Role Call: Local Democracy Reporter
It takes all types to make a newsroom run smoothly. To understand newsroom roles across New Zealand, Telum will talk to a range of journalists in a new ongoing content series, Role Call. This week, we spoke to Emily Ireland, the Local Democracy Reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age.
Walk us through the role of a Local Democracy Reporter
As Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, I cover three councils: South Wairarapa, Carterton, and Masterton. My role is very specific and pertains to matters and decisions that directly involve elected officials. As someone who finds sick joy reading through massive council agendas, this suits me perfectly! My role complements the rest of the Wairarapa Times-Age newsroom workforce, who cover everything else from police, health, education, and more.
Do you spend a lot of time in the newsroom, or are you usually based out in the field?
If the world was normal, I would be busy driving across the region to catch the many council and committee meetings in person. With COVID-19, things have been a lot easier, as I can catch multiple meetings on the same day online.
Being so remote does have its downfalls though. I miss attending meetings in person as it’s much easier to build a relationship with elected members and council staff this way. You also get more face time with members of the public who are engaged in local politics.
What does a day in the life of a Local Democracy Reporter look like?
Wairarapa councils have A LOT of meetings. In a busy week, I could have seven agendas to read through, some of which are hundreds of pages. At times, three meetings are happening at once, which is when the pandemic convenience comes into play, as I can jump between them online.
There are some quieter weeks, where there may only be one meeting, or none at all. On these weeks, I tie up any loose ends, chase follows, and lodge LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act) requests for the next quiet week.
What big ticket events are you keeping your eye on in 2022?
This is going to be a massive year for every Local Democracy Reporter as elections are coming towards the end of the year. We are also all closely following the issues and concerns surrounding the Three Waters Reform programme and reporting on how government legislation will impact our councils. I’m also keen to learn what changes the Future For Local Government Review will suggest.
How can a PR best engage with a Local Democracy Reporter?
Like any other provincial reporter, my focus is on local stories and local people – with a council focus. I’m more than happy to hear from anyone with story ideas if they are local, or if they have local implications at a council level.
Answers submitted by Emily Ireland, Local Democracy Reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age.