We are excited to announce that we have a new community organiser joining the Bureau Local team.
Shirish Kulkarni has almost 25 years’ experience in journalism — mainly in TV newsrooms at ITN and Sky, before returning home to Wales to go freelance. In the past five years he has produced a range of agenda-setting investigations, from work on the radicalisation of children by the far right, to the overprescription of antidepressants and ADHD drugs to young people.
His work uncovering the British Steel pensions scandal won a Wales Media Award and led to a parliamentary inquiry and a ban on pensions cold-calling. He has also set up and supported community groups focused on mental health, parenting and cycling.
He’ll be joining me as a community organiser, a role I’ve held at the Bureau Local since mid-2018. My previous co-organiser, Eliza Anyangwe, recently left the Bureau Local team to become managing editor of The Correspondent in Amsterdam.
The Bureau Local network now has more than 1,000 members, and the community organisers will continue to work with the network to help members share, learn, connect and collaborate. They will also help evolve the network to make sure diverse communities from across the country are represented.
We want to make sure that we are supporting our network to work together using their huge range of skills — from grassroots knowledge of issues in their communities to data, legal and academic expertise — to create maximum impact and really hold power to account.
We see ourselves as supporting both our members and the many communities that they in turn serve across the country. We think that linking these together can make for better stories, better storytelling and more meaningful change.
Shirish says: “Having worked at all the UK’s major broadcast news organisations, I am very aware of the structural issues which make representative journalism difficult, and am keen to explore ways to redress the imbalances these cause.
“The Bureau Local’s collective reporting is clearly a brilliant model for how journalism can be more diverse and representative, and I’m really excited to be joining the team and helping to make that change.”
Shirish will build our membership in Wales, which has typically been our weakest area in terms of numbers of people joining the network. The country has unique local news challenges, as it is dominated by one major newspaper group and has numerous news “black holes”, which recent research shows are contributing to a democratic deficit.
We look forward to working with partners such as the Centre for Community Journalism in Cardiff to help develop collaborations in Wales that can benefit underserved communities, improve their access to information, and ensure more of their stories are told.
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We will also continue to look at other demographic gaps in our membership so that these can be addressed.
The community organiser role was originally set up in November 2017 and was the first role of its kind in UK journalism. More media organisations are adding roles like this, and the Bureau Local runs a quarterly touring event, Organising the Organisers, to support collaboration in this new field.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is continuing to innovate more widely, with the recent creation of an Impact Editor role, which will work closely with the Bureau Local’s community organisers to make sure that our stories have the best possible chance of sparking positive change.