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The Dragon Says: Redundancies at Reach Highlights the Plight of The Dragon NEWS

Published on: 7 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 9 Aug, 2023

Reach plc, which publishes The Surrey Advertiser and Surrey Live, has announced journalists can apply for voluntary redundancy following a decline in online page views impacting digital revenue.

Hold the Front Page (HTPF) reports that the move comes a week after Reach revealed it is exploring the idea of more paid-for online content to arrest a slump in revenue following a recent decline in page views, which the company has attributed to changes to Facebook’s algorithms.

The publisher has already undertaken multiple rounds of cuts in the first half of 2023, affecting hundreds of journalists across the group with regional titles bearing the brunt.

The fresh redundancy scheme was announced to staff this morning by chief digital publisher David Higgerson.

In a memo, seen by HTFP, Higgerson said: “You will all be aware of the challenging trading conditions we’re operating in, with the sector-wide page view decline impacting current digital revenue.”

David Higgerson is correct. Pressure on local news publications continues unabated.  The government needs to do something or more local news services will become less effective or disappear altogether.

The Cairncross review, “A Sustainable Future for Journalism”, in 2019 made nine recommendations. The government said it accepted or agreed with eight of them.

Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at the time, said: “There are many substantial recommendations in the Review and as a government we are committed to taking the work forward.

“Only high-quality journalism can hold the powerful to account and shine a light on society’s important issues — in communities, in courtrooms, and in council chambers. The stakes are high and this response shows our commitment to getting it right, so future generations can be inspired and engaged by a free and vibrant press.”

Ain’t that the truth. But actions speak louder than words.

One of the recommendations was for “Direct funding for local public-interest news.” But where is the evidence that the government means to take it seriously? The government responded that it accepted “additional funding could help support the provision of ‘public interest’ news”.

But other than the continuance of the invaluable Local Democracy Reporting Service, overseen and funded by the BBC, not the government directly, nothing of substance has been done.

In fact, online news publications like The Dragon are still discriminated against when it comes to the publication of statutory adverts. Such adverts, a reliable source of income, have to be placed in printed media, even though most people read news online these days.

Another example is government advertising campaigns. Despite attempts by the Independent Community News Network (ICNN) to secure a share, small independent publications have been excluded.

In Guildford only The Dragon looks at Guildford borough news in any depth, but our coverage is severely constrained by our paltry level of resource. And the health of The Dragon, which relies on voluntary effort, is not good. We have found it almost impossible to recruit volunteers with the necessary skills or raise sufficient income to employ a small team necessary for sustainability.

If Reach is making more reporters redundant, the reliance on The Dragon might only increase. Guildford’s online newspaper has lived for 11 years on goodwill and we can only hope that there are those in the borough who might have the wherewithal and the ability to step forward and allow us to continue bringing Guildford News, to Guildford People by Guildford reporters. The clock is ticking. The alarm has just gone off.


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Responses to The Dragon Says: Redundancies at Reach Highlights the Plight of The Dragon NEWS

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    August 7, 2023 at 7:30 pm

    I’m sure the Surrey Advertiser’s decline started years ago when cutbacks meant the content of the weekly newspaper went seriously downhill. It used to be good at keeping residents of Surrey informed.

    However, now people want instant everything. It started with takeaway foods being quick and instant now news. People are sharing on social media what’s happening, as it is happening. Whether that is good or bad is another issue.

    For many years I have enjoyed reading the online Guildford Dragon NEWS. Not only do its volunteers tell you very quickly what’s going on but on such a huge range of media not just the politics of the borough.

    Certainly, it would be a hard act to follow, if you ask me. It’s also so engaging with its readers and people have the opportunity to have their say.

    The balance of news is what is important and I personally think it is well balanced. I just feel sorry for the generation who would prefer a paper copy.

    Certainly, we do switch off from online information when overloaded. I wonder if we will get the presentation of news right for all? And you can’t have properly checked news without someone with the necessary skills reporting it.

    Jan Messinger writes The Worplesdon Witness column in the Guildford Dragon

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    August 7, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    Thank God for the Dragon.

    Daylight is the main or perhaps only disinfectant for fraud.
    Otherwise this sort of thing happens:-

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