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 the current coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown is playing havoc with media schedules, here he shows that being a journalist means reporting the views of those who you may personally find repugnant.
Neutrality, knowledge about your subjects, and giving room to people whose views you do not personally agree with, are the bedrock of journalism, which I have known throughout a career spanning almost 37 years.
It is a shame that others, apparently, do not share this opinion.
Our journalists on The Eye have shown how the CV of Ifan Morgan Jones (the ‘Editor’ of ‘news’ website Nation.Cymru (NC) which is backed by public money) 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”.
And it continues: “My research interests include nationalism, minority language media, digital media and devolution. I completed a PhD in nationalism and the Welsh press in the 19th century. I am currently co-writing a book about the Welsh language press and Welsh identity between the 19th and 21st century, and also a series of papers on digital Welsh language media in the present day”.
Yet nowhere in the details is mentioned qualifications by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), the accepted body for formally accrediting journalists, for whom neutrality and impartiality are crucial.
His website claims it represents all “the people of Wales”, and it ‘reported’ contentiously “Support for Welsh independence has risen again”, on the back of a poll result which showed it was at 11 per cent.
But if NC represents all “the people of Wales” (especially if it is funded by the publlc) then stories about ALL political parties should be reported, including those which show your own party in an unfavourable light.
Yet NC has not done this.
A ‘report’ on the website declared that: “Former Tory group leader (in the Welsh Assembly) Andrew RT Davies received 15 tickets with hospitality included to eight Wales rugby matches during this Assembly term, the register of interests shows”.
Another lengthy ‘report’ on NC about the Conservative Party proclaimed: “More than half of donations received by new Conservative MPs in Wales came from secretive fundraising clubs based in the south-east of England”.
But it failed to cover unflattering news about PC concerning electoral funding.
This was The BBC report: “Plaid Cymru has been fined £29,000 for failing to report cash it received from taxpayers’ funds worth nearly £500,000.”.
Dr Jones published on Facebook last December a picture of a postal ballot paper with his pen pointing at the PC candidate, and has posted a photograph of himself and his partner with the slogan “I’m voting Plaid Cymru”.
In July 2016 he helped promote a rally for Welsh independence in Caernarfon and said that Wales: “faced being part of a state which (is) being politically neglected”.
Last September an opinion piece was published in which he said: “In an independent Wales, the future of our nation wouldn’t be decided by politicians completely removed from our concerns, like gods playing dice with our fate on the summit of Mount Olympus”.
This would be fine apart from the fact that NC is supported by the taxpayer through the Books Council of Wales, so in effect should report the views of everyone, including those who are opposed to independence, AS WELL AS PC.
Another who has an intriguing approach to journalism is Stacey Dooley, who has declared it is a positive advantage not to be a properly trained journalist.
She is preparing a BBC Three documentary on coronavirus (Covid-19), but it seems The BBC may have forgotten that officials had to apologise and edit out Ms Dooley’s inaccurate commentary in a Panorama programme which claimed to portray the truth about Islamic State’s (IS) treatment of women.
In the past her programmes have been accused of being “poverty porn” and in one UK newspaper they were called “patronising and condescending to the people they’re trying to help”.
One of her subjects in ‘Stacey Dooley Sleeps Over” said: “She’s lovely but there’s not a lot of depth to her. There’s a fantastic moment (in the programme) where she is with me in the allotment and I say: ‘Come on then Stacey, what herb is this?’ and I tell her it begins with the letter O and she says: ‘Olive oil’”.
When I started on the South Wales Echo in 1983, understanding the background to your subjects, the importance of knowledge, as well as being impartial and neutral were drummed into me.
Yet others it seems have different views.
As one critic put it on Twitter: “If Phil Parry thinks journalists should always be neutral I’d guess he’s never worked on a newspaper with a leader column or specialist writers providing comment and analysis”.
I have, of course, worked in newspapers with those things, but they are totally different from a website which proclaims it serves all “the people of Wales” and is supported by public money, or a so-called ‘journalist’ who made an awful mistake and was accused of making “poverty porn” programmes.
This was in fact a fairly reasonable comment, but the abuse I have endured generally on social media has been quite extraordinary!
Ms Dooley has a cavalier attitude towards journalism to say the least, and NC is clearly a partisan website, which doesn’t actuallly represent everyone – yet we all pay for it!
Evidently tax-payers’ support from the BCW has helped NC because Dr Jones has just tweeted that 130,000 people visited the website – the most ever, he said proudly, in a single day.
But if the website was publicly-funded, then all views would be welcomed (The Eye, incidentally, is privately-backed).
Despite this, almost three years ago Dr Jones wrote on his site: “I was hugely disappointed to learn today that anti-Welsh language troll Julian Ruck is to be invited to give his opinion on the Welsh language on S4C”.
But it is totally wrong to try to prevent listening to the opinions of an author who is opposed to support for the Welsh language.
Tomorrow – Room with a view part two, where Phil examines other interesting approaches to ‘journalism’
The memories of his extraordinary 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 new book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!