Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: Newspaper Redundancies Should Concern Us All

Published on: 31 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2017

The Guildford Dragon NEWS takes no pleasure in the news that two senior editors have been made redundant at the Surrey Advertiser. They may be a competitor news service in Guildford, but the reporting of local news is important to all of us – whoever does it.

The motivation for starting up The Dragon, almost five years ago, was partly to provide an alternative local news service to the Surrey Ad, it is true. However, it is also true that we would take no pleasure in seeing its demise, not that we believe it is imminent, and we have respect for its editorial staff who, it seems, work under increasing pressure.

The fact is that circulation figures are down for most, if not all, local news titles, especially printed versions. This should worry all of us. If we simply follow the fashion of relying increasingly on social media for our information there will be a cost. Tweets and Facebook postings are easy to write in a few seconds but there is no fact checking, no objectivity, no second opinion, no language editing – in short, no editing at all.

Ask yourself this, would you want to rely solely on the facts as tweeted by President Trump, or any politician come to that?

Guildford needs the Surrey Advertiser and it needs The Guildford Dragon NEWS. Local news is important. Many local incidents, issues and decisions have a greater, more direct impact on our day-to-day lives than the latest national and international events, very important though they undoubtedly are.

In a recent opinion piece in the Press Gazette, Peter Barron, former editor of the Northern Echo, a newspaper with an enviable track record of journalism, known for revealing uncomfortable truths, said: “Plenty of councils are looking forward to the demise of local newspapers because they hold them to account. They see them as a pain in the arse.”

And in the same article BBC news chief James Harding is reported as saying that the increasing dearth of local news reporting is creating what he describes as a “democratic deficit”. Research suggests that when a local newspaper closes, fewer people vote in subsequent elections, fewer candidates run in opposition to the incumbents and so incumbents have a better chance of being re-elected.

Local democracy is already of questionable health in Guildford. Only a minority of us can even be bothered to vote in local elections and, when we do, most indications are that we simply follow party loyalties, based on our opinions of national politics. Any reduction in local media coverage can only make the situation worse.

But the laws of economics apply. Falling readership results in falling advertising revenues. In turn, this leads to fewer reporters and fewer resources for story seeking and investigation, as well as time for fact and quality checking, and so on. This is the conundrum that faces local media worldwide.

Here on The Dragon we constantly ask ourselves how we could raise enough money to finance one single apprentice reporter. We have not found an answer yet, but in the meantime we will continue to provide as much Guildford news as our resources allow and continue to wish our colleagues at the Surrey Advertiser well.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Newspaper Redundancies Should Concern Us All

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 31, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Being a purveyor of smelling and worms (spelling and words) I need editors to correct my poor English and misuse of words. FaceBook and Twitter are communities – poor substitutes for of face-to-face communication or the use of the telephone.

    We need accurate, informed news we can react to. There is little enough accurate reporting of local matters now and arguably we need three, not two, sources of that news else, with only two opinions, views will become more polarised and we will end up with aggressive destroyed communities. The Dragon does well to walk the tightrope of balance as does the Surrey Ad to a lesser degree – the bigger the parent the more the bias.

    It is a shame that there are not enough rich silent back-seat financiers (is the word philanthropic?) to finance our local news services, without editorial interference, and without wanting the news purveyors becoming an “advert with news” as opposed to “news with a few adverts”.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    January 31, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I agree that this is bad news. We should try to support local papers as far as possible. I am afraid that I have not bought the Surrey Advertiser very regularly recently but will now try to buy copies more often.

  3. Tony Edwards Reply

    January 31, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    Any weakening of the investigatory and reporting capabilities of any section of the media should be regarded as very bad news for democracy. We owe a great debt to newspapers for shining the spotlight of truth on the doubtful dealings so often ignored by our government, the police or anyone else. The Surrey Ad has a proud history of investigatory journalism.

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