Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Success for reporter scheme

The BBC and regional publishers have hailed the success of their Local Democracy Reporter scheme a year on from its launch.

Under the £8m a year scheme, the BBC pays for reporters employed by local publishers to cover the work of local councils and other public bodies. In its first year, the initiative has produced 54,000 public interest stories which were used on the BBC and across a range of local media news outlets. The stories include:

  • A £24m health centre in Trafford, Manchester that will never be used and will cost £7m to turn into offices.
  • A council in Leicestershire that had to hand back £900,000 paid to them by housing developers as the money had gone unspent for too long.
  • A series of “near misses” from falling building materials at schools in Edinburgh – including three at a school where a pupil was killed by a collapsing wall.

The journalists are funded by the BBC as part of its latest Charter commitment but are employed by regional news organisations. At present 144 Local Democracy Reporters have been allocated to 59 news organisations in England, Scotland and Wales, and the initiative will be extended to Northern Ireland shortly.

Public service

These organisations range from a radio station to online media companies and established regional newspaper groups. Local Democracy Reporters cover top-tier local authorities and other public service organisations.

To be awarded the Local Democracy Reporter contracts, the successful news organisations had to pass stringent criteria which included financial standing and a strong track record of relevant journalism in the area they were applying to cover.

Stories written by the democracy reporters are shared with more than 800 media organisations that have signed up to be part of the Local News Partnerships scheme.