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a day in the life of


L


ast summer on holiday in France my wife and I got chatting with a couple at the bar on the campsite we were staying at. Our daughter was playing with their


daughter while our conversation covered the usual moans and groans about the weather, sights to see and places to eat. A couple of glasses of red later, that line of


chat exhausted, I was asked, “so what job do you do then?” “I work for Unite, a trade union where I’m the head of media and campaigns”, I replied. “Oh… but what it is you actually do?” I was asked again. “Are you a spin doctor, campaigner, journalist or what?” “A bit of all of the above”, I replied and then the conversation turned to Sports Direct and Unite’s campaign. Because of its high profile - 17 million people have reportedly watched the house of commons evidence session from last year- it’s an identifiable example that usually elicits an “ah yes” from people. It succeeded in putting Mike Ashley under the spotlight and exposing Victorian work practices, it’s fair to say that the Sports Direct campaign created waves and importantly real change for workers too. Two years in the making it featured on the front and back pages of national newspapers and its success was built on teamwork. With investigations from Channel 4’s


Dispatches, Inside Out on the BBC and the Guardian’s excellent Simon Goodley, whose undercover report blew the lid on minimum wage breaches, it demonstrated the importance of good quality journalism in holding power to account.


In addition to liaising with journalists and


working up stories, I worked with a close team of colleagues in coordinating media stunts and creating content for social media around key


10 | theJournalist


Spin doctor, campaigner, journalist…Alex Flynn says that he is a bit of all of those roles


events, such as Sports Direct’s annual general meeting. My colleagues and I also compiled what we


dubbed the ‘dossier of shame’. The basis of our written evidence to parliament’s inquiry into Sport Direct, it formed the platform for Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner and regional officer Luke Primarolo’s explosive evidence to MPs ahead of Mike Ashley’s grilling by the select committee. The strength in the evidence was that it was sourced and strenuously checked, each claim evidenced with FoI requests, pay slips and worker testimony. In short rigorous journalist practice meant there was no denying it. Away from the long-term projects such as Sports Direct, the typical day in my role at Unite is rich and varied. Unite is unique among trade unions in both its size and scope with members from every walk of life, from the shop floor to the boardroom, from vicars to bus drivers. Because of this you are partly in the hands of


the news gods. Typically the team and I will deal around four stories a day, dealing with journalists across the country from print, online to broadcast. On the one hand you could be dealing with the editor of the Isle of Wight County Press and then the next minute ITV’s irrepressible business editor Joel Hills or the PA’s legendry Alan Jones. Some of the stories will be ours, such as an announcement of an industrial action ballot, strike dates, a legal victory or a pay deal such as


the recent inflation busting Cadbury deal secured for our members. Others will be bombshells, which have huge ramifications for our members such as the recent collapse of Monarch or job losses at BAE Systems. Running through all these stories are people, their families and their livelihoods. Unite members, who through their hard earned wages pay their subs to pay my wages to ensure they have a voice in an increasingly fragmented and at times hostile media. In the case of BAE we knew something bad was afoot when news leaked via Sky that the company was rumoured to be cutting 1,000 jobs from its fighter and trainer jet division. Coming a day before a series of company mass meetings with the workforce was scheduled the news partially confirmed our worst fears. We felt there was worse to come.


a union


communications journalist


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