LDR Gets Inside Track On Oldham’s Battle To Avoid Becoming ‘The Next Leicester’

A Local Democracy Reporter used her experience of reporting on local politics in Oldham to get the inside track as fears mounted that the town would be locked down following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

In a piece for Behind Local News, Manchester Evening News LDR Charlotte Green, who has covered Oldham Council for two years, spoke of the challenges of reporting the spike in cases in the context of race relations in the town.

Charlotte said: “The majority of new cases were being found in two town centre areas with higher numbers of Asian residents, and the social restrictions dropped just days before Eid. And many people in the comments sections felt this was all the explanation they needed.

“While not wanting to hand fuel to Oldham’s contingent of local Tommy Robinsons, I also could not shy away from the issue in my reporting. What followed was a long feature looking in depth at why these areas were such outliers.

“Through sources I was able to confirm new information — that around 30 cases had stemmed from just one large family in the area, and there had been a Covid-19 outbreak at a firm that was a large local employer.

“Those were both incidents we had not been aware of previously and were vital for public interest to report.”

Charlotte’s reporting included putting reader’s questions to the director of public health in a live Facebook Q&A and using data to track infection rates in the town.

Charlotte added: “I used research from the last two years of stories about the town to build up a picture of the kind of deprivation that was also rife in these two areas, of poverty amid damp and dark terraced housing.

“Such long standing health inequalities cannot be dismissed, even when the temptation is to push your scoop as the cut and dried explanation; finally revealed.

“Reporting Oldham’s descent back to the edge of lockdown has been a combination of breaking news, married with considered reporting and data crunching.

“It’s been as exhausting as it has been absorbing. But I like to think it also demonstrates the value of local reporting, and really knowing your patch.”