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14 November 2019

Local Democracy Reporting Service Launches In Northern Ireland

The Local Democracy Reporting Service, part of the News Media Assocation and BBC's Local News Partnership, has officially started in Northern Ireland.

Jessica Black was the first reporter on the BBC-funded scheme to file a story from the area with a report about plans to revamp Dundoland Ice Bowl in County Down.

A total of five and a half journalism roles will be created, covering 11 council areas.

The LDRS is made up of 150 journalists, funded by the BBC and employed by local news organisations, who are based in the newsrooms of local news outlets. They write stories about public bodies such as councils which any approved media organisation can use.

Jessica is joined in the Reach newsroom by Michael Kenwood. Another reporter, Tanya Fowles, is at Newsquest title the Impartial Reporter. Further reporter roles will be based in JPIMedia newsrooms and are currently being recruited.

Jessica said: “We all know how important the stories are that come from councils.

“Without Stormont sitting at the moment it’s even more crucial that journalists are covering Northern Ireland’s councils.”

In Northern Ireland, 11 news organisations representing more than 35 print, online and broadcast titles are currently registered as partners.

The BBC launched the scheme in partnership with the News Media Association and local media outlets at the beginning of last year.

Belfast Live editor Chris Sherrard said: "The Local Democracy Reporting Service is something we have watched with an envious gaze our colleagues in England, Scotland and Wales pursue with excellence since its implementation.

"Being part of that has been a goal of all those in Northern Ireland who hold the virtue of scrutinising local government dearly.

"We're delighted to be at the point we are now where that process can begin in earnest.

"The real beneficiaries of this, of course, will be the people living in these council areas who will now get to read about everything that is relevant to them and their lives.”

The LDRS is one of three strands that make up the Local News Partnership – a collaboration between the BBC, News Media Association and local news outlets. The other two strands are:

  • The Shared Data Unit produces data-driven stories from BBC Birmingham with the help of journalists seconded from local news rooms;
  • The News Hub gives media organisations access to BBC video and audio for use online.

BBC Northern Ireland Head of News Adam Smyth, said: “I’m delighted to see the LDRS get off the ground in Northern Ireland. The level of co-operation it has fostered between the BBC and the local newspaper industry here is unprecedented and can only benefit local democracy.

"I have no doubt the scheme will advance public service journalism and I look forward to the community gaining greater insights into the workings of our district councils.”