Workers Online ceases production
- Below is the final editorial of the final issue of Workers Online, the
weekly email newsletter published by Unions NSW. The final issue was
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
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
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
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.
- 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
or, as a shorter link:
-- 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
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.
or for a background & its split from Pacifica and its relationship
with the genesis of Democracy Now!
Previously the cost of these same phone calls was a drawback but maybe
with these new VoIP setups like Engin
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
I'm certainly pondering the topic...
- 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.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, Peter Perkins
> The best postings from the UACT and GL discussion groups could bepolitical
> incorporated into a "Workers Online" type (but not content or
> 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
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 --
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.
- 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.
> 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
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:
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.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "trvrcrmck"
> The newsfeed on my blog (at http://solidarity.redrag.net/newsfeed/) isAs I wrote in my post, Trevor's aggregation -- his 'mashup' --is the
> a rough mashup of a handful of labour/union RSS feeds.
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.
- Thanks Dave.
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.