I rang up the NUJ to renew my press card. They told me that I am no longer a member of the NUJ because I’ve been dead since 23rd of March 2004.
“But…but…but,” I stammered, in rising contempt for my peers. “But where were the obituaries?”
Now I’ve heard of things being ghost-written, but this is taking it a bit far. Is the NUJ trying to imply that I’ve been sending copy to the People from beyond the grave for the past sixteen months?
As you can imagine, the news that you are dead comes as a bit of a blow. While I thought that I was in the bosom of the big family that is the NUJ, keeping me safe from the voracious running dogs of capitalism who run the Northside People, they actually thought that I had kicked the bucket.
They told me that I would have to reapply for membership. For those of you who don’t know the score, the NUJ has a bit of a masonic feel to it. You have to be proposed for membership by another member who will swear that you earn a living by journalism.
The branches of the NUJ are called ‘chapels’. The people in charge of the chapels are called ‘Father of Chapel’ and ‘Mother of Chapel’. It’s just short of rolling up one leg of your trousers and saying the Our Father backwards in Latin .
Anyway, I was wondering what the proposer was going to say about my term out of membership. “I’d like to propose Niall Gormley for membership…. again. Since he last was a member, he’s been, eh, dead. But I don’t think that should exclude him because, as we all know, all the best journalists are dead. All the other ones, the live ones, are well recognised by the rest of us in the NUJ as pretentious bastards who couldn’t write their own names.” (Cue angry cat sound and scrabbing gesture).
I should at this point declare the NUJ’s innocence. The reason they thought I was dead was because my previous bank told them so. It’s one to watch out for: you change bank accounts and they then write to the people on your direct debits and tell them you’re dead. I won’t name the bank involved as they probably have libel budgets bigger than the GNP of Andorra.
The serious bit about all this is that, as a paranoid libertarian freak, I don’t like the idea of organisations keeping information on me. That’s bad. But keeping false information? Now that’s scary.
I don’t know the networks involved here but don’t credit rating agencies gather information from financial institutions? It’s not going to do my credit rating much good if lenders think I’m dead before I take out a loan.
At present everyone has the right to access information held on them by any organisation. (There are a few exceptions).
But is this good enough?
In more serious cases reported in the US, people are being refused employment because of the growth in background checks after 9/11 being based on incorrect records. Maybe people who hold records should have to destroy them or have them verified by the person being recorded.
Meanwhile, it’s good to be alive. (And cheaper on the union dues).