War of words over ‘Unholy Trinity’ accusation

A storm is brewing in Wales after journalism academic Andy Williams published a report attempting to explain why Welsh newspapers are in the throes of a sharp decline in circulation and quality.

Published under the title ‘Unholy Trinity: The decline of Welsh news media’ the report argues that Trinity Mirror, the publisher that owns both the Daily Post in north Wales and the Western Mail in south Wales is to blame for the decline.

Williams cites “sustained mismanagement”, and “valuing the interests of London over the public interest of the local communities it serves” as two contentious reasons why Welsh news is facing a freefall.

Also attacked is Trinity Mirror’s focus on “unsustainable” profit margins, which have only been managed by “keeping labour costs extremely low and shedding staff in harsh cuts”.

All this, claims Williams, is to the detriment of Trinity Mirror’s publications, and the knock on effect is that circulation is declining rapidly.

But it wasn’t long before the publisher was fighting back, as publishing director Alan Edmunds attacked Cardiff University – where Williams studies – for misrepresenting the truth.

“This is another example from [Cardiff] of one-eyed, inadequately-researched hyperbole fill of ill-informed statements, old chestnuts, tired clichés and 1970s rhetoric,” retorted Edmunds.

“They could have written about the fact that Media Wales was the first regional centre in Britain to introduce an integrated multimedia newsroom for its online, morning, evening, Sunday and weekly titles more than two years ago.

“This report betrays a total lack of understanding of the Welsh media marketplace and how it is developing. In my view it is not based on new insights into the circulation challenge that has faced the whole industry but on old prejudices,” he steamed.

For all of Edmunds’s bluster, he may find arguing with the figures a little more challenging. Williams points to a 41 per cent drop in editorial and production jobs in the last decade, while between 1979 and 2009 the Western Mail’s circulation dropped by around 61,000.

Whoever’s right, one thing is for sure: Welsh news media is facing an uphill struggle if it wants to recapture the kind of audience it had over 30 years ago.

(Source: Press Gazette, MediaGuardian)

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