There are occasions when discussing rugby in Wales, that I get a huge dissatisfaction with the media coverage of rugby in general. But first I should explain just what I mean by the media. Do I mean local press? By and large, no I don’t. They have a clear understanding of their readership and the quality and content of their work reflects that. Do I mean radio? Again, no I don’t. Radio offers up a far greater freedom of expression, with it being much easier for differing views to be aired. The national press in Wales on the other hand, I have some grave doubts about.
Wales suffers perhaps from being such a small nation, and that at the top echelon of the Welsh press, the papers, there is very limited competition. In the main there are only two major outlets for national news and it is with increasing frequency that I find myself disappointed with their coverage.
All papers will have their agendas, that is well-known. Editorial direction and control accounts for a lot in terms of the limitations placed on coverage. That is clear to see when you pop across the border and look at English papers. The difference in England is that there are enough top papers to provide you with the different arguments and the different view-points; that simply isn’t happening in Wales.
The latest example of this in rugby is that of the analysis of the Welsh Rugby Union’s finances. The national media is no stranger to analysing the finances of the four Welsh regions, but when an opportunity has presented itself to analyse the finances of the governing body it has shied away from that opportunity.
I suppose what I would like to see in our national media is balance. We don’t have competing papers that will provide that view point, so it falls on a small few to provide it, and it is something that they are failing at. But then let us look at the papers more closely, ultimately they are a business so what cares do they have over being balanced? They will want to write stories that sell, that provide them with ‘hits’ online and they will cater their product accordingly and you can even argue that that is their right.
I think this is where my biggest issues stem from. In chasing the ‘hits’ and the more sensationalist stories, they are impacting on their quality and thus their reputation. In trying so hard to generate “headlines” they miss out on the bigger overall picture. If that is currently generating them hits then you could say fair enough, but I feel that they are forgetting the long term effects this can have on a paper.
By writing such divisive articles, by setting their stall out firmly in one camp in Welsh rugby, they are automatically alienating huge swathes of their potential readership in Wales. I would have thought, Wales being as small as it is, they would wish to fight to represent all areas but in this it appears that I am wrong.
So this is what we are stuck with; a national press geared up to write about Wales and Wales only. Lip service is paid to the regional and club game but the content, tone and often even the quality leaves a lot to be desired. They say there is no appetite for it, it is not their key focus, but by exacerbating and promoting such negative feeling, are they not then compounding the lack of appetite for it?
It seems to be that it is a vicious circle. Do I expect a paper to go out on a limb to provide coverage that it believes its core readership isn’t interested in? No I don’t. I fully appreciate it is down to the teams and competitions in question to generate that interest. But do I agree with the current stance being taken to, in the main, write the regions down with what seems to be almost constant negativity? No, I don’t.
In all of this there will always be exceptions, you will always get the odd writer that bucks the trend, but the paper has already set it’s stall out, it’s reputation has already been set; whatever chinks of positivity are there are swamped by the sheer vitriol and negativity targeted at certain areas of the game.
The national press for me should be held up as the pinnacle in investigative, innovative and quality journalism. Perhaps that’s naivety on my part, maybe I have set my standards too high, but if that’s the case then I find that very sad. We, as a nation, deserve better than what we are currently getting. When a national paper in Wales is more commonly referred to as ‘The Fail’ I think there are sections of Welsh media that are in big trouble. Social media and dedicated rugby websites currently provide a quality outlet for rugby coverage, so for this reader the national press, in Wales at least, is becoming more and more defunct.