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Posts Tagged ‘Cardiff’

“Too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we ask is ‘Do we have the story?’ rather than ‘Does anyone want the story?'”

I was surprised to learn this comment was made by Rupert Murdoch. In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005, he spoke about the need to be more in tune with the people “we rely on to come back to us each day”, and warned of the “distastrous” consequences of being out of tune with readers’ needs.

Joanna Geary, Community and Web Developer Editor of The Times, echoed this when she came to talk to Cardiff journalism students last week. She spoke about the need to learn what readers are looking for and what they care about, even if the stories are not the ‘glamerous’, front-page splashes journalists so often go for.

Alan and Joanna

Unlike many of the lectures we have heard until now, Geary took the view that while the barriers between journalists and the audience have dropped, things have not panned out as optimistically as people had hoped.

Speaking realistically, Geary reminded students “people are busy! They don’t have the time or privilege to investigate the things that are important to them”. For this reason, the idea of ‘the people’ taking the reigns and writing their own content has not quite taken off. Undoubtedly the audience has become more empowered, by developments like the internet, but there is still a gaping hole where readers’ needs are not being met.

This very much struck a chord with me. As journalists we are so eager to get the biggest, most exciting, most dramatic stories, that we overlook what is most important to our audiences. What we as writers deem to be of great significance might be largely irrelevant to our readers. By the same token, parking problems might not get a journalist’s juices flowing, but may be vitally important to members of the local community.

Geary reminded students that the merits of a story should be judged on whether the readers want and need it, not just the number of visits or comments. Are the readers engaged? Are they getting the information they want? Do they care about what you’re writing about? “What’s important is what our readers want”, she said.

Times Online

It is for this reason collaborative work is often the best, said Geary. Perhaps “the people formerly known as the audience” ought to be replaced with “the community formerly known as the audience”, she said. We need to start listening to what our readers really want, then use our time and resources to give it to them. As Adam Tinworth reminded students some weeks ago, journalists serve their audiences, so understanding their needs is vital.

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A little flavour of Cardiff in the run-up to Christmas!

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Jenny Willott, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, has confirmed she will vote against any rise in tuition fees.

Ms Willott, who is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, told the Guardian newspaper she will stick to her pre-election pledge to vote against any rise in fees. “I will not support an increase in tuition fees and I’m deeply concerned about increasing levels of student debt,” she said.

If she changes her mind, the ministerial code of conduct will require her to resign or be sacked as a PPS.

Earlier this week NUS Wales president, Katie Dalton, said Ms Willott should vote against the proposals or stand down from her role.  “She was elected by students and needs to reaffirm her position,” said Ms Dalton.

“We understand that Ms Willott is awaiting the Government’s official response to Browne, but NUS Wales and the students of Cardiff will be holding her to manifesto commitments.”

Jenny Willott Feb 10 no 74

Gradually scrapping fees in England and Wales was a key pledge in the Lib Dem’s election manifesto.

In the run-up to the general election, Nick Clegg visited Cardiff University and spoke passionately about his desire to scrap fees over six years. “We’ve got a plan,” he said. “Of course we’d love to deliver it overnight but that’s just not possible given how tight money is.

“What we would do is we would over six years in sort of incremental steps is remove tuition fees, so for instance in the first year, any undergraduate in their last year of study for their first degree of study would have their tuition fees removed, and then the next year, you’d move to the penultimate year.

“Then you’d cap tuition fees for part-time students. And that is, I think, a policy which I hope people would believe in.”

In an interview, Clegg told me: “Our higher education system is one of the great British success stories. We have one of the best systems in Europe, more and more people want to go. We have outstanding research. We need to stop talking about higher education like it’s a drain – it’s a great asset.”

David Willetts, the universities minister, will introduce a low fees threshold of £6,000 and a high threshold of £9,000. This is a far cry from the Lib Dems’ original plan – they had pledged not to support any rise beyond the current £3,290 a year.

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