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Editor challenges complaining readers to define ‘actual news’

Paul RowlandAn editor has urged readers to define “actual news” after launching a New Year survey on his title’s coverage.

Paul Rowland, who edits Wales Online, has called for those who want the site to cover “anything at all other than the usual clickbait” to say specifically exactly what they mean by that.

In a New Year message to readers, Paul has encouraged people to come forward and tell him about the “subjects, issues and values that are important to you”.

Writing on the on the Cardiff-based site, he pledged to read and consider every idea put forward.

Wrote Paul: “As we move in 2019, we’ve been thinking a lot about how we can involve you, our readers, more in what we do. We want to give you the chance to shape what we’re reporting, by telling us the subjects, issues and values that are important to you.

“It’s an opportunity for you to speak out about the burning issue in your community, or for you to tell us what you think we’ve missed. Or you might prefer to tell us the values and themes you’d like to see more of in our reporting.”

Paul, pictured, added: “Of course, we’re not so naive to think we won’t get more than a few ‘how about covering some actual news for a change’, or ‘anything at all other than the usual clickbait’ (yes, we read all those comments, Facebook posts and tweets).

“The problem with those sentiments is that they’re difficult for us to act upon. If you want us to cover ‘some actual news for a change’, then here’s your chance to define what ‘actual news’ is to you. Because that’s generally much more of a subjective thing than many people realise.

“We have many tools at our disposal to hone our understanding of what our audiences want to read, watch and listen to. But few are as effective as listening to your readers.

“We can’t guarantee we’ll use all the suggestions, but I absolutely to read and consider all of them, and if your idea is one we plan to take further, we’ll be in touch.”

Speaking to HTFP about the reaction he has had since the survey’s launch, Paul said there had already been some “great suggestions that’ll go straight on the newslist”.

He added: “We’ve had lots of responses saying we should be covering ‘more of the things that matter to people in Wales’, and similar things on those lines, but when I’ve asked what’s meant by that, everyone has a different view. That was really the point of the exercise.

“We’ve had a lot of people telling us they’d like to see more political news. This is something we already go a great deal of – although we could always do more – and those comments lead me to believe there’s a wider problem that simply publishing more won’t fix.

“Fundamentally, it doesn’t matter how many politics stories you write if people aren’t reading them. The challenge for us in 2019 is less to create a larger amount of political coverage, and more to engage a larger number of people in the coverage that we have.

“Lastly, I’ve had lots of conversations with people about the more light-hearted stories we run. They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they attract a large audience, and that audience helps pay for the public interest journalism that takes up the vast majority of our time and energy. It’s been fun sparring with a few people on that point.

“We’ve had dozens of responses, and I’m in the process of replying to as many as possible about their thoughts – positive and negative – and we’ll also be looking to involve some of the individuals who’ve made suggestions in the stories and features that those suggestions become.”


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  • January 3, 2019 at 10:41 am

    It’s not the readers job to decide what’s news.It used to be the job of experienced subs and news editors.Oh wait, sorry there’s none of them left.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 10:58 am

    I think his comments reveal just how bankrupt local news now is.

    The point of local journalism is that professional reporters uncover the news that its readers want.

    Too many stories on walesonline are about the latest goings on in Loose Women or a Coronation Street plot line. Yeah sure people read it but they are not necessarily your local audience and certainly not your traditional readers.

    Frankly, if people don’t know what good local news is what are they doing in local news?

    Keep chasing the national audiences and let the hyper locals do the real local news – but let them also have the statutory notice cash too. You can’t have it every way.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Is this is part of the national ‘Live’ brand then the answer is very simple: Stop publishing internet speculation as news, then shrugging when it turns out not to be true and saying, ‘Well, we didn’t say it, we just said someone else said it’. It’s despicable.

    We have one of these titles in our area. They take completely fictitious incidents, made up by idiots on Twitter, and report them as news. Often involving ‘gunmen’. ‘Reports of a gunman at the shopping centre’. ‘Reports of a gunman at the hospital’. ‘Reports of a gunman at the council offices’. Had all three of those. All turned out to be fictitious. Just idiots on Twitter saying, ‘Why is there a police car outside the shopping centre? I heard there’s a gunman on the loose.’

    What the ‘Live’ brand does is steal hits from professional, diligent outfits by churning out lazy, poor quality content which isn’t even journalism. It publishes outrageous nonsense, which turns out to have absolutely no basis in reality, but which is so sensational that readers flock to read it in their tens of thousands.

    Meanwhile, local rivals who engage in proper journalism – ie. fact-checking claims before plastering them on their homepage as breaking news – lose out. It’s absolutely disgraceful and indefensible. They pummel local rivals in terms of web hits, but they do it by publishing stories they know will turn out to be fabricated before they even publish them. They’re an utter disgrace. They have no shame.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I bet sheep will be pretty close to the top of the agenda.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Ha, this editor doesn’t know what news is! (Only joking, Paul!)

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  • January 3, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    I think all the Reach websites are doing the same thing, using more or less the same words, but well done to Paul for adding a human touch to this hollow and desperate admission of corporate strategic failure to monetise its digital audience.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 3:12 pm

    Something that summed up for me how poor some sites are.

    Over New Years a lot of them posted the same gallery ’empty streets on New Years Day”, for me this seemed like a waste of time (feel free digital editors to tell me you got loads of hits from them…) because

    * There was nothing special that someone else couldn’t do. (just run out with a camera at a certain time and take a few shots of empty streets.)

    * it was not out of the ordinary (people would expect this) – the direct opposite of ‘news’

    * The streets they showed are pretty much empty early mornings anyway

    * It was dull

    * The same idea was copied across multiple sites.

    Just as bad as when reporters go to a scene of an incident and take a video of the street, where is the news value there? Wouldn’t it be better if there is no news value just to not bother and spend more time on the story?

    And the worst bit was that the only interesting image in the galleries from my local was that of homeless people sleeping in a shop doorway , that was the newsworthy bit – who are they? how did they get to the situation they are in now? and that was just glossed over.

    Also why are so many local shops shutting down?

    There are loads of interesting questions out there for local papers they just don’t feel like they are being covered in depth on the web, instead crap ideas like this are passed around for cheap clicks and pre-roll ads on hastily knocked together vids.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    The editor is supposed to be the one in charge – not the reads. SAsk any reader and most will say they don’t want this, that or t’other because it “offends” or “upsets” them. Tough. In my book for an editor to ask the readers what they want is a weak attitude to what is supposed to be his/her feel for the job.

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  • January 3, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    An editor asking the public what he should put in his paper and on his website

    Not waving ,drowning

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  • January 4, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Just had a look at Wales Online. Looks like a lively site with plenty of hard news, as well as a bit of shareable daft to keep the stats up. Well done folks.

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  • January 7, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Something that is not on a press release might help. I think they used to be called ‘off diary’ stories. These were unearthed by a reporter living locally and out and about finding stories no-one else had. That was real news.

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