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Dr Andy Williams BA Hons (Wales), MA, PhD (Cardiff)

Dr Andy Williams

BA Hons (Wales), MA, PhD (Cardiff)

Lecturer (Teaching and Research)

Ysgol Newyddiaduraeth, y Cyfryngau a Diwylliant

Email
williamsa28@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44(0)29 208 70088
Campuses
0.61B, Sgwâr Canolog, Caerdydd, CF10 1FS
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Trosolwg

I am a senior lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC). I was previously the RCUK Research Fellow in Risk, Health and Science Communication (2008-10).

I have a number of research interests which intersect journalism studies and cultural studies. My current major research interests are:

  • the decline of legacy commercial local news media and the rise of community/hyperlocal news; and
  • Journalism practice and the influence of public relations on news media in general, but especially in the area of science, health and environment news.

Bywgraffiad

I was born and brought up in the South Wales valleys and went to Bryn Celynnog Comprehensive School in Beddau, just north of Cardiff. I gained my BA in English Literature at Swansea University (1999), before getting an MA and PhD at Cardiff University’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory (1999-2004), where my research was about poststructuralist cultural theory, UK media history, and consumer culture in 19th-Century Britain.

After a brief stint as a political researcher for the (then) Shadow Social Justice Minister at the National Assembly for Wales, Leanne Wood AM (2004), I went on holiday for a year (2005), before moving to JOMEC as a research associate (2006). After being awarded an RCUK-funded research fellowship (2008), I then became a full-time lecturer (2010), and later a senior lecturer in the school (2015).

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Addysgu

Undergraduate and masters-level teaching:

I am the course leader of the BA modules:

  • “Reporting Science, the Environment, and Health”; and
  • “Spin Unspun: Public relations and the news media”.

I also lead the MA/MSc module:

  • “Science, Health, the Environment and the Media”

which is taught as a collaboration between JOMEC’s MA in International Journalism and the SOCSI MSc in Science Communication. 

Visiting and guest lectures:

I give guest lectures on courses throughout Cardiff University in schools spanning the humanities, social sciences, and medical/natural sciences on topics such as research methods, science news and science communication, citizen journalism, local and hyperlocal news, and the influence of public relations on news.

I have been a visiting/guest lecturer at the Kosovo Institute for Journalism and Communication, the University of Bath, the University of Groningen, and the University of Helsinki.

Postgraduate supervision:

I encourage PhD proposals about: local and/or hyperlocal/community journalism; the influence of public relations on news and journalism; news coverage of science, the environment and health; or combinations of the above.

Current and recent PhD topics supervised include:

  • Local news holes: What happens to community and democracy when a town loses its newspaper;
  • The changing nature of citizen campaigns and corporate communication in a declining local news sector;
  • The nature and sustainability of local and hyperlocal journalism in the digital age; and
  • The relationship between journalism practice, content, and funding models in the new generation of online, non-profit investigative journalism.

 

Research Projects:

My recent and previous research has included work on: 

  • The local and hyperlocal/community news sectors in the UK: I have been a co-investigator on a large ESRC-funded project which allowed me, along with collaborators at Birmingham City University, to carry out a large project looking at the growth in UK hyperlocal news in terms of its structure, practices, content, and sustainability. I have also completed research for the National Union of Journalists which examines the political economy of multiplatform journalism in the UK local and regional press, and I continue to track the alarming decline of legacy commercial local and regional news provision in Wales, and the wider UK.
  • News coverage of science, the environment, and health: I have done work on the practice and content of science, health and environment journalism, as well as the relationship between such journalism and public relations. I am currently part of the Cardiff University InSciOut research group, which has received ESRC (and various other) funding to explore the extent and nature of, and the explanatory factors behind, exaggerated claims about University research in journalism and science PR. I have previously worked on research into: the PR strategies used to communicate about, and news coverage of, animal-human hybrid embryos (funded jointly by the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Wellcome Trust, and the Science Media Centre); and the UK’s specialist science, health and environment news “beat” in the national media (funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills).
  • The relationship between news journalism and public relations: I was the lead researcher on a Mediawise Trust-funded project which showed that the UK elite press and broadcast news relies heavily on “information subsidies” provided by public relations and news agency copy. The study employed company document analysis, content analysis, questionnaires, and interviews with journalists and PR professionals to establish the growing role of the public relations industry in shaping news agendas and content. Carried out in collaboration with Guardian investigative reporter Nick Davies, the work was central to his bestselling book Flat Earth News.
  • Citizen participation in news: In addition to the work on hyperlocal community news (see above) I worked on a major AHRC “knowledge exchange” study of citizen journalism and user-generated content in collaboration with journalists at the BBC. The project used mixed methods (including content analysis, production interviews, newsroom observations, audience surveys, and audience focus groups to understand how the BBC uses, and might better in future use and elicit, materials from its audiences. Findings went on to inform the BBC’s broad practices, editorial guidelines, and training of journalists in this area.

Research engagement and media work:

I am a firm believer that University researchers should reach beyond academic debates, and engage meaningfully, but also critically, with professional communities of practice, politicians/policy makers, and broader publics.

I have done collaborative research which informed the policies, outputs, and practices of a variety of different professional organisations including the BBC, the National Union of Journalists, the Science Media Centre, Ofcom, and the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. 

