Was it worth it? Will anything come of it? Will there be any more jobs or freelance work for journalists, or even more media coverage of the National Assembly for Wales as a result?
It’s the Assembly’s recent day-long conference on “Addressing the Welsh Democratic Deficit” we’re taking about. And unfortunately, we fear the answer to all of the above, is “probably not”.
However, as the elected representatives of Wales NUJ members on the National Executive, we will be keeping a watchful eye. And hoping for some positive solutions.
Democracy in Wales is “under threat”, according to Rosemary Butler, the Assembly’s Presiding Officer, chiefly because of the lack of coverage of Welsh affairs by London-based media – from which most people get their news.
Also because, she claims, the UK press is English-centric and doesn’t generally reflect policy differences between the nations.
To address this, a conference was called aiming to put a panel of high profile UK newspapers “on the spot” about ignoring Welsh politics and policies. Oh, dear. Talk about own goals!
Unfortunately Ms Butler was unable to attend the conference for personal reasons
so failed to hear some harsh truths on the day. But by now she will have got the key messages:
In general, the press and public find National Assembly proceedings “extremely boring.”
Most AMs look bored and disengaged, heads lowered reading their computer screens, and are too focussed on delivering their own prepared speeches, not listening and engaging in debate. If they look bored, how do they expect the public to be interested?
Kevin Maguire, Associate Editor, The Mirror warned AMs were “whistling in the wind” if they thought Fleet Street was going to change.
And the afternoon’s panellists of Welsh editors made it very clear they did not have the resources to cover any more sessions than they do already.
As for national news being English-centric when reporting on policies, editors admitted the attitude was – “they’ve got devolution – let them get on with it”.
Ms Butler has warned of the danger of “sleepwalking towards a media landscape in Wales where there is little or no reporting of our political life”. Hopefully, the first session of the conference has woken AMs up – media plurality will be a pipe dream unless they help find solutions.
For Welsh journalists, particularly those in new media, the second session, Localism – the salvation of devolution? may be of more interest. The round-robin, round-table discussion will focus on the regional and hyper-local media’s role in engaging people in the work of the National Assembly. And Ms Butler has hinted at the possibility of Assembly funding for an English language newspaper or website. It does, after all, fund the Welsh language news website Golwg 360.
Interested NUJ bloggers and hyper-local journalists with views on this should go along and get them fed into the report which will be published afterwards. You – and the NUJ – could make a difference!
Wednesday 12 June 2013, 17.00-19.00, Pierhead, Cardiff. Book by 7 June. 0845 010 5500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org