Why local journalism is getting a boost around the world

Megan Lucero, director of the Bureau Local discusses its ‘skyrocketing’ success and the challenges facing local journalism

By Ella Wilks-Harper | Jul 19, 2018

An UK initiative is showing that despite budget cuts impacting local publishers, public appetite for investigative local journalism is growing.

Launched last year, the Bureau Local is driven by the ethos that local journalism is “the last line of defense when scrutinizing the misrepresentation of power” director Megan Lucero told Reuters News Agency

Based in London, the Bureau Local created a national hub of journalists and technologists to work together to uncover regional stories and spark data-driven investigative reporting.

Speaking a year on, Lucero describes how the project has “completely skyrocketed” with a growing network of nearly 700 people that has published close to 200 local exclusive stories.

The project hopes to tackle key challenges facing regional publishers. Let’s take a look at how the Bureau Local has been working to help local coverage across the UK and what the future holds for the initiative.

What are the challenges facing local journalism?

You’ve got more data and information that you could possibly imagine that a human can’t do alone ”

— Megan Lucero, director of the Bureau Local

1. Sustainability

“The business model is in flux meaning the time and the resources to do investigative reporting that holds power to account at a local level is really under strain,” Lucero explained.

She added: “Local journalism in particular has taken a huge hit. Hundreds of newspapers have shut down and local reporters are really strained”.

 

2. Information overload

With the emergence of the internet information overload is a reality for publishers and consumers. For journalists the large scale digitization of information has meant more data to uncover stories, which for well-resourced publishers can lead to uncovering groundbreaking stories. However, for time and resource limited regional publishers data journalism can be expensive.

“You’ve got more data and information that you could possibly imagine that a human can do alone” Lucero said. “And so journalists need more resources than ever to tackle that sort of data journalism.”

What are the solutions?

Collaborative journalism could be the solution. Inspired by the Panama Papers, a collaborative effort where journalists analysed an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca, Lucero describes how the Bureau Local aims to collaborative to produce data-driven and investigative stories.

The Bureau Local’s five-strong team of data and investigative journalists act as the driving-force helping regional publishers who lack the data skills and time to dig into datasets. Utilizing the skills of the core-team the project provide leads for its network.

“We’ve got lots of technologists, a lot of coders, programmers, developers who want to use their skill-sets to help. There’s also kind of lawyers teachers just you know members of the public who are also participating.”

“We’ve opened up a reporting guidance on how you can interrogate data in your area. We provide the lead and then everyone goes and digs into their own local area  and on the day we all announce that we’re going to publish,” she said.

The team also liaises with national organizations including the BBC with the aim “to try to ensure that the story reaches people”. By working with hyper local and national organizations Lucero says the competitive nature of the journalism produced is “stripped out” turning journalism into a service.

 

What does the future hold for the Bureau Local?

With the introduction of the first ever Community Organizer the project aims to better understand and utilize the skills of its growing network to dig deeper into local areas that are under-reported.

Originally funded by Google News Initiative, Lucero’s task now is to find additional funding. However Lucero is positive about for the project’s future.

The project has got attention from all around the world. There really isn’t anything like us that exists,” she explained.

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