You may notice a few stories on The Charlton Champion carry the bylines of “Local Democracy Reporters”. This is part of a BBC-funded scheme to ensure local councils are covered properly in local media. The Charlton Champion has been a partner in the scheme since November 2018, and so receives some stories as part of it. Here’s some more on why and how this came about.
What is the Local Democracy Reporter Scheme?
The LDRS was set up in 2017 to address the the decline of local council reporting. Years ago, local papers regularly covered council meetings and issues – but cutbacks in the industry have seen that practice largely fade away, with council coverage often left to sites like this and our sister site 853. The LDRS aims to reverse this trend.
Each Local Democracy Reporter covers a number of local councils and is usually based at a local newspaper. The scheme has been criticised because many of the reporters are based at newspaper groups which have cut back their staff in recent years – however, The Charlton Champion was given the opportunity to join and receive stories from it, so it seemed sensible to do it. That said, we do want to be transparent about how and why we’ve signed up.
Why is The Charlton Champion using these stories?
The site currently has two co-editors who run it in their spare time – Darryl and Neil – and Darryl will often cover council as part of his work on sister site 853, which usually feeds into the Champion’s coverage. Being part of the LDRS means The Charlton Champion can run stories from events that Darryl can’t attend. It also frees us both up to create more original content for the site.
Does this cost The Charlton Champion any money?
No. It’s basically having access to a free newswire. The only cost as an evening preparing the application form. It’s no different from most of the national press having access to the Press Association or Reuters – just all about council meetings.
Who are the reporters?
Tom Bull is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich (he also covers Bexley and Bromley). He has been reporting on south-east London and north Kent for a number of years and he is based at the News Shopper. If you live in Bexley or Bromley, you may also see his stories in the Kentish Times papers, which take them as part of the LDRS scheme. (Oddly, in Greenwich, the Mercury isn’t signed up.)
Kate Oglesby is the LDR for the Greater London Authority and London Assembly, based at the Times series of local papers in north London.
Who runs the scheme?
The Local Democracy Reporter Scheme is run by the BBC, with a small team based in Birmingham. However, the reporters are employed by the host news organisations and answer to them rather than the BBC. That said, their stories do occasionally appear on the BBC News website and they are trained to appear on TV or radio should the need arise.
I’ve got some more questions!
Drop us a line at charltonchampion.se7[at]gmail.com. If you want to know more about the scheme itself, visit the BBC Local News Partnerships website.