Nov 11, 2021 • 35M

How the BBC bankrolls local reporters: Matthew Barraclough

Plus a headlines quiz for the keen beans

Hal Crawford
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Hello everyone,

Funding news is not easy.

It’s tough to commercially fund news. Everyone know this. In fact, we’ve heard so much about how hard it is to fund news commercially that it’s become a bit dull. Advertising is owned by the digital platform companies and only a small percentage of people subscribe.

What you may not realise is that funding news is difficult in the non-commercial world too.

Here, there are a huge range of options: philanthropy, independent not-for-profit (like The Conversation), public broadcasting, contestable government funding (the NZ PIJF) and subsidy. There are also a few very interesting experiments in the not-for-profit, community-owned news area (see my interview with Simon Crerar of *PS for more on that).

Why it’s difficult varies with the models. 

Philanthropy is fraught in terms of funding security, and can serve egos ahead of audiences.

As public broadcasters evolve into all-platform public media they open themselves up to criticisms of using public money to compete with commercial media, distorting the market unfairly. Direct government funding of independent and otherwise commercial media can lead to accusations of political interference.

In these circumstances, a local news funding scheme that has been operational in the UK now for four years is a very useful precedent. The BBC’s Local News Partnerships project provides money to regional news outlets to cover local governance reporting, and also runs a data journalism training program.

Matthew Barraclough (sadly without tie)

As you’ll hear in this week’s podcast, the scheme is run by Matthew Barraclough, and has led to the employment of 165 journalists and the training of more than 200 data journalists. Barraclough is dynamic and helpful. His insights are frank, and what he and his team have built is admirable. I enjoyed the conversation immensely.

How well do you know headlines?

As part of a small and unscientific experiment, I have put together a series of quizzes that will test your ability to identify the source of a headline. I’ll level with you now: my thesis is that it will be harder to tell the NZ headlines apart than the Australian ones.

There are only two choices for each nation, The Australian and The Guardian Australia for Oz, and the NZ Herald and Stuff for NZ. Yes, I know I have cooked the books in the selection. That is all part of it.

It would help me if you could give this your best shot. The quizzes are completely anonymous and take at most a couple of minutes. If you are not familiar with one set of publications, just complete your own nation’s quiz. All the headlines were gathered at a single moment, and represent the top 10 stories at that time on the desktop sites of the mastheads.



Go well. Anyone who gets 100% will be immortalised in this newsletter, so let me know how you get on.

Have a great weekend,