Bureau awarded £500,000 Google grant for 3-year local journalism project

The Bureau has this week been offered a major grant worth €662,000 from Google as part of the company’s Europe-wide Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund.

We have secured the award for a three-year project that aims to build an innovative team whose job will be to construct and analyse large datasets for original stories at the local and regional level.

The money is coming from a €150 million pot announced last year by Google as part of an effort to encourage innovation in news media organisations.

The Bureau applied for funds for a three-year proposal aimed specifically at encouraging the spread of ambitious data-driven local journalism.

The Bureau would like to establish a network of key local journalists interested in exploring how coding and computing technology can produce original and hard-hitting stories.

The journalists may be working at established local newspapers, or be from reputable local blogs.

They will work with data analysts, technologists, statisticians and graphic designers – to be recruited by the Bureau – to produce the datasets that may yield investigative stories, not only locally but also when aggregated at a national level.

These stories could include analyses of all payments and grants made to private companies and community groups by local governments, spending on housing, or lists of the money earned by the country’s elected councillors.

The aim will be to ensure better transparency and accountability in the way taxpayers’ money is spent locally.

Bureau managing editor Rachel Oldroyd said: “We want to bring together all the great data journalism happening across the UK and supplement this with an exciting cross-discipline team to encourage data-driven stories. This is an incredible opportunity to develop a unique and ambitious team working for and with local journalists.”

Bureau deputy editor Ted Jeory, himself a local blogger in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, said: “Anyone who’s worked in local journalism knows it runs in your blood and there’s nothing more rewarding than holding to account the people who run the area in which you live.

“With so much data now being published by councils and other authorities as part of the localism and transparency agendas, there’s never been a better time to be a local journalist – and with spending cuts, there’s never been a greater need for them.”

The Bureau will now work with Google to establish key milestones for the project and further details will be announced in the coming months.

The first wave of winners for the Digital News Initiative was announced by Google chief executive Sundar Pichai in Paris yesterday.

He said €27 million would be awarded to 128 applicants from 23 countries.

Grants worth €2.9 million have been allocated to the UK, where other winners  include projects at the Telegraph and the Financial Times.

The Bureau was one of only two organisations in the UK to be offered more than €500,000.

Google received some 1,200 applications from 30 countries.