A ‘comedian’ who made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse publicly prominent politicians, was placed under police investigation and is behind a new ‘national’ Welsh publication, declared on social media they would hire a key correspondent if they reached a few hundred subscribers yet minutes later proclaimed they had almost double the number he mentioned, The Eye can reveal.
The bizarre comments on Twitter from Huw Marshall (who has been described as “the driving force” for ‘The National’ [TN]) highlight an apparent major recruitment crisis at the media outlet, which was issued both online and as a newspaper.
Mr Marshall initially stated: “If just 500 people subscribed to The National Wales they’d employ a business and economy editor…”.
But four minutes later he tweeted: “Approaching 1,000 subscribers for the @nationalwales. When that target is met a dedicated political correspondent will be added to the team.”.
Tomorrow TN is due to publish its second edition, and the paper has also announced in a headline: “Help us reach 1,000 subscribers and we’ll hire a political correspondent”.
The ‘editorial leader’ as he has been described, Gavin Thompson (who also edits The Argus in Newport and made “the driving force” remark online) has also referred to subscribers by saying: “Our journalism is funded by our digital subscribers. At time of writing, 430 of you had signed up to become subscribers, many taking out an annual subscription”.
But the future does not look rosy for the new Welsh newspaper/online publication.
A reader of the paper’s first edition (on St David’s Day) said: “It looks like the Wrexham Leader from the 1970s”, and those in authority took a pretty dim view as well. The Welsh Government (WG) minister Lee Waters (a former producer on the BBC Cymru Wales [BBC CW]) radio programme Good Morning Wales (GMW) stated on Facebook: “Well I’ve just bought a copy and think its pretty dull”, which was ironic as he had wished an earlier ‘pilot’ “Best of luck”.
Indeed the reviews generally for TN have not been good, and the neutrality of its output has been questioned, when this is an important tenet of news journalism.
This was the published comment by one writer online: “It (TN) starts with worthy statements about how we deserve better fearless, independent and unintimidated media in Wales and should be happy to pay for it then gives us a timid, third rate product filled mainly with political comment from compromised sources who wouldn’t know a truth if it whacked them over the head with a cricket bat. The dreadful headlines persist throughout (try “Uncertainty follows end of overseas study scheme” for size! If I ever wrote that headline I think I would have decapitated myself immediately)…”
There are also major questions about the man called the “driving force” for TN by the organisation it has ‘partnered’ with (The Newsquest Media Group [NMG] where Mr Thompson works, and is part of the giant American media corporation Gannett Inc.), who was, too, the figure behind New Media Wales (NMW).
The Eye have shown how that person, Mr Marshall, has also been reprimanded by a social media company, after as well as making the sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, and using bad language to abuse prominent politicians, and our Editor Phil Parry, online. Mr Marshall is also thought to be responsible for such ‘pranks’ as having unwanted take-aways delivered to critics’ homes.
However controversies like these from the past are likely to be highlighted by any competitor.
Two people died and a police officer lost the sight in both eyes when rampaging gunman Raoul Moat shot them, yet despite this on July 8, 2010 – with him trying to escape from armed police – Mr Marshall published a message on his Facebook (FB) site, reading: “Hi I’m a sexy 19 year old blond (sic) from the North East of England looking for some fun. My Mr Right should be a big strong ginger man with a fiery temper and a jealous nature, who also enjoys camping and writing long letters.
Another post read: “Moat reward… if he isn’t caught by next Wednesday, the rewards (sic) being doubled. It’s going to be a Raul (sic) over”.
He has been dubbed a “chancer” on social media, and his ‘stories’ have been accused of being “cut and pasted” from other publications by the UK satirical and investigative magazine Private Eye.
Evidently Mr Marshall does not know his journalist libel law (which is strange for someone involved in a new media service), because he has said on Twitter that Mr Parry is a ‘liar’ and an “obsessive coward”, linking the insults to an earlier piece he had written about his ‘venture’. But publishing these phrases to a third person (as he has done) is highly libellous.
Mr Marshall has also called Mr Parry a “self proclaimed journalist”, which may not be libellous but is provably wrong as he trained to be a journalist in 1983 on the best newspaper course in the UK before moving into television, and has won an enormous number of awards. Mr Parry’s long career has mostly been in other organisations (including 23 years with The BBC), and he has taken any number of National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) exams – ones in libel among them.
After he published an earlier factual story about Mr Marshall’s antics, Mr Marshall said on Twitter, it was “now in the hands of the police” when the facts (unlike Mr Marshall himself) are NOT, actually, a police matter.
Mr Parry seems to have become something of a thorn in his side, because Mr Marshall has declared that he has a number of different Twitter accounts, but says he reserves one for items which may bother him, stating: “@marshallmedia is where I post Everton related stuff and things that upsets Phil Parry”.
Yet it has not only been Mr Parry to have irritated him previously.
In 2013, it was disclosed that Mr Marshall had made extremely offensive remarks to senior politicians on Twitter, and complaints after further comments led to reprimands by the social media company.
One insult eight years ago, was directed at the Labour MS and minister Ken Skates, with another hurled at the former Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black. After Mr Skates tweeted in celebration of a one-vote council by-election victory over Plaid Cymru (PC) in Ruabon, Mr Marshall referred to him in his own tweet as a “gloating t**t”, and he described Mr Black as a “humourless (sic) t..t” as well as a “dull, tedious t..t”.
It seems the police have loomed large in Mr Marshall’s life, because on Twitter he has said he told them that he intended to make a complaint, however officers responded by informing him that they have a “responsibility to investigate any reports”.
Recruiting journalists to investigate these kind of matters is a major issue, because apart from pleading for more subscribers to “hire a political correspondent” it is clear that the subject of staffing has been a problem before for TN. It advertised for “Digital reporters (x2), audience and content editor (x1)”, and there are severe doubts about whether a ‘national’ news service can be undertaken with this number.
Meanwhile, the basic plank of news journalism to be entirely neutral (because many potential readers may vote for parties other than the one you support), could be difficult for Mr Marshall, as he has been a candidate for one particular political party in the past.
In 1992 he was PC’s Parliamentary candidate in Cardiff Central, coming fourth with just 748 votes, however his plans to stand for election as a councillor were scuppered when it emerged that he had posted the so-called ‘jokes’ about Moat, and published the abusive remarks to senior politicians on social media.
It appears, though, to be no joke that he stated on social media his newspaper would hire a key correspondent if they reached a few hundred subscribers, yet minutes later said they had almost double the number he mentioned…
The memories of Phil’s astonishing decades long award-winning career in journalism (before the advent of NMW or TN) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!