The BBC has opened applications for regional news organisations interested in employing one or more reporters as part of the Local News Partnership (LNP) agreement between the broadcaster and the News Media Association.
Through the scheme, which the BBC has pledged to support with up to £8 million annually for the next 11 years, 150 Local Democracy Reporters will be distributed around the UK to cover councils and other local institutions.
The journalists will be based in the offices of regional news organisations and they will report on events and decisions of public interest on behalf of both the BBC and news outlets serving those communities.
The applications are open until 13 October, and will see regional and local titles competing for a spot as one of the 60 'section two' partners in the LNP scheme.
The criteria for selection are available online, and include requirements such as being able to produce content in more than one format, and having a demonstrated level of training delivered to editorial staff.
Local titles can apply individually for a Local Democracy Reporter, regardless of being owned by the same parent company.
'Section two' partners will employ one or more BBC-funded reporters, and they will also benefit from the two other services offered as part of the agreement to 'section one' partners: a news hub that will give them access to video and audio content from the BBC, as well as a data unit that will share data journalism produced by BBC staff and local reporters with the wider media industry.
Some 615 print, online and broadcast titles across the UK have already signed up as 'section one' partners in the programme to receive content, and the number is expected to reach 700, said Matthew Barraclough, head of local news partnerships at the BBC.
Out of the 150 positions available, 145.5 have already been assigned to different UK regions, with the remaining due to be distributed in Northern Ireland in 2018. The number of reporters per region has been chosen based on the nature and number of councils in the UK, population size, and whether an area is harder to cover due to its location, he explained.
Once the 60 titles have been chosen, which is expected to happen in November, the outlets will be able to start recruiting. Local Democracy Reporters will also get a chance to work with BBC staff for 12 weeks at a time as part of the shared data unit based in Birmingham, before returning to their parent organisation for a further 12 weeks to help disseminate the data skills they have learned.
"It's quite an exciting role, partly because you will end up working not just for a single title or a radio station, but for the public good – you're supplying news to all the journalists in an area," Barraclough said.
"Stories that have come out of local authorities are often very good, they're not dry and dusty, they are relevant and they meet everybody's criteria of what makes a good story."
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