I first came across the name Wales Weekly on the Syniadau blog, in a post about it and Daily Wales. The latter I knew about because I’d had some involvement, but Wales Weekly was new to me, so I followed the Syniadau link without thinking much more about it. Then, today, I picked up a tweet from Wales Weekly and followed it to the piece it linked with.
What I found was headed Wales tourism target Chinese traveler. I was struck by the title’s appalling syntax and US spelling, my mood lightening only as I recalled Robert E. Lee’s favourite war horse. Then I got to thinking that this was clearly a story about overseas visitors to Wales, yet it was appearing just two days after a report showed that the number of overseas visitors to Wales had actually dropped by 23% in a decade. So was the Wales Weekly piece good news in response to bad news? Naturally, this got me wondering about who’s behind Wales Weekly.
What I found in the ‘About us’ section was, “Wales Weekly is a weekly paper focusing on international news that will influence Wales, and breaking stories in Wales that affect the world”. (“Paper”?) Impressive claims, and while many external events impact on Wales, I can’t honestly think of anything that’s happened in Wales for a hell of a long time, if ever, that had international repercussions . . . apart from the Swansea Laverbread Riots of 1893. And there was a gmail contact address. The next step was to see what kind of articles are published about “international news” or, more intriguingly, the Welsh news that will “affect the world”.
One quick way of checking what a site contains is the Tag Cloud. For a new site like Wales Weekly this is relatively easy to check, and this is what it told me. ‘Wales’ scored 40 topics, next was ‘Cardiff’ with 19 (and ‘Cardiff University’ with 10), followed by ‘Sport’ with 8. Swansea did not figure, nor did any city, town or region other than Newport (4). Clearly this is the ‘Wales’ of the Notional Assembly and the ‘Welsh’ media. Next I checked on the articles and who’d written them, thinking maybe I’d recognise a name or two.
The article on Chinese tourists that drew me to the site was written by Xi Zhang. Unknown to me and presumably Chinese. Elsewhere on the site I found articles with the attributions Bing Li, Shuyu Guo, Ying Tian, Lee Ping, Chenxi Li, Olia Hu, Sherry Ye, which, when added to the tag cloud ‘evidence’, suggests that this site is the work of Chinese students(?) based in Cardiff(?). But I also came across contributors names that are not obviously Chinese such as Carla Guerreiro Santos, Sarah Weckerling and Charles Young, so are these also students? Another name was Andres Bandas who can be found under the ‘Culture’ heading with regular ‘Eating With Andres’ articles. Now the only Andres Banda that I can find on Linkedin lives in London – is this him? And are reviews of Cardiff eateries the kind of “breaking stories in Wales that affect the world”. I think not.
In fairness, further rooting unearthed a ‘Blog’ section and a ‘from the editor’ piece by Chenxi Li. But if she is the editor, why isn’t this stated on the homepage, or in the ‘About us’ section? Anyway, the article argued for devolution of major energy projects to the ‘Welsh’ Government, which some would welcome, but not me. If power was handed over to those clowns down Cardiff docks we would all be employed in polishing solar panels wearing wind turbine headgear (plugged into the grid) in a country attracting every eco-crook on earth with the promise of
money for old rope funding for imaginative and environmentally friendly sources of energy. But if nothing else, the article shows an interest in Wales . . . even if it does resonate of cut and paste. In addition, she writes that Wales exports 13% of the energy she generates. Surely the figure is much higher, I’ve heard some argue that we produce two or three times what we need?
I’m not sure what to say about Charles Young. He wonders whether Wales would follow if Scotland voted Yes to independence. Presumably to strengthen his argument that Wales would not he reminds us that Scotland was a big player in the Industrial Revolution . . . but Wales, to judge by the inference, was not! Mr. Young is so well read on the subject of Welsh attitudes to independence that he can even quote that profound and respected political thinker Griff Rhys Jones; and there are other gems encapsulated in the panel (but read the full article for yourself). I suspect that, the name notwithstanding, Mr Young’s first language may not be English.
If, as I believe, Wales Weekly is produced by a group of foreign, mainly Chinese, students in Cardiff, then this should be made clear in a sub-header on all pages, and of course in the ‘About us’ section. Without this being made clear a website containing dubious or incorrect information, produced by people with little knowledge of Wales, and imperfect English could, because of its title, be mistaken somewhere in the world for a semi-official publication, and cause damage to Wales. Being reasonably sure that this is not the intention of those involved I would hope to see the recommended changes made before the next issue appears.
I also hope that this ill-conceived and poorly-executed venture has not received support or funding from any official quarter, governmental or academic. From within Wales or from outside.