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PA pilot 'will not replace local media'

The Press Association says it is not seeking to replace the role of local media in its new pilot reporting project to be launched later this year.

Last week the agency’s MD Tony Watson appeared before the Commons culture committee where he revealed PA’s plans to recruit reporters solely to cover public institutions.

It will run in Merseyside for six months as a joint project with Trinity Mirror and see journalists covering stories from bodies such as councils, police and fire authorities – the agency is currently seeking independent funding.

A statement from PA issued today in the name of Mr Watson details the plans and clarifies exactly why the agency is running it.

It said: “The service is not seeking to replace the valuable reporting role played by the regional and local media, but to support it by providing additional source material for use by all outlets.

“Nor does the Press Association see itself as a principal supplier of any permanent service that may be established in the future.

“Models for providing the function could include offering public funding for newspapers or other news agencies which continue to discharge this democratically vital role, or setting up new units where there is a coverage deficit.

“Research carried out on our behalf has shown that, broadly, there has been a reduction in the coverage and scrutiny of local institutions over the past ten years.

“We believe that conducting this trial will help the industry and policy makers see the positive impact of broader coverage of public institutions and help evaluate the resource required to enable this function to be sustained.”

PA said it envisaged the project will:

  • Provide stories of interest to the local community that cover the democratic process and complement existing editorial provision.
  • Operate separately from the Press Association and Trinity Mirror, with a dedicated team of journalists.
  • Be editorially independent and adopt the Press Association’s fair and accurate editorial values and principles.
  • Supply text stories generated by the unit free of charge to any registered users, accessible as a wire feed via a website.
  • Neil Benson, Trinity Mirror’s regional editorial director, said: “We applaud the Press Association for taking the lead in exploring new ways of extending the traditional role of local and regional newspapers in holding public bodies to account, which is hugely important in our democracy.

    “The proposed trial is still at an early planning stage. Whether it proves to be the answer, only time will tell, but we are pleased to be involved in a project that aims to enhance the current level of coverage.”