The media landscape is always changing, change, however, is not always for the better. Evolution in media sources has seen the traditional print media, joined in time by broadcast news and most recently internet sources. As the evolution in source continues it does seem to come at a cost writes Christopher Harries.
While there are more potential sources of news, we have witnessed a diminution of news in Wales, only recently there have been job losses announced by the owners of newspaper groups and the BBC. Of course, owners have to react to market conditions and consumer behaviour but such job losses do ultimately impact on the provision of news especially at a local level. In addition to recent job losses, we have witnessed the closure of a local newspaper the Glamorgan Gem.
At the same time trust in the media has diminished. Polling released in January indicated that public trust in the media had fallen to 28% down from 40% the year before. We should be concerned that trust is falling and should hope that quality journalism addresses the cynicism that is seemingly taking root. While job losses are being made, let us hope that newspaper groups change tack and abandon clickbait journalism and focus on delivering quality journalism.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy. If we accept that news media has a role to play in helping to ensure that the electorate is informed, then we should be concerned at what we see in Wales. There is limited choice in Wales in terms of outlets and with it accordingly perspective. Fleet Street media outlets are often indifferent to developments in Cardiff Bay.
The impact of limited choice is further exacerbated by the cosy relationship between the media outlets and the Welsh government. Too often the Welsh media seem to be prepared to spare Welsh Government figures from real scrutiny.
For instance, at the end of last month, several Welsh media outlets reported on the First Minister’s disclosure that he had been living in what he described as a ‘miniature hut’ at the bottom of his garden during the coronavirus pandemic. In The Prydain Review, I wrote that this disclosure may not be all that it seems, with the so-called miniature hut, being in fact, a converted coach house. This was not about where Mark Drakeford sleeps far from it but ultimately the term miniature hut was intended to create a specific image in the mind of listeners. Would the story have been as newsworthy if Miniature Hut in the headline had instead been replaced by converted coach house annexe?
New outlets are ultimately emerging to challenge the status quo, maybe these outlets are not traditional news outlets but they add much-needed variety. From the taxpayer-funded Nation.Cymru, to bubble.wales, to Gwydir and The Prydain Review it is surely healthy to have an increase in outlets and debate.
As the next election for the Welsh Parliament comes closer, media outlets will have the opportunity to help inform the electorate and in turn increase in turnout. Let us hope that the media take that opportunity for the good of our democracy
Christopher Harries is the Chairman of the Cardiff Central Conservative Association and the co-founder of The Prydain Review