Local Democracy Reporters speak of work pressures and uncertainty

LOCAL Democracy Reporters ‘(LDRs) have raised concerns over a lack of opportunities to use new skills, pressure to meet targets and being used as staff cover. The BBC-funded journalists,

who work with ‘host’ news organisations and cover local authorities and other public bodies, were at an NUJ meeting organised to share experiences and concerns. The BBC is reviewing the

scheme, which funds 150 journalists. The existing contracts are due to be re-tendered in the spring or early summer. The LDRs were told by NUJ officials that they had been advised that the their jobs would be protected, even if the contract went to another employer. However, there is

uncertainty over how the scheme is operated, particularly by employers,

and how it will develop. LDRs outlined their

concerns: • Some said they were being put under pressure to get online hits and meet targets by their host newspaper • Some are being directed

by their host newspaper to cover certain stories •Some were being used to

fill already vacant reporting posts.

• Host newspapers were not putting out stories within the agreed deadline of 12 hours and many were not promoting articles on social media. • Some LDRs were

expected to put up their stories on the host paper’s content management systems and social media. • Despite having had

video training, the reporters had few or no opportunities

to use the skill. However, in general, the

LDRs said they enjoyed their role and could see the value their work was adding to local journalism. Andy Smith, NUJ

newspapers and agencies organiser, told the meeting: “There appears to be a huge variation in the way managers understand the scheme. “We can help through the

group chapels in providing a collective voice in our discussions with the employers about the role of LDRs and help iron out these problems.” The NUJ is applying for

union recognition on behalf of LDRs but, so far, the big three publishers have not agreed to this. An application has been

made to the Central Arbitration Committee for recognition at Newsquest.

Feature, page 12 “ Bread and Roses leaves the Chapel bar

THE BREAD and Roses pub and theatre venture has left the NUJ’s Chapel bar after a year of running the King’s Cross venue. Bread and Roses, which

runs an eponymous pub and theatre in Clapham, south London, is operated by the Workers’ Beer Company, owned by the Battersea and Wandsworth TUC. It has a

stage at the Glastonbury festival and the Workers’ Beer Company runs bars at various festivals. It had wanted full-time use of the lower floor of the

NUJ’s headquarters but this was not compatible with the union’s needs for the building. The lower floor was used by Bread and Roses for

Australian news agency closure a ‘wake-up call’

AUSTRALIAN Associated Press is to close in June after 85 years in operation, putting 1 80 editorial jobs at risk. AAP’s chairman Campbell Reid said

search engines and news stories being published free of charge by social media had forced the closure. The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

06 | theJournalist

criticised the Australian government for failing to protect the news agency. Reid said: “The AAP decision is a wake-up

call for Australia that the detrimental impact the digital platforms are having on media companies is very real and has now reached a tipping point. That is the reality. No one should kid themselves otherwise.”

There appears to be a huge variation in the way managers understand the scheme

Andy Smith NUJ newspapers and agencies organiser

theatre and venue hire as well as by the NUJ for meetings and events. Talks have begun with another potential operator of the bar and restaurant, which were created when the offices were refurbished.

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