Yesterday, for the first time ever, the Assembly invited in a small group of people who are active online (bloggers, content producers etc) for an informal discussion about our website.
The workshop was part of the Presiding Officer’s Addressing the Democratic Deficit in Wales initiative – a democratic deficit that the Presiding Officer believes is caused by the failure of the UK media, and large sections of the traditional Welsh media, to properly relay the work of Assembly to their audiences. So how can we address this deficit – making sure that Welsh news (and culture) gets enough representation?
Part of the answer is being smarter with the information that we offer. At the National Assembly for Wales, our website holds everything – all our data about committee meetings, legislation, Assembly Members, events, and so on. So it’s vitally important that this is easy to understand and to access, for everyone who is interested.
At a time where we’ve seen our local newspapers dedicating less resource to reporting the Senedd and the failure of the UK media to report Wales, we have also seen a rise in recent years in ordinary people – not necessarily journalists or newspapers – setting up community websites (or blogs, or Facebook groups) and sharing information and news of their own. Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism calls these individuals ‘community journalists’ – people who are interested in news and current affairs that affect their area, but might not have any formal journalism training.
The workshop was run for the purpose of inviting in some of these people to discuss the Assembly’s website. Could they find what they were looking for when they visited? Did they know and understand everything that the Assembly did that was relevant to their area of interest (either locally, or in terms of subject?). We had a lively discussion, that covered everything from where our language-switch button was located to how searchable our archive of videos was on Senedd.tv.
Of course, it’s not easy to take on board everything that is suggested. As a public institution, we have limited resources but events like this one give a great insight into what people find most valuable – as well as easy fixes to make our content more accessible. This could be anything, from adding dates and locations of meetings onto a Google Map to just adding more images onto our web pages.
Some of the individuals who attended were Owen Donovan (who writes Oggy Bloggy Ogwr – a political blog that won Best Politics Blog at the Welsh Blog Awards in 2012), Gareth Morlais (who runs the Abergele Post blog), and Karin Mear and Nigel Evans (who run the FYIBrecon website) and Sam Knight who runs YourSenedd. Hannah Scarborough from the Centre of Community Journalism also came along, and wrote up a blog about the event: Accessing democracy.
For people interested in community journalism, the Cardiff University are going to be running the world’s first ever a MOOC (massive open online course) on community journalism, which will be starting in April 2014. You can access the course here: Community Journalism MOOC.
If you’re interested in contributing to discussions about how we can improve our website, there will be another event in the summer for the Democratic Deficit initiative. Alternatively, please leave your comments below. We’re always trying to improve things where we can.
Helia Phoenix, Web Editor