Executives have now admitted a new Welsh nationalist newspaper is to close only months after it was first published, when we broke news of problems there at the start, and were predicting its demise from the beginning.
The print version of The National (TN), has been axed, but it only launched on SAINT DAVID’S DAY (MARCH 1), while we had shown how it was proclaimed that the “driving force” for it (Huw Marshall) was a ‘comedian’ who had made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, used bad language to abuse prominent politicians on social media, was placed under police investigation, and had been officially reprimanded.
The ‘Regional Editor’ of TN, Gavin Thompson wrote in the paper at the weekend (although didn’t headline it): “…we’ll be stopping our weekly print edition, (and) reverting to a pop-up model in future. The edition published today, Saturday, November 13, is the final weekly print edition, for now at least.”
This inevitable news follows our revelation that mainstream media outlets and politicians are only now warning that the future also looks bleak for Wales’s biggest airport, when journalists on The Eye have been reporting these difficulties too, for MONTHS, (see story soon).
Mr Thompson released a ‘manifesto’ for the contentious project in which he said Huw Marshall “worked hard to convince us it was viable” and that “The journey began with a crowdfunded campaign by independent organisation New Media Wales”.
Yet the crowdfunding campaign was highly controversial – our investigations have shown that last year Mr Marshall had a total of 179 patrons pledging £1,221 per month, although he said he needed a lot more – 500 to launch.
Other unusual characters had also backed TN, before its closure.
The headline-grabbing Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) member for Blaenau Gwent, Alun Davies, MS, declared on Twitter about it before the launch eight months ago: “Well. I wish you best of luck with this initiative. Anything to strengthen our news environment should receive a warm welcome”.
A ‘warm welcome’ was given, as well, to the ‘pilot’ for the venture which was wished “Best of luck” by Welsh Government (WG) minister Lee Waters,
Distribution costs (unlike with purely online ventures) are sky-high, and establishing a fresh brand presents a formidable hurdle to anyone wanting to start a new newspaper.
For readers, buying a particular paper is a habit which is formed over years, while for newspaper owners it is enormously expensive getting the product into newsagents and supermarkets, as the iron law of the market prevails.
These issues have now been underlined by the shutdown of TN’s print edition, when at its birth we had already reported disturbing signs there.
After the paper was offered to the public it declared in a headline: “Help us reach 1,000 subscribers and we’ll hire a political correspondent”, and it advertised for “Digital reporters (x2), audience and content editor (x1)”, however there were severe doubts about whether a ‘national’ news service could be undertaken with this number. Mr Thompson (who also edits The Argus in Newport) himself admitted that few people, it seemed wanted to take out a subscription: “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”.
Even at the beginning for TN, the reviews were not good.
A reader of the paper’s first edition 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 (FB): “Well I’ve just bought a copy and think its pretty dull”, which was ironic for, as we disclosed, he had wished an earlier ‘pilot’ “Best of luck”.
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)…”
As well as making sick so-called ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, and being placed under police investigation, Mr Marshall, had also used bad language to abuse our Editor Phil Parry online.
Mr Marshall is thought, as well, to be responsible for such ‘pranks’ as having unwanted take-aways delivered to critics’ homes. The neutrality of TN’s output, too, had been questioned, when this is an important tenet of news journalism, and its “driving force” (Mr Marshall) has announced that it would be independent, while the paper declared it was “for all of Wales”.
Controversies like these were always likely to be highlighted by any possible competitor, making the long-term future of TN problematic, and its closure inevitable
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 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”.
Mr Marshall 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 he does not know his journalist libel law (which may, perhaps, have contributed to the cessation of TN’s print edition), because he has said on Twitter that Mr Parry was a ‘liar’ and an “obsessive coward”, linking the insults to an earlier piece he had written about his ‘venture’. Mr Marshall had 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.
After Mr Parry 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 Marshall has also declared that he has a number of different Twitter accounts, but says he reserves one for items which may bother Mr Parry, stating: “@marshallmedia is where I post Everton related stuff and things that upsets Phil Parry”.
In 2013, it was shown, too, that he had made extremely offensive remarks about 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 ‘describing’ 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 called Mr Black a “humourless (sic) t..t” as well as a “dull, tedious t..t”.
On Twitter Mr Marshall has said he told the police that he intended to make a complaint, however officers responded by informing him that they have a “responsibility to investigate any reports”.
