The Data Investigations Unit comprises Newsquest reporters Joanna Morris and Vicky Gayle, as well as Bev Holder in a part-time role. All three of them have completed 12 week secondments with the BBC Shared Data Unit that was launched as part of the Local News Partnership scheme which also includes the investment in 150 Local Democracy Reporters across the UK.
The Unit was officially launched by editorial director Toby Granville with a training day attended by 10 reporters from around Newsquest on May 16 at its London HQ - and the aim now is to provide Editors with a dedicated potential splash each week generated by the team.
Vicky, who was previously a reporter at the Daily Gazette in Essex before joining the unit, said: “In a very short time I've become part of the wider data journalism industry, which is far more collaborative and creative than many journalists would realise. Now I feel I have a real opportunity to push boundaries by working with professionals in other fields, and investigate topics I wouldn't have had an opportunity to before because of a lack of skills and time.”
Joanna, who joined the unit from the Northern Echo, said: “My secondment with the BBC really underlined the importance of reporters being able to scrutinise and understand the relevance of the data that is held and published by public authorities on an almost daily basis. It’s a skill I believe is vital in continuing to hold authorities to account and I’m hoping that the launch of Newsquest’s unit eventually mean we’ll have people in all of our newsrooms who will have the skills and time to analyse such data and explore how it’s relevant to our readers and their communities.”
Bev, who splits her time between the Unit and her role as chief reporter for the Stourbridge News said: “Having first been given a glimpse into the wonderful world of data journalism on secondment with the BBC last year – this is an incredible opportunity for myself and my reporting colleagues across the company to develop our skills and have chance to work on some great investigative projects of public interest.”
Toby said: “I’m delighted to finally get this Data Unit of the ground – and very lucky to have the exceptional talent of Vicky, Joanna and Bev making up the team so far. I’m looking forward to seeing them and helping others produce some ground-breaking investigative journalism and really shake things up!”
The 10 reporters who attended the training day and will represent their regions by dedicating a day each week to work on group wide Data Investigations are: Andrew Nuttall (The Leader), Sophie-May Clarke (Lancashire Telegraph), Nathan Louis (Watford Observer), Conor Shields (News Shopper), Rachel Conner-Hill (Northern Echo), George Thompson (Western Telegraph), Alexander Seabrook (Reading Chronicle), Niall Christie (Evening Times), Marco Ferrari (Falmouth Packet) and Federica Bedendo (Times & Star).