With the announcement of a new ‘national’ news service for Wales to be run with just two reporters controversially partnered with a huge company, here our Editor Phil Parry looks at the disturbing background of the ‘comedian’ behind it, who made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, was investigated by the police and used social media to abuse senior politicians.
Earlier he 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 Cymru Wales TV Current Affairs series he presented for 10 years, 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 decades in journalism and endless dealings with lawyers, one fact has overridden almost all others for me – people are taken in.
Every one of the huge number of conmen and bluffers, I have exposed over the years are incredibly believable, because they believe their own lies.
Yet another example may be about to happen. A new ‘national’ news service for Wales using just two reporters is about to be launched, but it has contentiously linked up with a huge firm which is part of an international company, the ‘comedian’ behind it made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, was investigated by the police and used social media to abuse senior politicians.
Don’t people check?!
The new service is to be available from March 1 (Saint David’s Day) and will be known as The National (TN), it started life, though, as New Media Wales (NMW) (the controversial pilot for which was dubbed The News Wales [TNW] and wished “Best of luck” by Welsh Government [WG] minister Lee Waters MS).
It partnered with the giant Newsquest Media Group (NMG), and this has been condemned to me by prominent figures in the Welsh media industry. NMG’s Gavin Thompson is behind this ‘partnership’ who announces on LinkedIn that he is “Regional editor, Wales at Newsquest”. Perhaps ironically, he also ‘hashtags’ the words “journalismmatters” after his name! Clearly Mr Thompson is not short on confidence, because he describes himself there in the following way: “I am an excellent communicator, strategic thinker and strong leader who believes business can and should be a force for good. I steered two newspapers to great success, serving communities and achieving industry leading circulation performance and strong profits”.
But his company, NMG, is the UK arm of the giant American corporation Gannett Incorporated, a mass media firm headquartered in McLean, Virginia, in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and is the largest U.S. newspaper publisher (which has made many potential supporters uneasy), and its behaviour has been highlighted by the journalists union the NUJ.
Last November it was reported that the NUJ was celebrating union recognition of local democracy reporters, and this came hard on the heels of other alarming headlines. In July it was published that the NMG furlough scheme was a “waiting room for redundancy” with at least 38 journalism jobs at risk, and in March of the previous year the NUJ criticised plans to cut staff in Brighton, South London and North Wales, which was to lead to an overall headcount reduction of six. The worrying nature of this ‘partnership’ has also been highlighted by David Nicholson on Twitter, who is the NUJ’s National Executive Council (NEC) member for Wales.
As NMG, Gannett owns a host of Welsh titles including The South Wales Argus in Newport, but it has often made the news for all the wrong reasons. In May 2019 under the headline “NUJ speaks up for Newsquest journalists at Gannett AGM” details were released that “…the union remains seriously concerned by Gannett’s stewardship of Newsquest, its relentless job cutting programme, a looming hostile takeover bid and the dire conditions facing journalists who work for the UK company”.
Plainly the connection with Gannett Co., Inc, is also making those people uncomforable who might otherwise have supported the venture.
One said on Twitter “for me it’s important to be owned and run in Wales”. Another declared: “He’s (the man behind the ‘project’ Huw 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 News quest! !”.
The link-up with NMG/Gannett has, too, come in for furious criticism on social media more recently. A critic said on Twitter: “Why are we having to use a London based company?”. A different detractor declared: “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”.
Meanwhile, it is a fundamental tenet of news journalism, as well, to be entirely neutral, yet this may be difficult for Mr Marshall (who has been described as a “chancer” on Twitter), as he has stood for a political party in the past. In 1992 he was Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru’s (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 rampaging gunman Raoul Moat, and published abusive remarks to senior politicians on social media.
His NMW/TNW has also made headlines, with the ‘stories’ being described in Private Eye as “cut and pasted from other news organisations”, and they have been highlighted, too, by The Eye. He has published on TNW 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, 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 news when so-called ‘stories’ have appeared in other publications.
This was an article in The Leader based in North Wales (another NMG paper): “NORTH Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is standing down.” etc.
This was the article in TNW 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, yet TNW underneath theirs says: Posted in Welsh News.
Sometimes the changes are minor, such as when Wrexham becomes 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 TNW: “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.
Evidently I have become something of a thorn in Mr Marshall’s side, because he says he has a number of different Twitter accounts, but claims he reserves one for ‘stories’ which may bother me, saying “@marshallmedia is where I post Everton related stuff and things that upsets Phil Parry”.
Yet his so-called ‘stories’ on NMW or TNW 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 TNW: “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 after the highly-critical article on Mr Marshall had appeared in Private Eye, his remark about “an independent Wales” was ‘Retweeted’ by the deputy leader of PC, member of the Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament (SC/WP) Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, and several of his colleagues have also backed him.
Mr Marshall has been embraced by the Welsh-speaking establishment, but some of the past controversies about him are well known, while some have been highlighted by The Eye, with the judgements of these leading figures now being called into question.
Two people died and a police officer lost the sight in both eyes when gunman Moat shot them, yet despite this on July 8, 2010 – with him trying to escape from armed police – he 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”.
In 2013, it was disclosed that Mr Marshall had made abusive remarks using bad language, to senior politicians, on Twitter, and complaints after further comments led to a reprimand 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 PC in Ruabon, Mr Marshall referred to him in his own tweet as a “gloating t**t”. Mr Marshall also described Mr Black as a “humourless t..t” and a “dull, tedious t..t”.
Mr Marshall has said, too, that he contacted the police but that there was little they can do as “it is a waste of their precious time”, and “I really pity those who try to undermine my work and reputation”.
But it seems the police HAVE had time to investigate Mr Marshall for alleged harassment. On Twitter he told South Wales Police (SWP) that he intended to make a complaint, however officers responded by informing him that they have a “responsibility to investigate any reports”.
Meanwhile hundreds of pounds have been pledged by the public to Mr Marshall for his new ‘national media service’, yet alarming headlines about him such as these persist. His new ‘national media service’ was wished “Best of luck” by Welsh Government (WG) minister Lee Waters, MS, and a supposed ‘language project’ was described as “Newyddion da (Good news)” by fellow PC MS, Helen Mary Jones.
Mr Marshall’s ‘project’ (TN) has also been endorsed by the controversial Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) member for Blaenau Gwent, Alun Davies, MS. Mr Davies declared on Twitter about Mr Marshall’s ‘national news service’: “Well. I wish you best of luck with this initiative. Anything to strengthen our news environment should receive a warm welcome”.
It may not, though, receive a “warm welcome” when the truth has been brought out about the ‘comedian’ behind “this initiative” – that he had made sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, was investigated by the police and used foul language on social media to abuse senior politicians, or that his publication has been accused of copy-and-pasting stories from other outlets…
Tomorrow – more disturbing details about a South Wales crook exclusively exposed by The Eye.
Phil’s memories of his astonishing decades-long award-winning career in journalism (beginning with a private company which was NOT part of a big American group), as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!