NEWS outlets across the UK generated 3,500 stories in a single week thanks to the trailblazing Local Democracy Reporting Service – a ground-breaking scheme intended to shine a spotlight on the world of local government.

The first-of-its-kind survey asked news partners to record all the stories they used from the BBC-funded initiative between June 3 and June 9, creating a snapshot of how the service is changing the industry.

The 3,500 published or broadcast items were created from 1,350 individual stories filed by LDRs across the country.

The report found that three quarters of the stories were used as major or lead items. Launched at the beginning of 2018, LDRS is part of the Local News Partnership – a collaboration between the BBC and the News Media Association (NMA), which represents news brands in the UK.

The BBC funds up to 150 reporters to report on local authorities.

Employed by the publishers, reporters are deployed in regional newsrooms and report to editors at their host title, but everything they write is published to a news wire for use by any approved news outlet, including local media publishers and the BBC.

Matthew Barraclough, head of the Local News Partnerships, said: “The research confirmed that 98 per cent of all content produced by LDRS was used by at least one partner, and that the majority of content was used as either a lead or major item.

“The service was created to support public service reporting and sustain local democracy. It is pleasing, therefore, to see that stories created by Local Democracy Reporters are being used in such volume by news partners across England, Scotland and Wales.”

The study found that 52 per cent of the stories were used online, 37 per cent in print and 11 per cent on TV and radio.

The surveying company, DRG, also found that news outlets that use the LDRS gave it a ‘satisfaction’ score of 75 per cent.

Jeremy Clifford, chair of the NMA/BBC advisory panel and editor-in-chief of JPI Media, said: “The results of this survey show that the Local News Partnership is generating significant amounts of local public interest journalism which publishers and broadcasters want to use for their audiences.

“The scheme has been an outstanding example of effective partnership. We believe there is ample evidence to support the recommendation by the Cairncross Review for this service to be expanded with more journalists reporting more widely and deeply into the affairs of public institutions.”

Another study is due to be conducted later this month. The LDRS is part of the Local News Partnerships, which also includes the Shared Data Unit and News Hub.

The Shared Data Unit shares in-depth reports based on carefully-collated statistics and is staffed by BBC journalists alongside reporters seconded from the regional media.

The News Hub gives outlets access to online and television news content from the BBC’s newsrooms in England, Wales and Scotland. The BBC has committed up to £8million a year to fund the LNP.

John Connell, who became a Local Democracy Reporter last September, said the service provided a great opportunity to work on and develop important public interest stories.

He said:  “One day you can be covering a controversial planning application and the next filing an article on the future of Sellafield or the election of a former conman.

“This is an vital role, full of surprises and challenges, and I hope that its success bodes well for the future of the industry as a whole.”

John, who is based with The Whitehaven News, Times & Star and News & Star, added:  “Since joining the service, I have also given several radio interviews linked to stories that have piqued the interest of the BBC – which allowed me to move outside my comfort zone and begin to develop an exciting new skill.”