Journalists from across the UK’s local news industry have started work and training secondments at the Birmingham-based Shared Data Unit (SDU) as part of the BBC’s Local News Partnership - its collaboration with the wider local news industry.
The secondments are aimed at developing data journalism expertise in the regional news marketplace while also creating further content for all Local News Partnership-approved partners.
The Unit will share its generated data journalism with news organisations across the local news media industry. It will be staffed by a BBC team as well as a rolling intake of seconded reporters from local news providers.
Three journalists from the Birmingham Post and Mail, Northampton Chronicle and Echo and the Bradford Telegraph and Argus made up the first wave of secondees to work with the unit.
During their time at the BBC they will take part in a bespoke training programme aimed at delivering highly-valued data journalism expertise and skills back into the local news industry.
Working alongside BBC reporters to create data-driven public interest journalism for the next three months, they will also help develop the programme for the benefit of future secondees.
Since launching in September this year the SDU has already shared content with more than 600 media outlets across the UK, delivering stories on a range of issues.
In September, it reported how teacher vacancy rates were at their highest in the most deprived parts of England.
And in October 2017, it reported that the proportion of EU nationals leaving jobs in the NHS is rising, while the share of those joining is shrinking. Both stories were used by partners across the industry including print, radio and television.
Commenting on the development David Holdsworth (pictured), controller of BBC English Regions, said: “The Unit is already producing stories which have been used across the industry and we are confident of its continuing success, particularly with our partners from the newspaper industry bringing their experience.”
Birmingham Press Club director Eileen Murphy, who is the BBC digital editor with oversight of the SDU, said: “Collaboration around data journalism is essential at a local level to help deliver high impact journalism to our local audiences. By working in partnership with colleagues across local news we hope to deliver not only high impact content but also support the development of the next generation of local data journalists in the UK.”
The Shared Data Unit is part of a partnership agreement between the News Media Association and the BBC that will see the creation of 150 new journalism jobs who will be Local Democracy Reporters as well as a facility allowing local news providers access to relevant regional BBC material.
The BBC is investing up to £8 million in the partnership, which reflects a commitment in the BBC’s Charter to work with local news providers over the next eight years.
It’s been created and agreed by the BBC and the News Media Association, which represents the majority of the UK’s news publishers.