Friday, 14 May 2010

PA close to funding for public service pilot

The Press Association is close to getting funding for its pilot scheme for a public service reporting unit - covering courts and councils.
Tony Johnston, PA's director of training said there would be an announcement "fairly shortly" on funding the pilot scheme for the new service, which would aim to fill the reporting gap left by the local press reducing its court and council coverage.
Johnston, speaking today at Press Gazette's Local Heroes conference at Kingston University, said PA would carry out a full evaluation of the pilot and then consider where long term funding might come from for a public service reporting unit.
He revealed that a survey of editors had shown that half said their paper's scrutiny of local authorities had declined in the last decade. Of magistrates' court clerks surveyed, 79% said local paper coverage of their courts had also declined.
Johnston said the new service would be editorially independent of the source of funding, be offered free to all and would also aim to train the "next generation" of journalists.
He told the conference it was "a radical approach so that the scrutiny of local authorities would survive" and was not meant to "prop up" the newspaper industry.
He also said that although there had been a big growth in local online sites: "Anyone can be a blogger." Johnston said it needed professionally trained journalists to cover the complexities of courts and councils."

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