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Though the relationship between the BBC and local media outlets has been "historically a strained one", there is now an increasingly proactive drive to collaborate, said James Mitchinson, editor of the Sheffield Star.

Speaking at the NCTJ Journalism Skills conference in Sheffield, Mitchinson and Tim Smith, acting head of regional and local programmes, BBC Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, discussed how a collaboration between the BBC and regional outlets could work.

"We feel the stronger local journalism is, the better," said Smith, adding, "the more we can do to help that, the better.

"So if combining resources to share an election hustings helps then yes we'll do it. If sharing content helps, then yes we'll do it."

Smith highlighted a pilot project called BBC Local Live, an online newsfeed that pulls together news stories from the local area both from BBC sources as well as local papers.

"Local newspapers will send us stories which they want to put on our website, and we will put them up there and link through to their stories," he explained.

BBC Local Live
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He added that the number of referrals is up 11 per cent in the first three months of the project in Yorkshire.

BBC Local Live has been extended to the North East of England in June, after starting up in London, Birmingham and Derby last year.

But as regional outlets and the BBC are essentially competing with each other in the online space, to what extent can a collaboration develop?

Smith said the BBC could work together with local news outlets to source stories, or to extend pooling when covering politics or events such as Royal visits.

"We currently have an agreement with local TV here in Sheffield and elsewhere [for example] that in return for them receiving money from the BBC they offer us a certain number of stories a day.

"I think the collaboration in terms of newsgathering is certainly possible," he added.

Too much collaboration would make for a very stale experience.James Mitchinson, Sheffield Star
Mitchinson said regional newspapers such as the Sheffield Star no longer have the resources to spend months on one investigative report, and in some cases "regional journalists feel a bit swamped by the BBC".

"We are keen to reach out and get some help from the BBC," he said, adding that the BBC Local Live project is a "step in the right direction and really encouraging".

But would pulling resources together to hold joint election hustings, for example, work in favour of the local community? Or would less competition mean the region may miss out on multiple debates?

Mitchinson said going too far in this direction "would be unhealthy for local journalism", adding that the Sheffield Star continues to compete with others when it comes to delivering fast news.

"It would not benefit the reader, the listener, the viewer. Too much collaboration would make for a very stale experience across a myriad platforms."

He said the opportunity for collaboration lies in the production of "slow and more considered material".

He added that the creation of a "media co-op", where media outlets would meet regularly "to forward plan moments in the calendar", would be a more beneficial approach to collaboration.

"That's where we need to be and we will look to make progress in that space," he said.

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