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MPs’ Report Highlights the Guildford Dragon’s Fight for Survival

Published on: 25 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 25 Jan, 2023

By David Reading

A stark warning by a committee of MPs has brought into focus the continued survival of The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

The report on the sustainability of local journalism, published by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, warns that local news outlets will struggle to survive without more support from the government.

Dragon editor Martin Giles

Guildford Dragon editor Martin Giles said this evening: “The MPs warned that a decline in local reporting would damage democracy. That is as true here in Guildford as it is in every other community.

“None of us can play a full part in our democracy or our communities unless we are properly informed and those that govern us must be accountable and face real scrutiny.

“For over ten years now we have been carrying the torch for local reporting of Guildford stories. We have a very small volunteer team and it is a continuing struggle. We don’t want sympathy, we have chosen our mission. But to put it bluntly, The Dragon cannot survive for very long as it is.

“We need support, financial support, so we can put The Guildford Dragon on a sustainable footing.

“One of the recommendations in the report is to make it easier for smaller titles to achieve charitable status, and for the government to encourage more philanthropic funding of local journalism.

“We are ahead of the game, thanks to Dragon reporter Hugh Coakley who, in addition to his other roles, has led our bid to obtain charitable status. We have made our submission and await the outcome, probably in a few months’ time.”

Angela Richardson

Guildford’s MP, Angela Richardson, is backing The Dragon’s bid. She said: “I am aware of the recommendations of the DCMS Committee and agree that the ability of a free media to hold government at all levels to account is a foundation of our British democracy.

“That is as true here in Guildford, where the decisions of councils have a huge impact on people’s lives, as it is in Westminster.

“That foundation relies on diversity and inclusion; a media where independent groups can thrive alongside large players and where less affluent areas get the same level of reporting as everyone else.

“I fully support the Dragon’s application to become a charity and hope it is successful.”

Dame Frances Cairncross with Dragon editor Martin Giles in 2019 at an Impress conference.

A key aspect of the report is its backing for an independent report by Dame Frances Cairncross  on the future of the British media. This report said in 2019 that local news coverage could disappear, which could pose a threat to the “long-term sustainability of democracy” unless the government provided direct financial support.

The Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee (DCMSC) has now called for major changes to the way local news is funded, saying its quality and provision will continue to decline without fresh support from the government.

While some local publishers have shown “encouraging examples of innovation”, larger ones are “compromising the quality” of their journalism, it said.

Committee members have been investigating the sustainability of local journalism in the UK and taking evidence from many leading figures in the industry over the last 12 months.

Their report, published today (January 25), pulls few punches, claiming that local publishers have struggled to adapt to the shift away from print towards “an online world which favours larger players.”

As well as additional government funding, the report calls for a “fairer” distribution of existing support, saying that larger publishers are currently taking a “disproportionate” share. The report also calls for the BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), used by The Dragon, to be expanded

The Dragon’s editor did not agree with all the report’s findings, saying: “Traditional print newspapers for local news are probably not the way forward. The additional print overheads and the modern expectation for rolling, up-to-the-minute news count against them. The government should understand that. Continuing the law that says statutory ads must be in print, for instance, allows unfair competition and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Giles went on to warn that getting charitable status would not in itself guarantee success. He said: “If we are successful that will only be the beginning of the next phase. We will need a major fundraising effort looking at all potential income streams.

Anne Milton

“We will need the support of the community we have tried to serve since 2012 when David Rose and I founded The Dragon. Our former MP Anne Milton has agreed to be a Trustee of the new charity and that is good news.

“Our aim will be to secure enough funds to employ some staff. Ideally, we would like to increase our coverage. There is plenty of scope for improvement, plenty of Guildford news that goes unreported. The lack of resources is the thing that is holding us back and threatening our existence.”

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Responses to MPs’ Report Highlights the Guildford Dragon’s Fight for Survival

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    January 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Please can I encourage people, who have the skils, to write for The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

    I have being writing Worplesdon Witness since November 2019. We have all these wonderful villages around our central town of Guildford with so many interesting things going on where communities are thriving to make where you live special. After all we only live a few miles away from each other and often don’t know what we can enjoy or benefit from because we don’t know it exists.

    My favourite comment was from someone who lives in another village and regularly using the dog grooming service at Merrist Wood. They were delighted to hear what a fantastic coffee they could have at Rokers while they waited for their dog – just through reading it in Worplesdon Witness in The Guildford Dragon.

    By the way, it’s very enjoyable to write about the good news where you live. I love it.

  2. Fiona Yeomans Reply

    January 26, 2023 at 9:07 am

    The Dragon is a really valuable local resource and it’s good to see all these active moves.

    Let’s all contribute once (hopefully) charitable status is achieved – we all need a free impartial newspaper carrying real local news about issues that affect us all!

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    January 26, 2023 at 9:18 am

    The Dragon is always ahead of the game. News is rapidly brought to the attention of its readers. I would miss The Dragon if it ceased publication and stopped informing us.

    Over the years The Surrey Advertiser has become less and less relevant. There is so little actual news in it these days that it is hardly worth buying. I buy it to keep up with planning applications as much as anything – just a three inch square of print!

    Internet news is so much more immediate than weekly newspapers.

  4. Anthony Mallard Reply

    January 26, 2023 at 2:18 pm

    As a somewhat frequent writer to The Guildford Dragon, I too urge those who read its excellent, relevant, and timely content to do whatever they can to support its continued existence.

    I shall support it in any way I can – will others? Its loss would be inestimable.

  5. RWL Davies Reply

    January 27, 2023 at 8:35 am

    Would strongly support any initiatives that improve The Dragon’s long term sustainability. As others have said it consistently provides well written relevant and timely content on a wide range of issues.

  6. Tony Rooth Reply

    January 27, 2023 at 11:03 am

    The Guildford Dragon NEWS gives residents information, comment and a valuable sounding board for views on local Guildford issues.

    I believe we should all support its application for charitable status and make personal contributions to keeping our vital platform for democracy. Hopefully, the Dragon team will let us know how we can help in due course, how we can help The Dragon continue as Guildford’s platform for debate.

    Tony Rooth is the Independent borough councillor for Pilgrims ward.

  7. Alan Morris Reply

    February 18, 2023 at 9:47 am

    I am currently housebound and value the quality of Guildford Dragon’s reporting, which in my opinion far exceeds the quality of alternative sources of local press and media, particularly the Surrey Advertiser and its online cousin Surrey Live.

    Long may you continue.

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