Reach appoints its first Community News Reporters — here’s who they are

The first Community News Reporters to be employed by the UK’s largest regional news publishers have begun settling into their new roles.

A total of 29 of the 80-plus Facebook-funded Community News Reporters will be employed by Reach, which worked with other publishers, the NCTJ and funders Facebook to create the project.

The scheme, funded to the tune of $6m for at least two years by Facebook, has put an emphasis on recruiting candidates from communities which are under-served by local newsrooms.

The successful applicants will work in communities which would benefit from greater attention from local news organisations.

The company said it had been overwhelmed by the number of applications.

Ria Tesia in Derby, Kynaat Awan and Lewis Smith in Cardiff were the first to join the team.

Ria Tesia

Ria will be working with ethnic minorities in Normanton for DerbyshireLive utilising her language skills — she is proficient in Hindi and Gujarati, can understand Urdu and basic Punjabi — before taking on a new challenge, learning British Sign Language to work with the Derby’s deaf community which is the biggest outside of London.

Ria said: “I am thrilled to be a part of the Reach family. I am an avid reader of the Derby Telegraph and have been since university. I look forward to working with a talented team whose warm welcome has already made me feel like a valued member of the team.”

Julie Bayley, editor of Derbyshire Live, said: “We’re very much looking forward to working with Ria. This new role is the perfect fit for her: she speaks several languages, enjoys connecting with new communities, she already runs a successful food blog and, in her words, loves giving people a voice!”

Both Kynaat Awan and Lewis Smith join WalesOnline, and will begin by covering the underserved communities they are from — Cardiff’s Muslim community and the Gwent Valleys respectively.

Kynaat Awan

Kynaat said: “I have met the team and feel that Media Wales is a welcoming place and environment for people of all backgrounds. I look forward to the training I will receive and making those important contacts in the community. I hope to grow in my confidence and writing skills throughout my experience.”

The positions were open to people with no journalism experience, with some training, and those who have passed their NCTJ prelims.

Apprentices will work towards the diploma in journalism and anyone who has passed that will complete the new National Qualification in Journalism for community journalists.

The new recruits will attend a Facebook bootcamp this summer before starting their NCTJ training.

Lewis Smith

For Lewis, joining Wales Online is a dream come true.

“Starting any new job can be daunting, and as I walked in to the Media Wales office for the first time this morning, the fact hit home.

“Like many, the community reporters position is a dream job for me — giving me the chance to better represent the needs of my community, as well as learning the key skills I need to progress within the field of journalism. I look forward to reaching out to members of the public, and producing quality articles they can relate to.”

More new starters are arriving by the week.

Branwen Fflur Morris Jones

In North West Wales, Welsh speaker Branwen Fflur Morris Jones will be reporting on the county of Gwynedd.

She said: “I have always been interested in captivating stories and good storytelling, which is why I applied for the job position of a Community Reporter with the Daily Post.

“Having been born and bred in north Wales, I am excited about writing stories that matter in the local communities of Gwynedd, which I hope will create an impact in the way we engage with people from these communities, as well as how we represent them in the media.”

Bethan Shufflebotham

Bethan Shufflebotham, who joins Stoke-on-Trent Live, has just handed in her final year project for her journalism degree.

She said: “I am so excited to start working for StokeonTrentLive and Reach PLC. Having lived in Staffordshire my whole life, The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive have always been my local media outlet and one I have looked up to whilst studying journalism.

“I am very proud of my city, and cannot wait to engage with local people, discovering their stories, and getting them involved in community news in matters relating to the NHS and health.”

In her spare time Bethan runs a beauty and lifestyle blog and has a prolific following on Twitter and Instagram.

Lisa Letcher

Lisa Letcher is from Tywardreath, near St Austell — one of the geographical areas CornwallLive feel is underrepresented.

She works full time in hospitality as an events manager for a hotel and is just finishing an English degree.

Rema Mukena has some experience of reporting for the BBC and radio station Ujima. Rema will join the team at BristolLive.

Rema Mukena

Rema already has experience of writing about race, gender and equality issues in Bristol.

For Bristol Live, she will be covering three inner-city communities where we are looking to increase our presence and engagement.

She said: “I’m very excited to begin this role and develop my career”.

And finally — for now — Alec Evans, who has an MA in magazine journalism and is currently working as a digital assistant, will be at SurreyLive.