NCTJ partners with Facebook and regional publishers to launch Community News Project

The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and regional news publishers will work together to recruit, train and qualify around 80 additional community journalists.

The Community News Project, funded by a $6 million (about £4.5 million) charitable donation by Facebook to the NCTJ, aims to support quality local journalism and improve the diversity of UK newsrooms.

The project aims to increase the creation, consumption and distribution of reliable and relevant community news.

The scheme is a two-year pilot project with a range of publishers, including Reach, Newsquest, JPIMedia, Archant and Midland News Association. This means we will be able to pilot the scheme in a range of locations and different-sized businesses.

The goal of the Community News Project is to encourage more reporting from areas of the UK which are currently underserved, such as towns which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters.

David Higgerson, chief audience officer at Reach, who has led discussions about the scope of the project on behalf of the publishers, said: “This project is a fantastic way of increasing the number of stories published that would otherwise not be covered.

“The funding will help us pioneer new ways of local news gathering and distributing stories to underserved communities.

“It will help us increase newsroom diversity and inclusion and the publishers are pleased to be working with the NCTJ to recruit, train and qualify the community journalists.”

With social media playing a growing role in the way people consume news today, Facebook has said it is committed to doing more to support publishers.

Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partner manager at Facebook, said: “Having started my career at my local paper, I understand how local news really helps to inform and strengthen communities.

“Together with the NCTJ and regional news publishers, we want to help encourage more reporting in underserved areas of the UK. Our hope is that, ultimately, the Community News Project helps more people access the news that matters to them most.”

The project also aims to help improve the diversity of newsrooms, an issue which was highlighted in the NCTJ’s recent Journalists at Work 2018 report.

Journalists will be recruited from a range of backgrounds, with the aim of helping make newsrooms more diverse and inclusive.

The NCTJ and the publishers will ensure that the recruits are properly trained and qualified in their community journalism roles. 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.

The NCTJ will work closely with the publishers to ensure the assessment for this new qualification meets the needs of their businesses, communities and learners.

All community journalists will also have access to specialist training, mentoring and continuing professional development to help them enhance their community journalism skills.

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.”

More information will be made available in early 2019 when applications for the scheme will open.