Regional news coverage to be boosted by Local Democracy Reporting scheme
Released at 4:00 pm on 19 August 2019
Eight journalists are being sought to work as local democracy reporters in regional newsrooms across New Zealand. The recruitment aims to boost reporting on local body issues and the work of publicly funded institutions, local councils, health boards and similar organisations.
Eight regions have been chosen for the Local Democracy Reporting (LDR) pilot scheme (announced by the Newspaper Publishers’ Association, RNZ and NZ On Air at the end of May).
Funding of $1 million has been provided for the pilot scheme from the $6 million RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund announced by the Government in Budget 2018.
The scheme was proposed by RNZ and the NPA, as a way of strengthening public interest reporting, as an important aspect of having an informed democracy.
The pilot is modelled on a successful project in the UK launched by the BBC in collaboration with British publishers.
It aims to fill gaps in reporting on local bodies and other publicly-funded organisations, addressing issues brought about by a decline in journalist numbers across traditional media, which has been significant in some regions.
Media host organisations and the regions that have been confirmed are:
Whangārei, Northland (NZME)
South Auckland (Stuff)
Tairāwhiti/Gisborne (Gisborne Herald/Wairoa Star)
Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Kawerau (Beacon Media Group)
Masterton, Carterton, South Wairarapa (Wairarapa Times-Age)
West Coast (Greymouth Star)
The funding will pay for eight reporters in locations identified as needing more coverage. The reporters will be given multimedia training and will file stories, photos and videos.
While the reporters will be employed by newspaper companies, all the stories generated will be made available to RNZ and other qualifying media, including competitors. Media companies who wish to access the content will be known as LDR partners.
The new local democracy reporters will report solely on publicly-funded local institutions including local councils, council committees, community boards, council-owned commercial enterprises, district health boards, local trusts, and publicly-owned ports.
The funding from the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund* is guaranteed until the end of August 2020, with funding beyond that dependent on the success of the pilot.
For more information on the LDR scheme, the Memorandum of Understanding can be found here.
Media companies can register their interest in applying to become LDR partners by contacting RNZ via LDR@rnz.co.nz.
*The RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund was established with $6m from Budget 2018. Further information on projects supported by this fund can be found in this earlier release.