The Centre for Community Journalism:

I am a founder steering group member of the Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ) at JOMEC, which is one of Cardiff University’s Flagship Engagement Projects. My work with the centre has contributed to: the formation and consolidation of a professional network of community journalists in the UK (and beyond); numerous iterations of a free FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in “Community Journalism”, along with other training initiatives; continued policy and lobbying work on behalf of this emergent sector; and the foundation of the UK’s first professional representative body for community journalists, the Independent Community News Network (iCNN). These bodies exist to promote the interests of community/hyperlocal publishers, and to champion news and sustainable forms of digital and print journalism at a local level. They focus on local and hyperlocal because this is the place where journalism is often most valued, most needed, and, at present, most at risk. 

Engagement with scientists and science communicators:

In an age when the perceived value of evidence and expertise is under threat as never before, the quality of science journalism and science PR has become a pressing social issue. My research has often raised and uncovered problems from a critical perspective, and I have discussed and shared these at numerous conferences of science journalists and science public relations professionals (e.g. the World Conference of Science Journalists, The UK Conference of Science Journalists, the British Conference of Science Journalists, the BIS conference on Science Communication, and the British Science Association’s Science Communication Conference). I was also invited to give evidence to, and commissioned to produce research by, the UK Government’s Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills’ (BIS’) Science and the Media Expert Group. My own academic report about the strength of UK specialist science news informed, and was published alongside, the group’s own findings and recommendations.

My interdisciplinary research about science news has been of consistent interest to scientists in numerous disciplines. In recent years, I have delivered research-led science communication training and consultancy to researchers at numerous Universities (e.g. at the University of Bath’s Chemistry Doctoral Training Centre, Cardiff’s MRC research Centre, and Public Health Advocacy researchers at the Cardiff Institute of Society, Health, and Ethics).

Engagement with policy processes:

In a moment of significant industry upheaval, and as policy makers react to changing digital news environments, I think it’s essential for journalism academics to use our research to inform fast-moving policy discussions. I regularly contribute evidence to UK and Welsh policy fora, and I have been a consistent commentator on the growing crisis in the provision of local and regional news by legacy commercial publishers, as well as about emergent forms of community journalism. research into the state of the UK local news media has informed written and oral submissions to the Welsh Assembly Broadcasting Subcommittee (2009), the Welsh Assembly Task and Finish Group on the Future of the News Media in Wales (2012), and the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee inquiry into news in Wales (2017). Previous research into the state of UK science journalism, along with work carried out by JOMEC colleagues on the Media and the MMR scare, informed a written and oral submission to the Welsh Assembly Health and Social Care Committee (2011). I was an active participant in the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of the Media in Wales and the Welsh Assembly Cross-Party Group on Media and Broadcasting.

Engagement with broader publics:

As well as contributing to the C4CJ’s free and publicly-available Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), I have drawn on my research and teaching about science journalism and public relations to contribute to numerous iterations of Cardiff University and FutureLearn’s “Making Sense of Health Evidence” MOOC, which aims to equip citizens with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the (often confusing and misleading) claims about science made in news media and PR.

I have also been a committed advocate of research-led engagement work in schools in South Wales and have worked with four different schools on my home patch of Cardiff and the South Wales valleys. I have worked with teachers across the humanities and sciences to communicate my research about the role of the news media in society with more than 200 young people. This is useful in general (because sharing the fruits of publicly-funded research is important) but also more specifically because in many cases it introduced pupils to the very idea of University research (before seeing someone from a similar geographic and class background to them talking about this stuff, many participants had never previously considered studying at University, let alone aspiring to a job in academia).

Engagement with news media: 

I am often called on to provide expert commentary on areas of expertise by a range of general and specialist media outlets. Media contributions (either as an author or quoted source) include, but are not limited to: the Conversation, Open Democracy, BBC Radio 4 (You and Yours), BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Northampton, BBC Politics Show, BBC Wales Today, Nature News, SciDevNet, Journalism.co.uk, Press Gazette, the Guardian, the Columbia Journalism Review, Hold the Front Page, the Times, the Financial Times, Red Pepper, Wired magazine, and Glamour magazine.

Goruchwyliaeth

I encourage PhD proposals about: local and/or hyperlocal/community journalism; the influence of public relations on news and journalism; news coverage of science, the environment and health; or combinations of the above.

Current and recent PhD topics supervised include:

  • Local news holes: What happens to community and democracy when a town loses its newspaper;
  • The changing nature of citizen campaigns and corporate communication in a declining local news sector;
  • The nature and sustainability of local and hyperlocal journalism in the digital age; and
  • The relationship between journalism practice, content, and funding models in the new generation of online, non-profit investigative journalism.

I encourage PhD proposals about: local and/or hyperlocal/community journalism; the influence of public relations on news and journalism; news coverage of science, the environment and health; or combinations of the above.

Current and recent PhD topics supervised include:

  • Local news holes: What happens to community and democracy when a town loses its newspaper;
  • The changing nature of citizen campaigns and corporate communication in a declining local news sector;
  • The nature and sustainability of local and hyperlocal journalism in the digital age; and
  • The relationship between journalism practice, content, and funding models in the new generation of online, non-profit investigative journalism.

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