Local Democracy? Reporters ensure it’s alive and well

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By Marc Reeves, Editor-in-Chief, Reach Midlands Media Ltd

Just over a year ago, I was handed the kind of problem that any editor welcomes. A message came down from group: "Well done. The West Midlands has won the contract to manage some of region's Local Democracy Reporters. Now toddle off and employ eight of them. Look lively."

Gulp. That's a lot of bodies to find - and manage. Could we find that many? Did we have the office space? How could we cope with the workload of another 120 stories a week to be desked?

I did what any editor-in-chief would do - by immediately delegating the recruitment problem to my colleague Keith Perry, editor of Coventry Live and the Coventry Telegraph!

Through a tortuous process, Keith brilliantly steered most of our recruitment over a number of months, taking time to ensure we got the best people for the roles. Stoke Sentinel editor Martin Tideswell oversaw the recruitment of our two Staffs LDRs. In the Brum newsroom, Gurdip Thandi was the last to join towards the end of last year, filling the job of holding Walsall Council to account. His colleagues were already establishing themselves covering Birmingham, Solihull, Coventry, Sandwell, Dudley & Wolverhampton, Stoke, Staffs and the metro mayor and the combined authority.

The new LDRs operate out of our newsrooms in Stoke, Coventry and Birmingham - and in the East there are more working in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham.

In Birmingham, the challenge of managing a team of five LDRs was met by the creation of a new LDR news-editing role. Paul Kemp moved across from the Tamworth Herald to fill that role, which he has made his own. Paul is the unsung hero of the LDR scheme in this neck of the woods. As well as managing reporters, he attends to the needs, requests - and occasional gripes - of the other media organisations that use the stories created by the LDRs. This means liaising with the newsdesks at BBC WM, the Express & Star and many more.

A year in, I think it's clear the LDR scheme has been a massive success, and I want to pay tribute to all of our LDRs across the East and West Midlands for the incredible work they put in day in day out, keeping a watchful eye on the most powerful people in our towns, cities and counties.

Here's to the year ahead!

·       The BBC’s funding commitment to the scheme is up to £8 million a year, with the Shared Data Unit and the team that administers the Local News Partnerships project being based at the BBC’s Birmingham office.

·       Just over 100 separate news organisations across 850 outlets are signed up to the partnership

·       Its News Hub syndicates every TV clip made across the 15 BBC nations and regions, constantly updating a library of approximately 8,000 videos.