and whatever WO puts out or some unions in
              > way of news feeds.
              >
              > So at stake here is politics too not just mechanics.
              >
              > dave riley
              >
              >
            • trvrcrmck
              G day, I stumbled across this discussion in my referrer logs, so I thought I d join up to offer my 2c. It s a bit disappointing that one of the only decent
              Message 6 of 8 , Dec 3, 2006
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                G'day,

                I stumbled across this discussion in my referrer logs, so I thought
                I'd join up to offer my 2c.

                It's a bit disappointing that one of the only decent union
                e-newsletters is folding when internet is becoming a more important
                way of reaching people. Workers Online wasn't perfect, but it was
                informative and irreverent, and certainly better than any online
                newsletter produced by the ACTU or any State peak body. The only union
                newsletter that is up to the same standard is that of the ETU
                (Southern States), but it's only published monthly:
                http://www.etu.asn.au/nletter/archive.html

                The newsfeed on my blog (at http://solidarity.redrag.net/newsfeed/) is
                a rough mashup of a handful of labour/union RSS feeds. I would include
                Green Left Weekly except there is no separate feed for the "Workers &
                Unions" category. But at the end of the day, I only offer that feed
                because I don't have the time to produce something better.

                Like Dave, I think LabourStart is okay, but it's not great because it
                sticks to the mainstream media and the LHMU/AMWU press releases. Jim
                McDonald's http://irpolicy.net is a bit better -- it covers GLW, for
                instance, as well as the ACCI and political parties' press releases --
                but it's ugly, it's a bugger to navigate, and it's not always kept
                right up to date.

                If the discussion between Dave and Peter is anything to go by, there
                may be some interest in something better. I would be interested in
                helping out with any such project.

                --Trevor.

                e: trevor.cormack@...
                w: solidarity.redrag.net
              • dave_r_riley
                ... As I wrote in my post, Trevor s aggregation -- his mashup --is the best available and if you have a newsreader (such as Google Reader or the live
                Message 7 of 8 , Dec 3, 2006
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                  --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "trvrcrmck"
                  <trevor.cormack@...> wrote:

                  > The newsfeed on my blog (at http://solidarity.redrag.net/newsfeed/) is
                  > a rough mashup of a handful of labour/union RSS feeds.

                  As I wrote in my post, Trevor's aggregation -- his 'mashup' --is the
                  best available and if you have a newsreader (such as Google Reader or
                  the live bookmarks in Firefox) you should sign up.

                  It's the best coming together of labour news here in Australia.

                  dave riley
                • Peter Perkins
                  Thanks Dave. http://solidarity.redrag.net/ Checked out the above website - this beats Workers Online easily. The inclusion of video and audio content is better
                  Message 8 of 8 , Dec 3, 2006
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                    Thanks Dave.

                    http://solidarity.redrag.net/

                    Checked out the above website - this beats Workers Online easily. The
                    inclusion of video and audio content is better than just plain text.

                    Well done Trevor.

                    Peter Perkins
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