There’s a lot newsrooms can do to appeal to the next generation of journalists
By Jonny Greatrex, Nottingham Trent University MA in News Journalism course leader
Which story from the local media will you remember from 2018 and why?
This story because it was done by a fantastic year 2 student journalist. It was picked up straight away by first local, then national media, it led the regional BBC News that evening.
More importantly it raised awareness of the issue, gave warning to potential renters in Canterbury to watch out and avoid these exploitative arrangements and perhaps gave reprehensible “landlords” pause for thought the next time they consider making this type of offer. It was public interest journalism.
What has surprised you most about local journalism in 2018?
Job creation! A lot of fairly predictable, and understandable, questions about the Facebook Community Journalism Scheme, but 80 new reporters — on top of the LDRs — is another welcome addition to the sector and a further indication that local news is not “dying out”, it is changing and adapting to a new normal.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing local journalism in 2019?
Hitting page view/unique/engagement/growth targets while making time for meaningful local journalism which enhances and strengthens our democracy
Creating the best possible digital output while still serving the needs of a printed product, which are sometimes mutually exclusive.
Convincing talented graduate journalists they should start their careers in regional newsrooms.
Having enough screenspace to fit in all the social media monitoring and analytics software we need to see at the same time.
People appearing “unclassified” in Chartbeat.
What advice would you give to local journalists planning for 2019?
Do whatever it takes to make time for one or two big projects each year which make an impact. The day to day grind helps hit targets but most people came into journalism to make a difference, don’t use being “too busy” as an excuse to never try anything new.
What do you hope will happen in 2019?
Donald Trump will stop being US President (I’ll fall short of wishing misfortune on him), Brexit will just fizzle away in an outburst of “morning-after-the-night-before-what-were-we-thinking-let’s-all-just-pretend-it-never-happened” and new ways to fund local journalism will continue to grow.
What can local editors to make their newsrooms more attractive to students or people considering entering the profession?
Go to your local uni journalism department, meet them, invite them for a newsroom tour, have a structure in place for when they come on placement, understand a student is not a trainee (big difference), accept working with students can have frustrations but remember in most departments there are more (student) journos than the next nearest five professional newsrooms put together.
We tell students the more you put into a placement the more you get out, but it should (and often does in many places) work both ways. And always give them bylines for stories created on student media outlets, offer to hyperlink to their sites when you do to boost their SEO. It would be a drop in the ocean for a publisher to link to an external student site, but make a big difference to the student site’s performance.
What do you think local newsrooms are doing wrong at the moment?
Oh come on, give them a break. It is tough out there.
If you had one piece of advice for a local editor, what would it be?
Listen and engage with your audience as much as possible (yes, I know sometimes the more virulent elements can be depressing) when creating content. And, in fact, challenge the more virulent elements wherever possible — eg the Yorkshire Post/EDL/Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.