On The Eye our Editor Phil Parry has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
After disclosing why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis, here he looks at calls from politicians that it is “essential” to strengthen the press in Wales, as reported on a nationalist website taxpayers fund.
It is intriguing how the media in Wales is viewed by prominent figures, perhaps ignoring the role played by The Eye.
Or maybe our style of investigative journalism makes them uncomfortable, and that is not the kind they want.
Perhaps the sort they are happy with does their bidding, and only reports what is officially happening…
The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford MS, has said that it is “essential” that the press in Wales is strengthened, following concerns that people here were being misled by the different coronavirus advice published by the UK Government.
He was speaking in Welsh and in answer to another Member of the Senedd, Plaid Cymru (PC) politician Delyth Jewell MS, who had stated earlier: “(There is a) serious weakness of our media. Last week newspapers that were being sold in Wales had a front-page advert, paid for by the UK Government with the ‘stay alert’ message that did not apply to Wales”.
But the weakness in our media is, perhaps, closer to home.
The Eye have been alone among the Welsh media in highlighting growing concerns that the nationalist website Nation.Cymru (NC) (where this ‘weakness’ in the media was ‘reported’ yesterday) is funded by the taxpayer and claims to serve all ‘the people of Wales’ yet did NOT publish disturbing details about PC money, but DID report information showing the Conservative Party (CP) in a very bad light.
NC has boosted the Welsh independence movement by saying, for example, that “Support for Welsh independence has risen again”, because it was at 11 per cent whereas last year it was seven per cent.
The ‘weakness’ of the media here is also shown, possibly, by the lack of journalistic neutrality on NC, because apart from the piece about the UK Tory party putting it in an extremely bad light, the website also published another tendentious item saying “Conservative AM has accepted more free international rugby tickets than any other UK politician”, yet the site claims it is a “News service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales”.
A lengthy ‘report’ on NC about the CP said too: “More than half of donations received by new Conservative MPs in Wales came from secretive fundraising clubs based in the south-east of England”. Yet the story that NC omitted to cover, but received huge media attention in other outlets, was that PC had been fined tens of thousands of pounds after not declaring money from public coffers.
Several readers of NC have said the site is “biased”. On the NC Facebook (FB) platform a critic said: “It’s a biased online site for some of the people of Wales”. A further one stated: “If people are going to criticise one group they need to consider the actions of others, otherwise its called hypocrisy… we need to ensure all sides play by the rules”.
An incendiary piece on NC about second homes prompted extreme public comments on its social media platform which also displays a certain ‘weakness’.
Remarks on the NC FB platform included “burn to the ground” and “cant holiday in a home that’s ash”
The polarising article on the website itself began: “If it’s ‘coronavirus holiday’ season in rural Wales, the forecast is frosty for second home owners”. And added: “From spreading the virus and skipping lockdown to unfairly claiming business relief, second home owners have had bad pandemic press”.
But the contentious article provoked a string of comments. Apart from statements about burning second homes, another on the NC FB platform said: “I remember the sixties” which is a reference to a time when the paramilitary organisation Free Wales Army (FWA) was prevalent.
NC is supported by the taxpayer-funded Books Council of Wales (BCW) and there has been mounting concern that public money is going towards a nakedly political website.
The ‘Editor’, Ifan Morgan Jones, though, is keen for more money than just cash from public coffers to address this ‘weakness’ in the Welsh media.
The Eye exclusively showed how on Easter Day Dr Jones tweeted to Hollywood superstar Michael Sheen that any support for a ‘new service’ would be “gratefully received and the better the service will be”. In another tweet Dr Jones proclaimed that they had “already reached an audience of some 2m readers digitally”.
The tweets asking for money were also sent to UndebPlaidCymru which declares it is “The official trade union section of Plaid Cymru”. In an earlier tweet, Mr Sheen asked about the cost and Dr Jones replied: “it’s very elastic – the more subscribers we have the more content we can produce”.
It was evident that Dr Jones wanted more money than any he might have received from the public purse – NC’s backer BCW is itself funded by the Welsh Government (WG)
Dr Jones had also tweeted the ‘Donate’ section of NC which states: “We are now close to realise (sic) our dream of creating a lasting Welsh national media, by the people of Wales and for the people of Wales”.
The concept of journalism also seems to be something of a mystery to Dr Jones, and this might be seen as a sign of ‘weakness’ as well.
His CV states: “I am the BA Journalism Course Leader at the School of Creative Studies and Media at Bangor University, and lecture on the subject of practical journalism”.
However nowhere in the details is mentioned qualifications by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), the accepted body for formally accrediting journalists.
Perhaps the ‘dream of creating a lasting Welsh national media’ will indeed mean the media is less ‘weak’ – but only if you happen to be a PC supporter…
Phil’s memories of his astonishing 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book which was not supported by the BCW ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster.
If you need something to keep the children entertained during these uncertain times (in Welsh) try Ffwlbart Ffred about the amusing stories of Ffred and his pet.