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Local democracy reporters file 50,000 stories in first year

BarracloughA pioneering public service reporting scheme between the regional press and the BBC has celebrated its 50,000th story being filed.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has achieved the milestone almost exactly a year after its first reporter was appointed.

The publication of the landmark story comes as the BBC’s local news partnerships, of which the LDRS forms a part, welcomes its 100th member.

Bankside Press Ltd, publisher of hyperlocal website London-SE1.co.uk, has joined the partnership, giving it access to copy produced by journalists employed under the scheme.

The BBC says more than 90 per cent of the 150 roles created under the scheme have now been filled, with the reporters filing around 6,000 stories per month in total.

Matthew Barraclough, pictured, head of the local news partnership, said: “The work of the LDRS is hugely important – in some parts of the UK the Local Democracy Reporter may be the only journalist closely following council business.

“Their scrutiny not only serves the public interest, it supports the councils themselves. These reporters highlight successes as well problems, and they make the decisions of local authorities interesting and relevant to the electorate.

“Sharing 50,000 stories with local newspapers, radio stations, TV broadcasters and news websites has undoubtedly had a positive impact on democracy as well as the local news sector itself.”

James Hatts, editor of London-SE1, welcomed his organisation’s decision to join the service, saying the LDRS helped ensure “elected representatives are held up to public scrutiny”.

James added: “We have been covering local democracy on our patch for 21 years. Joining the partnership provides us with the opportunity to cover some meetings which we simply wouldn’t have the resources to get to ourselves.

“Our coverage area spans two local authorities so often it is a choice between which to cover. Hopefully the local democracy reporters can fill some of those gaps.

“I’m really glad that there is greater awareness of the gaps in reporting of our public institutions. Often I’m the only reporter in a meeting where big decisions worth millions of pounds are being discussed.”

7 comments

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  • January 17, 2019 at 9:04 am
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    And the big, profit making newspaper groups paid exactly what for their services?

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  • January 17, 2019 at 10:07 am
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    Seems like an awful lot of press release material to me. My local has not carried one story with an in-depth investigation and not a single line critical of the council.

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  • January 17, 2019 at 11:24 am
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    In Cambridgeshire the emergence of local democracy reporters has proven to be a breath of fresh air.
    We have in Josh Thomas and Robert Alexander a brace of reporters who are transforming content across numerous titles.
    The work of Josh in particular in covering the fast changing landscape of the county since we had devolution foisted upon us has been exemplary.
    Many of the shortcomings of the new combined authority and its mayor would probably not have seen the light of day without his attendance at meetings and his reports that followed.
    And it’s not simply a case of dropping them into pages or on line (although we do that of course) but we also use his material to produce substantive follow ups.
    Only this week our papers and websites are overflowing with a story first written about by Josh concerning a local councillor and his acquisition of a farms tenancy from the same local authority.
    It’s worth pointing out too that our local radio station uses Josh on a regular basis to the extent that I often wonder what has happened to the station’s own political reporter.

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  • January 17, 2019 at 12:46 pm
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    Regardless of any misgivings or cynical comments on their effectiveness, this scheme has to be a good thing. Rather the reporters were there than not.

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  • January 17, 2019 at 4:03 pm
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    Fenjohn. that’s good news. Let’s hope that quality of work spreads across the country.

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  • January 17, 2019 at 5:17 pm
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    That’s good news, Fenjohn, but where I am in East Anglia, the LDR just seems to cover the sort of stories which would have been carried in the past anyway, leading people to the obvious conclusion that the BBC is subsidising a multi-million-pound news organisation. And Paul Jacobs is right, precious few – if any – stories are then carried by the BBC.

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