Snapshot of council reporting around England

Ipswich City Council

Former Press Gazette sub-editor and head of communications Max Stocker said the decline in local reporting had prompted Ipswich Council to tailor news for journalists by sending out community reports and local newsletters instead of just corporate press releases.

‘We’re lucky to get one reporter at all at full council meetings. No committee meetings are ever covered by reporters,’he said. ‘When I entered journalism in the Seventies, council reporting was part of any trainee journalist’s tasks. Now, only a few newspapers have political correspondents. We feel if we didn’t push stuff out there [by sending out meeting minutes], journalists would miss it.”

Greenwich Borough Council, London

A spokeswoman said that fewer reporters now attend council meetings because they can download the minutes from its website. ‘If they don’t see anything that interests them, they don’t come,’she said.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Council

Only controversial events that involve money, and non-predetermined council votes tend to bring reporters into meetings, a spokesman said.

Peterborough City Council

A spokesman said there are typically two reporters regularly covering council meetings from the Evening Telegraph and the Herald & Post, and that has been the case for the past 15 years.

Rother District Council, East Sussex

The number of reporters attending meetings has stood at one or two for the past 10 to 15 years, a spokesman said.

Portsmouth City Council

One reporter from the The News covers the council beat, compared with two reporters 10 years ago, according to Mark Wingham from the council’s corporate communications team. He said it was ‘rare’to get local television and radio stations involved unless there was a huge event. ‘TV and radio just don’t have the resources,’he said.

North Devon District Council

Alison Carragher, head of communications, said that no reporter regularly attends council meetings. She said that most reporters were happy to contact press officers by telephone.

North Yorkshire County Council

Councillor Carl Les said that while the number of journalists who turn up to council meetings is certainly less than before, the council now gets more press coverage as a result of its own communications operation. ‘I think local government has woken up to the fact that we have

to communicate better with our constituents,’he said.

Leeds City Council

A council communications officer said she had noticed a reduction in council reporting due to there being ‘just fewer reporters”. She claimed the Yorkshire Post no longer sends a reporter into any council meetings, and none of the weeklies have ever been interested in the council’s dealings aside from when a big issue happens. Only the Yorkshire Evening Post sends out an evening reporter.

Leicestershire County Council

A spokesman said that the four or five weeklies that operate in the area typically go to press on the same day as the meetings, which is possibly a reason why reporters are not picking up on stories. One reporter from the Leicester Mercury regularly attends council meetings.

Sheffield City Council

A council spokesman said the number of reporters attending events and meetings varies from between one and four reporters.

He was not sure whether attendance at meetings by journalists was greater or less than

previously.

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