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January 17, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:22am

BBC-funded local democracy reporters filed 50,000 stories in first year with nearly all roles filled

By Charlotte Tobitt

BBC-funded local democracy reporters have filed 50,000 news stories in the scheme’s first year, although the scheme has yet to fill every role.

LDRs are contracted by a specific publisher as part of the Local News Partnership between the BBC and News Media Association, launched to support local journalism and increase scrutiny of public bodies.

The BBC said more than 90 per cent of the planned 145 LDR roles had now been filled, up from 87 per cent in November. Full allocation of reporters is expected this year.

LDRs are expected to cover local government and make their copy available through a wire service to other organisations signed up to the scheme.

The first LDR, Caitlin Webb, was appointed on 8 January last year, based at the KM Media Group in Kent, part of Iliffe Media.

Reporters now file around 6,000 stories each month, reaching 50,000 this week with an article about council tax and service cuts in Hertfordshire.

Matthew Barraclough, head of local news partnerships at the BBC, 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.

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“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.”

The BBC also said the 50,000 story milestone had coincided with the 100th partner signing up to the scheme – Bankside Press, publisher of the London SE1 website.

The 100 media organisations together represent more than 850 print, online, radio or TV brands.

London SE1 editor James Hatts said he had joined because the LDRs help ensure “our elected representatives are held up to public scrutiny”.

“We have been covering local democracy on our patch for 21 years,” he said.

“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.”

Picture: Pixabay

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