Why Facebook is investing £4.5m in local news

By Nick Wrenn, head of news partnerships, EMEA and Sian Cox-Brooker, Strategic Partner Manager

People want to see news that matters to them. Often that means news about how their local sports team is doing, proposed changes to town plans or new shops opening on the nearest high street. Local newspapers keep people up to date on everything that’s going on in a community, but also play a vital role in holding local councils and institutions to account.

We recognise the important role Facebook plays in how people get their news today, and we want to do more to support local publishers. For this reason, we’re partnering with Newsquest, JPIMedia, Reach, Archant and the Midland News Association, as well as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), to launch the Community News Project.

The Community News Project is a £4.5 million (USD $6 million) fund designed to support local journalism in the UK. This investment will enable the NCTJ to oversee the recruitment of around 80 trainee ‘community journalists’ and place them at the heart of local newsrooms on a two-year scheme. The goal is to encourage more reporting from towns which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters.

The NCTJ and publishers will focus on finding trainees from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, designed to reflect the rich diversity of the local communities they’ll serve. The official applications process will open early 2019, but in the meantime the NCTJ and publishers will be heading to schools, universities and industry events across the country to talk more about the project, and encourage more young people to think about a career in journalism.

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.”

One of the benefits of the scheme is that the community journalists will have access to a full training programme from the NCTJ, while working. Trainees without the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism will receive training to achieve the qualification, while those who have passed the diploma will work towards a new National Qualification in Journalism for community journalists. They will also have access to a range of training from Facebook focused on digital newsgathering skills.

Karyn Fleeting, head of audience at Reach PLC, said: “As publishers, we already work closely with Facebook, so this collaboration is a logical next step.

“Community news is shared widely on Facebook, on pages and in community groups, and this collaboration will help us reach communities which don’t currently benefit from in-depth community news.

“We think it will be good for journalism, good for our newsrooms and good for the local communities we serve.”

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.”

Laura Adams, Content Director at Archant added: “We are excited to be part of an initiative that clearly aligns with our commitment to the local communities in which we operate and our mission to provide top-quality journalism. We also look forward to welcoming ambitious community journalists from a diverse set of backgrounds into our newsrooms. They will undoubtedly make a valuable contribution in developing our community engagement and multimedia content offering.”

We’re excited about the opportunity to help more local news reach more people through the Community News Project. We hope it can play a small part in boosting community engagement in towns, cities and counties across the UK, and open up new opportunities for the next generation of journalistic talent.