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Fifteen hyperlocals set to bid for local democracy reporters

A total of 15 hyperlocal news providers have been ruled eligible to bid for the chance to employ one of 150 local democracy reporters in partnership with the BBC.

The initiative will see regional and local publishers given access to £8m a year of license fee money to employ reporters to cover public bodies such as local councils.

Content produced by the reporter will be shared with the BBC, while the local newspapers and websites involved will also get access to BBC content.

The first phase of the scheme, which determines whether publishers are eligible to receive the BBC content and bid for one of the 150 reporters, has seen 15 independent news providers qualify.

Where the new local democracy reporters will be based.  Source:  BBC website

Where the new local democracy reporters will be based. Source: BBC website

They range from a print-only newspaper in Scarborough, to web-only news portals such as wrexham.com and Bristol 24/7.

Also included in the list is the Cambridge Independent, launched by Iliffe Media last year and already the reigning Weekly Newspaper of the Year.

News of their success has been highlighted in a blog post by the Centre for Community Journalism (c4CJ), a project based at Cardiff University aimed at encouraging smaller publishers.

When the scheme was first announced, there was criticism from some hyperlocal publishers that they were being excluded from the project and that most if not all of the funding would go the established groups.

Editor of Wrexham.com Rob Taylor said: “We are pleased to have been accepted for Phase One of the scheme and look forward to the outputs.

“I just hope it is not used an excuse to cut staff or coverage elsewhere as the aim of the game surely should be an increase in oversight rather than shifting costs.

“In theory, it should benefit our readers by having a pool report to dip into where we are unable to cover, plus some additional audio/visual outputs.

“Hopefully it is deployed and used across the UK as it was intended, with the benefit being to society as a whole, rather than offsetting a cost on a spreadsheet somewhere.”

Among others who have successfully come through Phase 1 of the process are The Lincolnite, West Leeds Dispatch and the Hackney Citizen.

Citizen editor Keith Magnum said: “Holding local councils to account is as important as it’s ever been. We hope the BBC Local Democracy Reporter scheme will help us bring an increasing number of in-depth political stories to our readers.”

The BBC’s Head of Local News Partnerships, Matthew Barraclough told the C4CJ: “The Local News Partnerships have been drawn up to be as inclusive as possible while at the same time requiring a commitment to high editorial standards.

“The partnership is open to any qualifying provider and we would encourage small independent news publishers to apply in the next round of approvals.”

The full list of successful hyperlocal applicants in Phase 1 of the project is as follows:

Brighton & Hove News
Bristol 24/7
Cambridge Independent
Hackney Citizen
Your Harlow
Your Thurrock
West Bridgford Wire
Jesmond Local
Nantwich News
Scarborough Review
Lincolnite
Lincolnshire Reporter
VIEW Digital
West Leeds Dispatch
Wrexham.com

3 comments

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  • July 6, 2017 at 11:22 am
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    A monthly print-only paper wants council coverage? Can anyone say “after the fact”

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  • July 6, 2017 at 11:55 am
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    Individual council & committee meetings are usually monthly, spread over each month. Admittedly the coverage wouldn’t be immediate, but it isn’t fast moving news either – could be a good way to do it.

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  • July 6, 2017 at 2:57 pm
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    License fee? Groan.
    Harbinger of doom here thinks the BBC plan has an unfortunate flaw. The likes on Trinity, Newsquest etc will use every extra pair of free BBC hands as a good reason to get rid of an existing pair of staff hands.

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