New reporting scheme targets local news

Eight journalists are to be recruited under the new initiative. Photo: Getty
Eight journalists are to be recruited under the new initiative. Photo: Getty
Eight journalists around New Zealand are to be recruited as part of a new local democracy reporting service.

The $1 million pilot scheme has been launched by an alliance of publishers, RNZ and NZ On Air.

The purpose of the pilot is to fill gaps in the reporting of local bodies and other publicly-funded organisations, mostly in regional New Zealand, brought about by significant decreases in reporting numbers in traditional media, a media release from RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA) and NZ On Air said. 

The concept is similar to a partnership formed in Britain between the BBC and British publishers under which 150 reporters have been hired to strengthen the reporting of local issues.  That scheme is funded from the BBC's licence fee.

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said RNZ had already brokered content-sharing partnerships with different media and the Local Democracy Reporter (LDR) service was an extension of that.

"The objective is to give the New Zealand public an independent, impartial new service, delivered on as wide a range of media platforms as possible.  To extend this in partnership with the newspaper industry is an important step forward.''

NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson said its role was to ensure public media funding addressed gaps in the market.

"It has become increasingly clear that New Zealanders want and need more reporting on the issues at home that affect them, and that the commercial news market is finding it difficult to meet these needs.''

NPA editorial director Rick Neville said the new reporters would be required to report solely on publicly-funded local institutions like local councils, council-owned commercial enterprises, district health boards, local trusts, publicly-owned ports and the like.

Reporter salary costs will take up the largest share of the fund, with the balance covering the costs of the service manager to be employed by RNZ and other RNZ costs.

Funding is guaranteed for 12 months.  Funding beyond that depends on the success of the pilot.    

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