Meanwhile, the basic plank of news journalism to be impartial (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.
Mr Marshall’s ‘New Media Wales (NMW)’, or the ‘pilot’, have also made headlines other than in TN (and will not now do so at all in the print version), with the ‘stories’ being described in Private Eye as “cut and pasted from other news organisations”, and they have been highlighted, as well, by The Eye. He has published an article about a doctor learning Welsh, which bore a striking resemblance to an item on the website of a centre which teaches the language to adults, called Nant Gwrtheyrn.
Mr Marshall headlined ‘his’ story: “Aldey Hey Choldren’s Hospital doctor on learning Welsh” when it is in fact AldeR Hey and, of course, CHILDREN’S (correct spelling is also critical for journalists). The item began: “Dr Jonathan Hurst is a doctor at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. He’s been learning Welsh for the last two years. etc. The Nant Gwrtheyrn article opened with: “Dr Jonathan Hurst is a doctor at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. He’s been learning Welsh for the last two years.” etc. Yet this is not the first time Mr Marshall has made the wrong kind of news when so-called ‘stories’ have appeared in other publications.
This was an article in The Leader based in North Wales: “NORTH Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is standing down.”etc. This was his article which followed it: “NORTH Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is standing down.” etc. In fact the two pieces are exactly the same throughout, but underneath Mr Marshall’s, he says: Posted in Welsh News.
Sometimes the changes were minor, such as when Wrexham became Wrecsam. This, once more, was The Leader: “WREXHAM Maelor Hospital is under “immense pressure” amid rising coronavirus cases, a doctor has warned. Dr Steve Stanaway, medical director at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, says his teams are dealing with “huge numbers” of cases – which have grown by 86 per cent since Christmas. Speaking to ITV Wales News, Dr Stanaway said the hospital is currently dealing with 108 cases, 11 of which are patients in critical care …” etc.
This was Mr Marshall’s: “Wrecsam Maelor Hospital is under “immense pressure” amid rising coronavirus cases, a doctor has warned. Dr Steve Stanaway, medical director at Wrecsam Maelor Hospital, says his teams are dealing with “huge numbers” of cases – which have grown by 86 per cent since Christmas. Speaking to ITV Wales News, Dr Stanaway said the hospital is currently dealing with 108 cases, 11 of which are patients in critical care…” etc.
However his supposed ‘stories’ from The Leader or the Nant Gwrtheyrn website are not the only examples. This was the piece in The Powys County Times from the Press Association (PA):“A former Welsh Conservative Party leader has been criticised for equating protesters at the US Capitol to those who supported a second referendum on Brexit.”. etc. This was the item in TN: “A former leader of the Welsh Conservative Party has been criticised for equating protesters at the US Capitol to those who supported a second referendum on Brexit.”. etc.
Even before the unveiling of TN in March, it was clear there was unease among potential supporters.
One announced on Twitter “for me it’s important to be owned and run in Wales”. Another declared: “He’s (Mr Marshall) been saying for a while that there is a “Partner” on board……I assumed that it was a local, welsh business……but it does indeed look like it is (the publishing giant) News quest! !”. A further critic said on Twitter: “Why are we having to use a London based company?”. A different detractor stated: “Gotta be honest, a London-headquarterd media outlet is not at all what I thought I was supporting, purported editorial freedom or nay. I have some reasonably major reservations”.
Yet despite these ‘major reservations’, and the paper version of TN finishing after just EIGHT months, there is apparent optimism.
On Sunday (the day after TN published its last print edition) an official tweeted, seemingly referring to the paper’s ‘pop-up’: “Reports of our death are greatly exaggerated”, with a winking smiley face emoji after the comment.
Perhaps living in a world of fantasy, this was in response to Mr Marshall saying, also on Twitter that “The @nationalwales isn’t finishing.
“The paper is on pause while we focus on digital as we have a brand new mobile & tablet App…”
But it seems senior newspaper executives may have ignored him, siding instead with the critics who had ‘major reservations’, by closing TN, as The Eye said they would…
Tomorrow – why a large department store in the capital city of Wales used a picture of shamed actor Johnny Depp to sell perfume, despite him losing his bid to appeal against a scathing High Court ruling that he battered his ex-wife 12 times.
Details of Phil’s astonishing award-winning journalistic career, as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Regrettably publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.