Dr Máté Fodor and Dr Marlen Komorowski emphasise the importance of a data-driven approach to setting strategy for the future of the journalism sector in Wales
Cardiff University is currently leading a comprehensive research project dedicated to uncovering the multifaceted landscape of Welsh journalism. Public interest journalism, a historically significant institution in democratic societies, is at a critical juncture. It plays a vital role in informing citizens, promoting informed discourse and ensuring accountability of power structures. However, the challenges it faces, particularly in the unique Welsh context, require rigorous and detailed scrutiny.
Long-standing pillars of information and public discourse, Wales’ traditional newspapers are undergoing major changes. Their readerships, which once attracted the attention of most Welsh people, are dwindling. The exponential growth of alternative news platforms, digital media and real-time information delivery channels has further accelerated this change. At the same time, global technology companies, with their enormous resources and reach, are carving out significant spaces in content creation and advertising, creating serious challenges for independent and local news organisations. The journalism industry itself may also erect barriers to entering the profession that marginalise ideas and voices from already seldom heard individuals, communities and perspectives.
The landscape of Wales, with its unique socio-cultural dynamics, requires a tailored approach to journalism.
Industry-wide change has sparked a series of debates and discussions, with stakeholders asking questions about news delivery mechanisms, integrity, reliability, inclusiveness and the future trajectory of journalism.
While these issues are echoed around the world, the particularities of the Welsh context add to the complexity. From a wider UK perspective, extensive research often fails to capture Wales’ rich culture, distinct identity and linguistic diversity. The Welsh language has a rich heritage and historical significance that requires special attention in news coverage. Similarly, the landscape of Wales, with its unique socio-cultural dynamics, requires a tailored approach to journalism.
Institutions such as Cardiff University’s School of Journalism Media and Culture (JOMEC) are working to address the challenges specific to the nation, but the depth and breadth of these issues require a broader, collaborative and coordinated approach – and at the heart of any industry revitalisation effort is the need for a data-driven strategy.
The changing landscape of journalism, with its inherent challenges and new opportunities, requires stakeholders to base their interventions and innovations and overall strategies on solid data and insights. Decisions, whether policy-oriented or rooted in business models, must be based on a clear, detailed and comprehensive understanding of current challenges and potential opportunities for innovation. Against this background, the research aims to address existing knowledge gaps and provide stakeholders with actionable insights to inform, guide and shape the future trajectory of Welsh journalism.
Traditional journalistic roles are constantly evolving, requiring skills, adaptability and flexibility for professionals.
Employment dynamics in Welsh journalism are further exacerbating the current challenges. The aftershocks of the global Covid-19 pandemic, together with organisational changes in bodies such as the BBC Newsroom, have had a major impact on employment prospects and the stability of the sector. The rapid digitisation of news, combined with changes in audience consumption patterns, means that traditional journalistic roles are constantly evolving, requiring skills, adaptability and flexibility for professionals.
To address these various challenges and to determine the way forward, the Welsh Public Interest Journalism Working Group was established in 2021 with the support of Dawn Bowden MS, Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport. Made up of diverse experts, professionals, and industry stakeholders, this collective has advised that we research the state of inclusion and diversity in the profession, gauge how the profession can adapt to changing consumer preferences and to new technologies, and to help promote a sustainable bedrock for journalism in Wales by conducting research from a multidisciplinary perspective (including insights borrowed from finance and labour economics).
Our research methodology is adapted to these three pillars and is based on extensive evidence gathering efforts, including the conducting and analysis of surveys and quantitative data, as well as drawing insights from interviews and case studies.
Various institutions and organisations, including Cardiff University’s Creative Economy Team, the Institute of Welsh Affairs and Inclusive Journalism Cymru are providing expertise and support to the initiative. In addition, the Welsh Government’s Public Interest Journalism Working Group, through its advisory capacity, ensures that research is aligned with wider strategic objectives to address current challenges and future needs across the industry.
Overall, public interest journalism in Wales is at a crossroads. Although these challenges are significant, they are not insurmountable. Through collective efforts, a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, social and economic sustainability and the use of evidence-based insights, the industry has the potential to be revitalised and strengthened.
This week, we highlight the role of public interest journalism: why it matters, and what can be done to strengthen it.