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Ian Hargreaves says this is the Britain’s Got Talent moment for ‘digital Wales’

Ian Hargreaves, top journalist and professor, calls on Wales to go confidently into the digital age

Professor Ian Hargreaves gave the 2009 Wales World Press Freedom Day Lecture in Cardiff

Professor Ian Hargreaves gave the 2009 Wales World Press Freedom Day Lecture in Cardiff

Ian Hargreaves, former editor of the Financial Times, The Independent and now strategic director of communications in the Foreign and Commonwealth office, has called on Wales to secure the future of Welsh journalism in the digital age with its own Welsh networked journalism. 

Speaking at UNESCO’s Wales World Press Freedom Day last night at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, Professor Hargreaves, also former head of Cardiff Journalism School, said Wales is at a pivotal point in deciding the future of its media.

He said: “We’re not in the early rounds of this drama, we’re approaching the finale. This is the Britain’s Got Talent moment, when everyone has done their stuff and the judges must decide.

“It’s make your mind up time and we must be thankful that it’s not Piers Morgan on the bench.”

He said none of the problems raised by the future of the media are insolvable or should stop Wales moving forward. 

“None of these problems is insoluble and they must not be allowed to distract us from the task of taking the historic opportunity which really does lie before us now,” he said.

“The debate so far has delivered clarity on these points.

“One. An Assembly Government capable of clear policy specification in this area demands and deserves to be heard.

“Two. None of the matters under discussion can sensibly be resolved in London. Equally, what works in Wales must be designed to work well alongside what’s going on in England.

“Three. In designing a solution based upon plurality around the BBC, we should make sure that a new institution arrangement will plug and play into the age of universal broadband.

“Four. Any new commissioning machinery must be clearly insulated from direct political interference.

He also said the internet could improve Wales’s national pride, by increasing the country’s profile.

“We need Wales to find some time to communicate to the world so they never have a grumpy day. It will be better than the National Health Service,” he said.



What is networked journalism?

Jeff Jarvis says networked journalism is professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives.

“It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

“In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story.”


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Networked Journalism

The internet is expanding and journalism can keep up with the changes or do nothing. Or perhaps doing nothing isn’t an option.

Are journalists at a crossroads, or are they starting to climb a steep hill? I think the latter is true.

Some may see the development of Web 2.0 as little more than IT experts playing around. This may be true of some applications, but it’s also important to see potential social benefits of other new applications.

The Phillis Report of January 2004 was written to try and rebuild a breakdown in trust between government, the media and the general public.

It recommended a greater emphasis on regional communication and said: “Research told us the public want information that is more relevant to them and where they live.”

It also said: “Information on local public services should be prominent and easily found. There should be increased investment in websites to reflect the increasing importance of this method of communication.”

As a medium, the internet could be more transparent and could give a greater emphasis to regional communication than newspapers. One example of this is the is the Liverpool Daily Post’s Interactive News Map:

Users click on the pins in the map to read about stories in their area, which are directly relevant to them.

Users are also engaging with the news in a way which newspapers don’t allow and could encourage people to become more interested in local community issues.

What if it crashes?

It crossed my mind: If the internet is booming, is there also an inevitable bust?

To consider for a moment what that bust would involve, led me to think there may be a time in the future when journalism relied solely on the internet. In that case, a crash could result in no news.

But I don’t think that would happen, because there will always be news. Even if there aren’t professional journalists to report news through a professional medium, there will always be word of mouth.

The other point of considering the worst case scenario is to realise many people are simply scared of the unknown. In the case of the current financial bust – yes, it’s bad, but people are coping. That’s what happens when things go wrong.

“All you fear, is fear itself” (Aaron Neville Hercules, 1973).

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