ITV West life correspondent lets viewers control the news agenda

ITV West has appointed former GMTV reporter Ellie Barker as its "life correspondent", a newly created position that sees her tackling local issues suggested by the public.

Barker was GMTV's Scotland correspondent, before joining the BBC in 2003 as a presenter on regional news programme, Look East.

Barker, who has her own "Ask Ellie" phone line and email address, said: "The idea is to give the viewers a feeling that they're involved. And the great thing about the job is that it's moulded by the viewers, and it can be about absolutely anything."

Barker has already begun investigating a variety of stories, including the case of a Women's Institute member, angry at the elderly image associated with the group. To highlight the range of activities the WI enjoys, Barker will be joining members at a belly-dancing class.

Other requests have so far involved the issue of clamping in private car parks, the use of offensive language in local listings magazines and the leaking of soap opera plotlines to the press.

Barker said: "The toughest part of my job is persuading news editors to let me do these pieces which aren't what you'd describe as ‘typical' news stories.

"It's very easy in a newsroom to get caught up with what you think is important and forget the viewer. So I enjoy battling with the news editors, because the viewer is after all the most important person."

ITV West head of news Liz Hannam said that while other ITV regions employed a life correspondent, none of them promoted such a personal relationship between the reporter and the public.

She said that the reports had been "very well received", adding: "The way it's already taking off, I think other regions will be looking at it closely."

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