Annual Review: Local News Partnership Boosting Local Public Interest Journalism

The Local News Partnership between the News Media Association and the BBC is generating significant levels of local public interest journalism which is influencing public policy and holding authority to account, the scheme’s first annual review has found.

The BBC and the NMA each published their annual reviews last week looking at how the ground-breaking scheme has progressed.

Ninety per cent of the Local Democracy Reporters are now in post and 30,000 stories have been written since the scheme launched. More than 80 media organisations representing 800 print, online or broadcast outlets are now local news partners.

The Shared Data Unit set up under the scheme has published 12 pieces of investigative journalism on topics such as: the link between early deaths and poverty, the impact of Brexit on the NHS and the cost of policing football matches – generating more than 400 local stories for partner outlets and 3.9 million page views on the BBC News website.

A trial survey of partners and stakeholders overwhelmingly found that the scheme is helping respondents to better serve their audiences, with an average score of effectiveness at better serving audiences of 8.4 out of 10.

Expanding the number of Local Democracy Reporters from 150 to 200, as was originally intended, would strengthen the scheme and improve the breadth of coverage of democratic institutions, the NMA said in its review.

JPIMedia editor in chief Jeremy Clifford, chair of the NMA/BBC Advisory Panel, said: “The first annual report shows unequivocally that the Local News Partnership is strengthening local journalism and the accountability of local public bodies, to the benefit of our democracy.

“Given the success of the scheme to date, we will continue to work with the BBC to improve the level of service and look at the potential opportunities to expand it in a number of key areas.”

Matthew Barraclough, head of Local News Partnerships at the BBC, said: “This collaborative project has already delivered significant levels of public interest journalism which is being used both by the BBC and our partners in the independent local news sector.

“In addition to improving the service, we are also interested in exploring the insight and context the reporting can give to national stories and will look at ways in which this can be developed.”

The partnership, which represents an investment by the BBC of £80 million over 10 years, was agreed two years ago by the NMA, BBC and the Government to boost and enhance local media’s reporting of local authorities and councils.

The agreement includes the recruitment of 150 Local Democracy Reporters, paid for by the BBC but employed by local media, a news hub of BBC video and audio, a shared data journalism unit and joint content audit of local media content on BBC platforms and vice versa.