UK local media: feet on the ground
Here is what the Bureau Local team took away from meetings at newsrooms, co-ops and local media meetups across the UK. We'd love to come to your newsroom or meet up, invite us! bureaulocal@tbij.com.
 
The Bureau Local is building a network of local journalists, technologists and interested people across the country in order to collaborate on investigations. This hasn't been done before and there is a lot to consider regarding people's interest, time, skillset, openness for collaboration and data/digital literacy. 
We want to build a platform that makes the network the centre point that fuels collaborative investigations. Our aspiration for this is scribbled below...
 
We are opening up all we do so that you can follow along, chime in, help us make it better and most importantly, benefit from it. Our rationale is that if we are given funding to get on a train and spend a day learning from local media, you should be able to benefit from it too. 
 
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NUJ meeting, Leeds [10.05.2017]

On Wednesday 10 May the Bureau Local headed up to Leeds to chat with journalists and NUJ members.
 
It was really interesting to talk to people working in different media structures to get an idea of what they are looking for from the network.
 
Robyn Vinter is preparing to launch The Overtake- an online news and features outlet that ill aim to tell the UK stories that happen outside of the London-media bubble.
 
She is already brewing up ideas for areas of interest and campaigns that she hopes to focus on, but her interest areas are broad: social issues, housing, student poverty and women’s health, to name a few. 
 
As the only journalist working on the site, at least at the start, Robyn said she would be keen to work with tech experts and other journalists to develop story ideas and progress investigations. She is also hoping to partner with other news outlets to get out The Overtake stories she has worked on. 
 
She knows the ODI Leeds folks and hopes to put them in touch.
 
Ruby Kitchen writes for both the Yorkshire Post and the Yorkshire Evening Post. She is part of the Johnson Press Investigations team and has one day a week carved out for working on investigations and the rest of the time she could be working on anything from one to half a dozen stories a day. 
 
Her investigations can take months at a time and Ruby expressed concerns about sharing investigation ideas with other journalists, with the fear of losing the story she has worked so hard on. Editors at the Post are looking to break stories and would need some convincing to share the credit, she said. Then there is the concern of being scooped/ overshadowed by the nationals getting the story first.
 
However, she was open to sharing tips and ideas on methodology once an investigation was complete, or working in a team from the very start with agreed embargoes and clearly different strands that would make the local story unique. But this would take clear and well respected embargoes- trust is going to be a key issue.
 
In terms of working with national titles, Ruby thought the Post would be up for running a local angle to a national story after the national story goes out- but noted that it was unlikely to get the same level of prominence in the paper as being able to break the story first. If a national was running the story a day before, for example, it would push the follow up down the priority order for the local editor, meaning less time given to report.
 
But Ruby was also interested in the notion of a supportive network of tech experts and journalists, she already has a query she’d like help with. However, she felt she could not jump into the open Slack channel to ask for specific advice without giving away her story and risking being scooped. I wonder if the Bureau Local team need to think about ways to put our tech folks in touch on an ad hoc, one to one basis, for more sensitive stories? 
 
Finally, I was grateful to be invited to the NUJ branch meeting where I filled members in on what the project was and what we hoped to do.
 
There were questions about where our funding came from (mostly the Google Digital News Initiative), who we would work with- freelancers, TV or print, etc. and how we would coordinate embargo times.
 
It was noted that there were some good investigative players in Yorkshire- the Yorkshire Post, BBC’s Inside Out and the Wakefield Express were mentioned. However, restrictions on time and resources were making investigations harder than ever.
 
The NUJ members were excited by the idea of collaboration and had lots of ideas for areas that could perhaps only be properly scrutinised if journalists work together across geographical areas- for example local government sell-off of public assets. 
 
It was noted that we should have a robust whistleblowing/tip channel and that this should be advertised to our network and beyond.
 
One member also brought up the fact that those working at smaller titles, or freelancers, would not have access to some of the useful subscription-only tools that journalists at larger outlets might have- TraceIQ, Lexis Nexis, etc. Perhaps network members could help each other out with these? 
 
Court reporting, especially tribunals (industrial and employment) was said to be sorely lacking. And there was a good list of suggestions for other areas local journalist are struggling to cover.
 
We had a short piece advertising our visit in the branch newsletter and I will write something else for their next edition.