Wales politics

National Assembly for Wales 'should employ journalists'

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Media captionPeople visiting Barry Island gave their views on the idea

Journalists should be employed by the National Assembly for Wales in response to cuts in coverage by conventional media, according to a report.

A taskforce chaired by ex-Welsh Government minister Prof Leighton Andrews has made the recommendation.

It examined ways of improving the assembly's digital news and information and increasing public awareness.

It suggests employing a small team of journalists along with "an experienced, impartial editor".

The team could deliver digital news content, including text and video, on social media and other platforms including email newsletters.

It would be "focused on producing content about the stories coming out of the assembly".

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Media captionProf Leighton Andrews: "We're not suggesting a kind of Pravda-style operation as you might have in Soviet regimes"

Prof Andrews, who was an assembly member from 2003 to 2016, said the Welsh media was "fragmented" and a team of journalists working for the assembly could "supplement" existing coverage.

"The assembly is producing a whole series of content daily but not necessarily in the most user-friendly style," he said.

"What we want the assembly to look at is whether it can use proper journalistic skills to get that material out to people, to share it.

"It's to supplement the existing media in Wales. We welcome the strengths that the media in Wales has but it also faces challenges.

"What we want to do is to supplement what exists in the media already here in Wales."

Despite the proposal that journalists should be employed by the assembly, Prof Andrews said the arrangement would not be a propaganda tool for the institution.

"We are not talking about the government here, we are talking about the national assembly which is the democratic forum for the whole of Wales. And those things are different.

"We're not suggesting a kind of Pravda-style operation as you might have in Soviet regimes in the past. This is very much about the democratic forum engaging directly with the people of Wales."

The report cites the decline in circulations of newspapers in Wales and a reduction in coverage which included the Daily Post's decision to stop having a reporter at the Senedd.

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The taskforce's main recommendations include:

  • The assembly regarding itself as a "content creator"
  • Employing an impartial editor and team of journalists to produce digital content
  • News and information that is more relevant to local communities
  • Website, Senedd TV and social media channels to be more focused on the needs of the user
  • Allow viewers to clip and download Senedd TV broadcasts
  • Exploit alternatives to conventional press releases, such as maps, blogs and info-graphics
  • Committee reports to be published with a proper planning, editorial and scheduling process

The work was commissioned by presiding officer Elin Jones, who has welcomed its findings.

She said the proposals were "thought-provoking" and would "strengthen the way we communicate as we seek to become an open, digital parliament which engages with all the people of Wales".

"I look forward to discussing the report, and how we take it forward, with assembly commissioners," she added.

But the recommendation to treat the assembly as a "content creator" has been criticised by digital consultant Huw Marshall, who is also preparing to launch his own independent online news service.

He said social media users would be wary of engaging with content from a political institution as they would perceive it as "propaganda".

"That's why you need those independent platforms and voices, those influencers, sharing that information," he said.

Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins, who chairs the assembly's culture committee, tweeted: "Yes, Senedd should do more social media, promote AMs + committee work more etc. Employ journalists? Initial view is no."

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