£4.5million community news project announced for UK’s regional press

Around 80 new jobs will be created in regional newsrooms in the UK as part of partnerships between Facebook, the NCTJ and four regional news publishers.

Reach, JPIMedia, Newsquest, Archant and Midlands News Association have all confirmed they will take part in the pilot Community News Project.

The $6million pilot scheme (around £4.5m), initially funded for two years, will see new trainee community journalist roles created in newsrooms across the UK.

Under the scheme, administered by the NCTJ, regional publishers will recruit around thetrainee journalists to help improve coverage of community news and issues in areas which editors feel could be better served.

Facebook will also work with publishers and the NCTJ to improve digital journalism skills in newsrooms, with trainees attending workshops led by the social media company on a regular basis.

The scheme also has a strong focus on improving diversity within newsrooms, with the application process expected to emphasise the importance of newsrooms reflecting their communities in their workforce makeup.

Details of exactly where the reporters will be based have yet to be announced, but publishers expect to start recruiting as early as next month.

Toby Granville, editorial director at Newsquest, said:”This initiative will mean that we can dive deeper into our communities to engage with them about what matters most at a more granular level.

“These new journalists will be able to help fill a void of rich content while establishing new audiences in otherwise untapped areas and help build a sustainable future for community news.”

Steve Anglesey, digital director at Archant, said: “The success of our Enjoy More sites and social accounts show the value of using new ways to connecting with previously underserved communities.

“We are looking forward to welcoming community journalists from a diverse set of backgrounds into our content rooms.”

Jeremy Clifford, editor-in-chief at JPIMedia, said: “Our titles have a unique bond with the communities in which we operate.

“As the way in which they communicate has changed through social media, it is important that we, too, evolve in how we report and reflect their lives.”

Keith Harrison, editorial director of the Midland News Association and Editor of the Express & Star, added: “The E&S has thrived on community news for more than 130 years.

“This collaboration with Facebook will enhance our service to readers by reaching out to communities that have important stories to tell.

“We also value the training and high standards of the NCTJ, as well as the opportunity to introduce more digital newsgathering skills to our newsrooms. It’s a really exciting prospect and we’re looking forward to it.”

David Higgerson, chief audience officer at Reach, said: “We know from our own audience data just how important community news is to readers. The challenge is to get enough people to read community news so that is sustainable.

“These are clearly stories people value, because they are so frequently shared in groups on Facebook, for example.

“This project is about building long-term relationships with communities which don’t speak to local media, or don’t feel local media is for them at the moment.”

Speaking at the press launch, Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “The NCTJ cares deeply about the number, quality and diversity of journalists working in our local communities.

“We are very proud to support the sustainability of quality local journalism by overseeing the recruitment of additional local news journalists from diverse and inclusive backgrounds and by ensuring they are properly trained and qualified.”

As part of the scheme, publishers commit to training reporters to senior qualification standard.

The community journalists will also become digital storytelling champions in their newsrooms, benefitting from training laid on by Facebook.

The project with Facebook comes a year after the BBC announced a 10-year project to fund 150 local democracy reporters across the UK.

More than 130 have since been recruited, with more than 30,000 stories being produced from council chambers across the country.

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