Dylan Moore reflects on the challenges of editing the IWA’s biannual members’ magazine
A week has been a long time in politics for a very long time, but the internet and twenty-four hour television have stretched the political week even further. The media has become part of the architecture of the political arena. Flagship news programmes, experienced news anchors and the rhythm of the news schedule all affect the way we receive and perceive unfolding events, even as for some of us at least the buzz of Twitter is a constant.
Here at the IWA, Click on Wales, the daily blog you are reading, aims to take a step back from the maelstrom and the incessant demands of the news cycle to provide analysis. We are, after all, a think tank not a media organisation. But here in the online space timeliness still matters.
Spare a thought, then, for the welsh agenda. The IWA’s printed magazine, now reaching its sixtieth issue, has for the past three years been published biannually. Its inordinately long lead-in time dictates that its contents adhere to the principles of ‘slow journalism’, a developing concept defined by Delayed Gratification magazine as a returning to the values of ‘proper’ journalism: context, analysis and expert opinion.
The main advantage of editing a current affairs magazine that only appears biannually is the lack of pressure to foreground tomorrow’s chip paper. Publishing at intervals of six months relieves the imperative to constantly chase the zeitgeist. This allows the magazine to become a space for wider, deeper, more lateral thinking. To this end, a major development over the past half-year has been the convening of an expanded Editorial Group to contribute to the magazine’s curation. Joining an already strong team (the IWA’s own Auriol Miller and Rhea Stevens, IWA founder and former journalist Geraint Talfan Davies, economist Gerald Holtham, former Woman’s Hour producer Claire Critchley, health academic Marcus Longley) are PR guru and equality activist Shazia Awan-Scully, Doopoll CEO Marc Thomas, education expert Gareth Evans, Bangor Business School’s Rhys ap Gwilym, Anwen Elias, Reader in Politics at Aberystwyth, and the Director of the Co-Production Network for Wales, Noreen Blanlulet. We’ve also recruited a new Culture Editor in the multi-talented Merlin Gable. Sharing the IWA’s ‘cosy corner’ of sofa and comfy chairs with such a diverse and knowledgeable group of people has been a real privilege and joy. Conversation always spills beyond the time allocation. Next time around, we will be meeting more often.
In issue 60 of the welsh agenda, we focus on ongoing current affairs: there are series of articles on the role of women in public life, Wales’ place in the world, the degree to which we are leveraging our soft power assets effectively, and Brexit, of course. Other pieces tackle the rise in hate crime, the link between poverty and suicide, the delivery of psychological therapies and what Wales can learn from educational success stories in Ontario.
Occasionally, however, there are moments that catch us out. I had already interviewed Leanne Wood and Roger Awan-Scully had already filed an excellent piece speculating on a post-Carwyn Jones Welsh Labour party when the First Minister declared his intention to stand down. Both pieces had to be revisited in the week before print; however long the lead-in time, the run-up to deadline day always carries the thrill of any print publication. Journalism can be slow, but it also has to be accurate.
The digital era has in many senses rendered print publications premium products. IWA members receiving their new copies of the welsh agenda will notice an upgrade in the quality of the physical item and a refreshed approach to design. The Editorial Group have worked closely with designer Marc Jennings at The Undercard and printers Xpedient to ensure we continue to offer a high-end look and feel to match the quality of thought leadership for which the magazine has long been renowned.
Like the political news cycle itself, the journey the welsh agenda has been on over the last six to twelve months has been by turns exhilarating and exhausting, frustrating and fascinating, but in the end we’re immensely proud of the revamped product we’ve together been able to create. It’s tempting, of course, to reach for words like ‘relaunch’ or numbers like ‘2.0’, but in reality this is simply issue 60, another instalment of a magazine that more than merits its place in a media landscape dominated by the sound and fury of screentime. So when the welsh agenda lands on your doormat, why not turn off your devices and immerse yourself in the slow turn of the page.