The Bureau Local is collaborative, investigative network revealing stories that matter to communities across the UK.
Launched in March 2017, we have built a network across the UK whose members include regional and national news outlets, local reporters, hyperlocal bloggers, technologists, community-minded citizens and specialist contributors.
We join forces on investigations with the aim of holding power to account at both a local and national level.
With each investigation, we make relevant information accessible to everyone in the network and help members find out how the issue plays out in their area. As reporting takes place across the country, we then connect the dots to create a national picture.
This collective reporting method produces broader and deeper investigations than would be possible by any individual newsroom, allowing us to shine a light on systemic issues and hold those in power to account.
The Bureau Local has been called “one of the most positive and effective interventions in local journalism in the UK for some time” and has won multiple awards, including the Innovation prize at both the British Journalism Awards (2017) and the European Press Prize (2018).
The Bureau Local was set up with funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative and Open Society Foundations.
We believe that holding power to account, both locally and nationally, is crucial for a just and equitable society. And we believe local journalism is integral to this accountability.
But local investigative reporting is under threat.
The traditional commercial model for local news is collapsing and as a result, scrutiny of power at a local level is in a critical state.
This comes at a time when information about every area of public and private life which was previously found on paper now exists on computers. That means there is far more of it stored and often in ways that are inaccessible to the average person. Important stories often become hidden, too time-consuming or technologically complex to be done by individuals alone.
The age of the internet also means the way people access information is changing and so is the trust people have in the news.
We believe new models are needed to tackle these challenges and safeguard the future of quality news reporting. The Bureau Local wants to be one positive part of this change.
Our mission is to support, reinvigorate and innovate accountability reporting in the UK.
We collaborate across organisation and industry lines
We believe that by building a community of journalists, techies, designers, concerned citizens and people with specialist knowledge that contribute to investigative reporting, all of us will benefit from new ‘acts of journalism’.
We collaborate with journalists from all backgrounds, platforms and sizes but also work with people outside the news industry.
We have already seen this play out in powerful ways in our network.
Coders help journalists with tech tasks; designers build visualisations for newsrooms; members of the public crowdsource information; experts bring forward contacts and insider knowledge: all with the common goal of shining a light on the truth. You can join the network here.
We apply our collaborative approach to all that we do and to each role within the Bureau Local team. Our data journalists contribute to the wider journalism ecosystem, our community organisers run a knowledge sharing meetup for those in the organising community and our director helps advise organisations who are setting up Bureau Local-inspired initiatives.
We rigorously investigate - from local stories to national issues
The Bureau Local's ability to pull together local experiences and reveal the national picture has led to calls from MPs across the country for change to immigration spot checks, a parliamentary debate, citations in a House of Commons Library report and a government consultation on domestic violence and new government guidance on homeless deaths.
We also support local reporters and storytellers to shine a light on untold stories in their communities through our Local Reporting Fund.
We make the investigative process open and accessible
We see data as more than numbers on a spreadsheet. To us, it is a vital insight into communities and an ever-growing wealth of evidence to drive local and national accountability. We believe data should be accessible for everyone.
So when we investigate an issue, we do the heavy lifting to harness data centrally and simplify the investigative process for journalists and the public.
We use technology to access, analyse and find stories in data and then combine it with local knowledge, research and reporting to tell the stories of the people the data represents.
We then open up our data, code and methodologies, and write reporting guides to make it easy for anyone to follow or expand on our investigations. You can access all our open resources, here.
We reach and include audiences in new ways
We believe that if our aim is to inform communities, we must work hard to reach them. And not just the narrow and traditional pool of news readers. As people access information in new ways, we must change the way we tell stories and ensure our work is inclusive and accessible.
Our Community Organiser role is focused on ensuring we report with, not just on, the communities we cover and mobilise communities around our journalism.
To do this we are experimenting with new ways to tell stories and build trust with communities.
We also took our domestic violence investigation on the road, with the theatre show Refuge Woman. This one woman show was written and performed by a collaborator who had worked with us on the investigation. Her performance shed a light on her own lived experience. We took the show to eight locations across the UK: the cities and towns where local journalists worked with us on the collaborative investigation. Regional journalists and those working in the sector came on stage after each performance to discuss the issue in each local area.