New local democracy reporters to hold authorities to account in South Yorkshire as The Star teams up with BBC

Sheffield town hall
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The Star and its sister newspapers in Yorkshire are to get new reporters to cover the way tax payers’ money is spent as part of a deal with the BBC.

The Local Democracy Reporters initiative will see 16 reporters allocated to newspapers in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and funded by the BBC.

The journalists will work with existing staff on titles owned by The Star’s parent company Johnston Press, thanks to a partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association.
A total of 150 reporters have been allocated to 58 news organisations in England, Scotland and Wales following a competitive bidding process.

Ashley Highfield, chair of the News Media Association, said: “The ground-breaking Local News Partnership between the NMA and the BBC is now becoming a reality which will benefit the BBC, local media and, most importantly, local communities.

"The initiative has moved the whole relationship between the BBC and the local media sector from confrontation to collaboration, and key benefits will include 150 new journalists on the ground holding public institutions to account on behalf of their readers.

“Managed by local media and funded by BBC, the Local Democracy Reporters are just a part of a slew of collaborative initiatives that will see local media get access to BBC's local video and data journalism."

To be awarded the democracy reporter contracts, the 58 successful news organisations had to pass stringent criteria which included financial stability and a strong track record of relevant journalism in the area they were applying to cover.

Those news organisations - ranging from a radio station to online media companies and established regional newspaper groups - will now receive funding from the BBC to cover employment costs of the reporters.

The local democracy reporters will cover council and public meetings and the stories they write will be shared with more than 700 media organisations that have signed up to be part of the Local News Partnerships scheme.

David Holdsworth, Controller of BBC English Regions, said: “This is a major advance in the partnership which will significantly improve the reporting on councils and public institutions, leading to greater public accountability for our local politicians. “

The award decisions were made by senior editorial BBC figures across the English regions, Wales and Scotland.

In areas where a single contract contained multiple reporters, some successful bidders opted to share the allocation with neighbouring news organisations.

The next step will be for the successful organisations to start recruiting, with a view to becoming operational in the next few months.