Following the publishing of a number of Dragons related articles in Wales Online, a significant number of members of both the DOSC and the wider Dragons Supporter Community requested that we contacted Media Wales in order to raise a number of points of clarity, and ask for a discussion on concerns over the generally perceived tone and content of reporting against the Dragons recently.
Prior to engaging with Media Wales the DOSC discussed these concerns with a large number of stakeholders, both within the Dragons ‘family’ and external through the Joint Supporters Group. These discussions were to ensure that the message relayed to Media Wales wasn't overly emotive, and therefore easily dismissed or perceived as paranoia from a parochial group of Dragons Supporters. The consistent message across these discussions was an agreement that an element of the recent reporting against the Dragons was perceived as lacking wider context and overly negative in both tone and message.
With these discussions completed the DOSC formally wrote to Wales Online, and to their credit Media Wales immediately responded to the correspondence. Their response was constructive, and highlighted the urgency of meeting face to face to discuss the perceived issues discussed. Very generously both Paul Abbandonato (Head of Sport, Media Wales) and Paul Rowland (Editor in Chief, Media Wales) made their time available at very short notice to discuss our concerns in great detail. They openly communicated that as a Media outlet they endeavour to speak as a voice of Supporters, and pride themselves on this, be it in relation to Football/Rugby at a International, Regional or Club level. It is this intent that resulted in them placing such an importance on holding this meeting, and to their credit, researching in detail the accusations and requests for clarity made within our correspondence.
This meeting was therefore held in the Media Wales office, where a number of recently published Wales Online articles were reviewed in detail, and constructive dialogue was held regarding the concerns discussed on the general tone and content being overly negative and critical, with the perceived use of inflammatory and antagonistic language. The DOSC requested that Media Wales considered the assertions made, especially when considered in wider context involved with the stories, such as results of other Pro12 teams in similar fixtures, and the financial/resource disparity between the Dragons and the other Pro12 teams.
A very productive dialogue then followed, where both Paul Abbandonato and Paul Rowland acknowledged that some headlines and parts of stories could be perceived by Dragons fans as unnecessarily negative, unhelpful, and could be viewed as overly critical when considering the context to the story in question.
However, two Paul’s each felt that whilst other articles were also seen as critical of the Dragons, they actually also had lots of positive elements to them. They fully understood why the focus from fans would be on the negative aspects, particularly the ongoing references to attendances, which seem to be something of a bugbear. They pointed out that sport evokes passions and emotions and they have had to deal with these type of issues in the past with all of Wales’ mainstream rugby teams, as well as football.
To offer contrast they both offered a number of other stories written about the Dragons over the past few months that had a very positive message. Examples of those have been sent to the DOSC and they politely requested that these be considered in addition to the focus given to the negative aspects of stories.
The meeting drew to a close, with both parties coming to a good understanding on a suitable path forward, where they could work together, with a little compromise from each side, to improve the current situation and relationship. The Media Wales team acknowledged some of the accusations made, and agreed to review the focus and tone of the some of the reporting, whilst the DOSC agreed to communicate and feedback to the Dragons community this intention, and to ensure the balance of positive reporting was also presented.
WalesOnline plan to write a big piece on ‘Where Newport Gwent Dragons/ Gwent rugby goes from here and how it can succeed.’ This is intended to be a constructive overview of what has happened to date, an analysis of the financial situation and what needs to take place next in order for one of Wales’ real rugby hot-beds to start thriving again. They plan to interview a number of people for this article, including the Dragons Official Supporters Club. We will welcome the input.
Both parties agreed that this meeting was not attempting to influence the reporting of Wales Online to a point of blind and unwavering positivity, just applying context and consistency to the tone of coverage.