Tips and tricks from the Bureau Local open newsroom
The Bureau Local runs regular one-hour sessions with our community of UK journalists and citizens. These sessions are designed to help members solve problems and learn new things together in relation to investigating local and national issues. We have found that designating time to come together has helped us connect with other members and pool ideas and resources that none of us could come up with alone.
All you have to do is show up to our Slack (online platform) at 1pm on the first Thursday of every month! If you aren’t yet a member, you can join here and in doing so, get an email to join Slack.
After each session, we record the resources and datasets mentioned for solving that week’s problem below.
* Young People in an Uncertain World: how should the insights and ideas of young people define the process of rebuilding from coronavirus (2 July 2020)
* Race, Inequality & Coronavirus: understanding the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on people of colour (4 June 2020)
* Climate Change: how can we best understand and report on climate change (7th May 2020)
* Coronavirus: looking at the impact of the pandemic on local communities (2 April 2020)
* Council finances: analysing and scrutinising local authority budgets and accounts (5 March 2020)
* Freelance and remote working: the emotional and practical ups and downs (06 February 2020)
* Automation in the newsroom: how to make information more accessible and easier to discover (09 January 2020)
* 2019 recap: what stories did you find inspirational in 2019? (5 December 2019)
* The 2019 election: how can local and community media report on election candidates in a way that is useful and informative for local voters? (7 November 2019)
* Housing reporting: how do you report on such a complex topic? (4 October 2019)
* Brexit: politics, a possible election and brexit (5 September 2019)
* Financial challenges in local newsrooms: how do we fight (together) for the long-term future of local news? (1 August 2019)
* Scraping without code: reducing the tech barrier to information collection (18 June 2019)
* Journalists, meet community organisers, community organisers, meet journalists: what useful tips can journalists and community organisers share if they come together? (27 June 2019)
* Health reporting: which health topics are going under-reported and would lend themselves to Bureau Local investigation? (13 June 2019)
* Crowdsourcing local democracy: how can you get involved in our pilot project to obtain local accounts information from councils? (6 June 2019)
* FOI requests: what should you be aware of when writing Freedom of Information requests? (14 March 2019)
* Community engagement: how do you effectively, and responsibly, involve communities in your work? (28 February 2019)
* Court reporting: what are the challenges with accessing court information and reporting on them? (7 December 2018)
* Postcode data: when you have a postcode or an address, how can you get more information on the location? (23 November 2018)
Young People in an Uncertain World (2 July 2020)
In this Open Newsroom, we discussed the disproportionate social and economic impact of coronavirus on young people, what our new collective world might look like, and how the insights and ideas of young people should form part of the process of rebuilding.
You can watch a recording of the event here.
We were joined by:
Lord John Bird - Founder of The Big Issue, who’s piloting a Future Generations Bill through Parliament
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson - Chair of the British Youth Council
Inzamam Rashid - Sky News Correspondent
Race, Inequality & Coronavirus (4 June 2020)
In this Open Newsroom, we discussed the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on people of colour, and the inequalities which underlie that. You can watch the whole event here.
Our guests for the event were:
Yvonne Field - Founder and Managing Director of The Ubele Initiative
Mia Malan - Founder and Editor in Chief, Bhekisisa
Shavanah Taj - General Secretary of Wales TUC Cymru
Climate Change (7 May 2020)
We took this Open Newsroom on Climate Change onto the CrowdCast platform, for the first time, and you can watch the whole event here.
We were joined by an expert panel:
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Louise Crow, Head of Development, mySociety
Dr Adam Levy, Scientist and Climate Change YouTuber
We’ve briefly summarised the discussion below - with timecode for the CrowdCast video - if you want to watch back.
4:14 - An explanation of Sophie’s role and Wales’ unique Future Generations Act.
8:00 - South Wales’ proposed M4 relief road as a case study of the impact of the Future Generations Act. The plans were ultimately rejected because they didn’t meet the guidelines set out in the Act.
12:54 - Across the UK, there’s a disconnect between public bodies’ declarations of “Climate Emergency” and their actions. For example, the Welsh Government has declared a Climate Emergency but is calling for air passenger duty to be devolved, so that it might cut the duty at the Welsh Government-owned Cardiff Airport. That would make it cheaper to fly from there but potentially increase use and challenge their climate plan.
16:42 - Adam is based in Berlin and says Germany likes to think it is forward-thinking in terms of climate change, but is equally prone to paying lip-service to the idea. The German Government still invests in car production and coal-mining.
21:15 - Louise talked about mySociety’s project to crowdsource local councils’ climate action plans. The quality of these action plans vary. In Louise���s opinion, the best plans are those which have been consulted on and communicated well to the public.
35:05 - Discussion around the public planning and policy process and its impact on climate change. Adam explained that in Germany, alternative energy provision has been consistently incentivised whereas the UK Government has been inconsistent in its policy responses, meaning that the industry has struggled to make long term plans. Louise mentioned that the planning process is often where most people first come into direct contact with their local council. There are issues around the transparency of this process which many people find frustrating.
38:00 - Responses to the question of how journalism can do a better job of reporting climate change. Adam believes that public knowledge of the key concepts underlying climate change are still too low. Climate change reporting should be better integrated with general news, rather than being treated as a subject that’s somehow “separate” from economics, transport or health.
48:00 - When asked how investigative journalism, in particular, can add to understanding of climate change, Louise said it was important to arm communities with information and data and help them understand how they are impacted by the decisions being made. Sophie said it was important to keep asking the questions - You have declared an emergency, now what? What are you doing? Where is the money going? It’s important to hold people to account. What will happen if we don’t prepare for climate change? Adam agreed, adding that the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the excuses we used to make for climate change (“Things aren’t achievable or, that’s just not possible”) aren’t true.
56:40 - Our CrowdCast poll, on whether the pandemic was ultimately likely to have a positive or negative effect on climate change, was split pretty evenly. Our panellists leaned towards the positive, with all seeing it as an important opportunity for a cultural and economic reset.
Coronavirus (2 April 2020)
In this Open Newsroom, we wanted to address the coronavirus in a positive and constructive way. The story has taken over almost all aspects of our lives, so we wanted to have a space in which we worked through how we could best respond as a community and as journalists.
We split the session up into three broad sections:
* What are the key pressures and pinch-points being faced by communities and individuals?
* How might Bureau Local effectively report on some of these?
* How might the network best work together in a time where connection is being made more difficult?
What are the key issues?
In the first section, we asked what key issues people had noticed in their community or area that had been highlighted or created by coronavirus. We asked whether there was scope for us as a network, or as individual reporters, to do any work on these.
Some mentioned how the downturn in advertising revenues would affect newsrooms. Others raised access to food – there was some input on the mixed availability of food vouchers for children.
One active point of discussion was around impact on often invisible groups of people. These included:
* People at risk of domestic abuse being confined with abusers.
* At-risk children that are expected to attend school, along with the children of essential workers. Is anyone monitoring attendance? Evidence collected from headteachers suggests it is low. There is also a question mark over kids with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) – schools are required to have completed risk assessments to determine if they should be allowed to remain at home. Evidence suggests councils have been slow to do this. The closure of other services important to this group is also relevant – eg a family and children's centre that normally offers playschemes and afterschool clubs to deprived groups.
* People with long-term mental health conditions who are struggling now that face-to-face contact has been stopped. These are inadvertent victims of coronavirus. Could it be worth monitoring and reporting on suicides?
* Potentially pa