Former community reporters reflect on the Community News Project

Six former community reporters have shared their experiences of the Community News Project (CNP), as they move into permanent roles with their publishers.

The project was launched in 2019 as a partnership between the NCTJ, Facebook and nine regional news publishers, with the aim of supporting quality local journalism and improving the diversity of newsrooms.

Natasha Meek, who worked as a community reporter at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, has now taken up a permanent position as digital journalist at The Press in York. She said: “What mattered most of all to me was that my journalism made a difference.

“I helped tell the stories of LGBT+ refugees finding their new ‘family’ in Bradford, a Sudanese woman delivering food parcels to the most hard-to-reach communities during COVID-19, and was told by a mental health practitioner that my article had saved young lives.”

In December 2020, it was announced that the CNP had been granted renewed funding from Facebook to extend the scheme for another year, following the success of the two-year pilot period.

The multi-million-pound investment enabled the creation of 83 new community reporter positions at 76 regional titles. All community reporters study towards an NCTJ qualification alongside their work in the newsroom.

Jessica Molyneux, who has been kept on at the Liverpool ECHO as a district reporter, said: “The NQJ training I did as part of the scheme was extremely valuable as it enabled me to enhance the skills I acquired whilst doing my NCTJ but also apply what I had learned in my role as a community reporter.”

Of the reporters hired as part of the project, 69 per cent have met one or more diversity criteria, and more than a fifth are from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Gurjeet Nanrah worked as a community reporter at Nottinghamshire Live. He said: “Being a community reporter has been more than an ideal role to begin life as a journalist. It’s helped me identify the types of stories I enjoy reporting on and led to my new job as a life writer across Lincolnshire Live, Derbyshire Live and Nottinghamshire Live.”

21 journalists who achieved the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism during the first two years of the scheme have been kept on in their roles to work towards the senior National Qualification in Journalism.

29 community reporters hired in the pilot period have now moved into permanent journalism roles.

Community reporter vacancies in the next phase of the project are now being recruited for by publishers involved in the scheme.

Read the pieces from former community reporters Alison Bagley, Ollie Kemp, Natasha Meek, Jessica Molyneux, Gurjeet Nanrah and Lisa Rand now.