A partnership which brings new journalists into newsrooms to tell stories from underrepresented communities is to expand to 100 reporters.
The Community News Project (CNP) has run since 2018 in partnership with Facebook’s Meta Journalism Project, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and nine publisher groups across the UK, as announced by Meta today .
The project which began in 2018 has already seen 139 reporters recruited to the scheme, creating a pipeline of talent across the country and developing the skills and knowledge needed by the journalists of the future, with many CNP graduates stepping into permanent roles.
Reporters Branwen Jones and Aaran Lennox were both employed as community reporters for North Wales Live and have since gone on to successfully transition as general reporters for Reach plc, Branwen at Wales Online and Aaran staying at North Wales.
In November, Christopher Davies became the latest Facebook recruit at North Wales Live.
Christopher who is based in Bangor said: “This has been my foray into journalism and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it so far. As the new Facebook Community Reporter for North Wales Live I’m looking to explore a range of different topics and goings on in my area.
“I have a real interest in the current second homes crisis going on in my home, and I’m keen to address this whenever possible through my work. Beyond this I have real interest in local history, both recent and reaching further back.
“The role is a fantastic opportunity to get out into the community and address those stories that can often get forgotten or go unnoticed in this fast paced industry, I relish the opportunity to draw these stories to light.”
The groundbreaking scheme has developed a training programme, delivered by a range of providers across the UK, for budding local journalists and has seen them embedded in newsrooms to report on communities which were previously under-served. During the coronavirus pandemic, reporters employed on the scheme have been vital to shining a light on stories of hope and resilience emerging from these communities, which need their successes promoted and their struggles to be shared and understood by local audiences.
Since the initiative began in 2018, CNP journalists have collectively produced hundreds of front pages, with 80% of involved reporters achieving print front-page bylines or homepage leads within three months of starting in their post. They have generated thousands of stories and consistently focused on diverse communities and voices that are traditionally underrepresented in the media.
The CNP has also helped newsrooms to become more diverse, inclusive and representative of their local communities, with around two-thirds of the reporters hired in the initial program meeting one or more of the scheme’s measured diversity criteria.
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The news of the scheme’s expansion brings £5.9m in new funding which will extend the scheme for another two years from 2022. The number of trainee places will grow from 82 to up to 100, while bringing even more publishers to the programme.
“The Community News Project is widely regarded as one of Meta’s most innovative and transformative projects for the regional publishing media,” said Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ.
“The results speak for themselves: an increase in the number and diversity of trainees joining newsrooms, who are increasing coverage of their communities while becoming professionally qualified journalists.
“News of Meta’s longer-term commitment and even greater investment in the project comes as a real boost after such a challenging time. The nine publishers deserve great credit too for making the project a big success so that it can benefit even more publishers in the future.”
Sarah Brown, Head of News Partnerships, Northern Europe, Meta said: “Following the successful launch of Facebook News in January this year, the Community News Project builds on our multi-year investments in the news ecosystem in the UK. The CNP is a great example of delivering a powerful journalism training programme in partnership with local newsrooms across the UK.
“At Meta, we like to build community, and these roles are fully focused on giving voice and telling stories that matter from underrepresented groups across the UK. Likewise, the NCTJ has been a wonderful partner in delivering an excellent programme of training, helping create the editors and publishers of tomorrow.”
Helen Dalby, Reach’s Audience and Content Director in the North East and Yorkshire, said: “At a time when trusted journalism that gets right to the heart of our local communities has never mattered more to our readers, we’re proud to be part of a scheme that ensures as many communities as possible are represented in our publications at the same time as training the journalists of the future.
“Ever since it launched three years ago, the Community News Project has enabled publishers to expand, improve and add depth to our coverage of communities which were previously under-served.
“During that time, our community reporters have published some exceptional journalism, most recently shining an important light on the many ways local groups have come together by geography, faith and in all sorts of other ways to survive and thrive during the coronavirus pandemic.”
Reach’s deputy group editor-in-chief David Higgerson added: “Local community journalism representing every corner of society matters more than ever, and we’re excited to be part of the next phase of this superb initiative.”
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