Investigative journalists are facing many challenges. Local papers are closing; the way we access news is changing, and reporters face far more data than ever before. Amid all of this, The Bureau Local (TBL) is working to keep us connected to what’s going on in our communities while continuing to hold power to account.
Launched in March last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, TBL is an open network of now 760+ journalists, technologists, lawyers and other engaged citizens, working together to find and break important stories, run by a small “Panama-Papers-style” team of six in London.
Rather than each local paper trying to make sense of the same set of figures, members work together to sift through vast data sets, building new databases and resources that all can use and share, and unearthing patterns that often tell a much bigger story.
For example, for their investigation into council spending and cuts, they aggregated data from hundreds of sources, then held hack events around the country where volunteers came to make sense of it all. This led to 35 exclusive stories. TBL is also experimenting with new forms of storytelling: ‘Refuge Woman’ is a one-woman-show about life in a refuge, featuring stories on how cuts are affecting vulnerable women in communities.
Since launching, the network has published 180 exclusive stories across 11 investigations. TBL’s work is already gaining recognition; the organisation has scooped the European Press Prize for Innovation and the British Press Award for Innovation of the Year.