E tū welcomes Local Democracy Reporter scheme

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E tū, the union for journalists, has welcomed the announcement today of a $1million pilot scheme to improve local news reporting.

The scheme, dubbed the Local Democracy Reporting Service, will see 8 journalists hired to report on publicly funded bodies such as councils, council committees, community boards, District Health Boards, council-owned enterprises, local trusts, and ports.

The scheme is an initiative of the Newspaper Publishers Association, together with RNZ and the government through the RNZ/NZ on Air Innovation Fund.

E tū Senior National Industrial Officer, Paul Tolich says it’s no secret that reporting on local issues has deteriorated sharply in recent years, as the number of journalists in newsrooms has declined.

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“Local bodies and other publicly funded entities are responsible for billions of dollars in public funds and they must be accountable to the public. But as newsrooms have shrunk, there has been less scrutiny of the politicians and officials who manage these often very substantial businesses,” says Paul.

“This scheme will help keep them accountable by ensuring greater scrutiny from the Fourth Estate.”

Paul says the union is also encouraged to see support across the media for the initiative.

“The reporters will be based in newspaper newsrooms, but they will be supplying stories to a wide range of other media. It’s a great example of cooperation over an issue that has raised concerns across the industry.”

Paul also paid tribute to the government which set up the $6 million RNZ/NZ on Air Innovation Fund which is funding the one-year pilot.

“The fund was set up to support media content which is under-served and that’s certainly the case with our publicly elected and funded organisations. So, this is money that’s been wisely spent.”