Fringe Box



Comment: The Ten-year-old Dragon Continues to Fly, Watching Guildford

Published on: 26 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 28 Mar, 2022

By Martin Giles

Ten years ago today (March 26) The Guildford Dragon NEWS was launched.

David Rose and I thought there was room for a Guildford-centric news service and the Internet lowered the barrier to entry into news publishing. Websites are relatively cheap to run compared with printed newspapers.

Local politicians were unsure what to expect and some were obviously wary.”

But we had journalistic experience, David far more than me, and perhaps most importantly an extensive list of contacts and sources.

Personally apolitical, I have never been a member of any political party, I was very keen that The Dragon would be politically neutral but unafraid to give or publish opinions on policies.

Local politicians were unsure what to expect and some were obviously wary. They found our claim to political neutrality impossible to believe and looked to force The Dragon into an imaginary political party pigeon hole.

Importantly, The Dragon was making use of a relatively new medium. Today, most of us receive news online and almost 50 per cent from websites. A decade ago most local news was being served up weekly without a concentration on our borough.

From Ofcom report ‘News Consumption in the UK: 2021

It did not take long for discomfort with our new coverage to emerge. In a strange, unheaded letter, signed by the three existing party group leaders at GBC, the council obliquely threatened legal action because we had dared to report that a senior council officer had been suspended.

It was an uncomfortable baptism of fire. But the only inaccuracy they could find was that we had said the suspended director had been escorted from the premises by uniformed security staff when, in fact, they had not worn uniforms.

Since then, despite other threats, we have stuck to our guns, doing our best to bring you Guildford news quickly, hopefully with some insight and understanding, based on our experience as long-term residents within the borough and with better local knowledge than any other local news resource.

Our main limitation is resources.”

It has been a challenge. As Katherine Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, said: “News is what someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising.” And there are still some people in Guildford who are motivated to keep news under wraps, despite there being a clear public interest.

But we will continue, through our questioning and reporting, to press for more openness and accountability and for all those in public life to adhere to all the Nolan principles (see below).

Our main limitation is resources. Without money we cannot expand and hire people.

And our main competitor is social media – unbalanced, unedited, unchecked content which, sadly, many people believe and even rely on as their main source of news. Ironically it is served up on platforms now worth billions.

In comparison, our initial hopes that we could make enough money to pay salaries did not materialise. The Dragon runs on voluntary effort and goodwill. Of course, we would not do it if we did not enjoy our work and think it important, but our time commitment is not without a cost.

Our next major challenge is to make The Dragon sustainable for the next ten years and beyond. Watch out for further announcements on this and, in the meantime, please keep reading The Dragon and continue to spread the word that we are here.

Guildford news… for Guildford people… brought to you by Guildford reporters…

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Responses to Comment: The Ten-year-old Dragon Continues to Fly, Watching Guildford

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 26, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    All I have to say and I have said many words over the past decade some of which the readers will never get to hear is that of all the organisations I deal with The Dragon is the most tolerant in the way it listens to those wanting their view heard and the most unbiased.

    Keep it going. It is excellent in all aspects.

    Editor’s response: Many thanks, very kind.

  2. Bill Stokoe Reply

    March 26, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    Many congratulations on your anniversary! And good luck with your goal for the next ten years.

    The Guildford Vision Group has welcomed your diligent reporting on local matters, especially around the regeneration of Guildford town centre and related planning matters. Well done the team!

    Bill Stokoe is chair of the Guildford Vision Group

    Editor’s response: Many thanks.

  3. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 26, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    Many congratulations to The Guildford Dragon NEWS team on their tenth anniversary of publication, for their excellent reporting and for managing readers’ comments so equitably and efficiently. Well done!

    I would like to express my special thanks to Martin Giles for casting his editorial eye on my comments and sometimes turning them into letters for wider attention of readers.

    Editor’s response: Thank you for your kind words.

  4. Jacob Allen Reply

    March 26, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    Keep up the good work team. A true Guildford institution. Here’s to another 10!

    Jacob Allen is a Labour Party activist.

    Editor’s response: Many thanks for your good wishes.

  5. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 27, 2022 at 6:50 am

    The Dragon has been a breath of fresh air to Guildford residents. There is no other medium so willing for us to speak truth to power, and to seek truth in the dark places of local government.

    Please keep it up and congratulations.

    Editor’s response: Many thanks.

  6. Gavin Morgan Reply

    March 27, 2022 at 6:56 am

    Congratulations and thank you for giving people from all walks of life a voice that often gets listened to on important local issues.

    Editor’s response: Thank you.

  7. Stuart Barnes Reply

    March 27, 2022 at 9:00 am


  8. David Roberts Reply

    March 27, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    A report by the Media Reform Coalition found that in 2021 90 per cent of national newspapers in the UK were owned by only three companies. Many, like The Surrey Advertiser, are expensive shadows of their former selves, with shrinking content and circulations. The role of The Dragon in protecting local democracy is therefore huge.

    I am so glad it puts the Nolan Principles at the heart of its mission. Ten years ago, some Guildford councillors behaved as if the principles didn’t apply to them because, being elected, they were in charge of the rest of us and were therefore not “public servants” at all. This of course is rubbish. Their shock at the arrival of online media and the public scrutiny that comes with it was palpable.

    There is still something closed and incestuous about local government that encourages the worst sort of petty arrogance, a lot of which (along with too many time-serving councillors) unfortunately remains. But thanks, in part, to The Dragon, attitudes are improving all the time. It continues to make a huge contribution to transparency and rational debate.

    If only some wealthy local resident would turn benefactor. A good way for Mr Usmanov of Sutton Place to redeem his reputation, perhaps?

    Editor’s response: Many thanks for your supportive comment. Mr Usmanov’s money would not be welcome but if there is a millionaire benefactor of good character out there…

  9. Bob McShee Reply

    March 27, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Congratulations on achieving 10 not out.

    I think that The Guildford Dragon NEWS is a valuable outlet for local news, which is available on a daily basis.

    So to Martin, David, Hugh and the rest of the team, well done and good luck for the next 10 years.

    Bob McShee is an R4GV councillor for Worplesdon

    Editor’s response: Many thanks for the kind words and good wishes.

  10. Christian Holliday Reply

    March 28, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    Wow, time flies when you’re having fun! Congratulations on your first ten years.

    Editor’s response: It certainly does! Thank you.

  11. Paul Hart Reply

    April 2, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you all for your so important independent view. Looking forward to more of the same for many decades to come.

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