Today the NCTJ publishes a remarkable insight into the work being done by reporters hired as part of the Facebook-backed Community News Project (CNP).
Rebecca Beardmore, community reporter with the Blackpool Gazette, compiled a diary of a week in her life to highlight how she is juggling work commitments with her Diploma in Journalism studies, while simultaneously working from home and looking after the three children.
With the coronavirus pandemic having forced all journalists to adapt to new working conditions, for CNP reporters the challenges have been particularly acute. Not only have they had to remain in touch with local people and events remotely, they have also had to get used to studying without the advantage of face-to-face teaching.
Yet as Rebecca’s diary shows, the challenges are being met head on – even when that means being glued to McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists on her day off!
Rebecca said: “There is no denying that we are all facing a huge adjustment to the working lives we are used to during the coronavirus pandemic. But now more than ever people need a voice in their community. From celebrating achievements to looking into their concerns, it's important to me that I represent my communities accurately and efficiently. It’s a juggling act sometimes, but I love being a journalist, helping to bridge the gap between the media and the public.”
JPIMedia’s editor-in-chief, Jeremy Clifford, said: “The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in journalists and a heightened recognition of the invaluable work we do in serving our communities and, at this time, particularly the isolated and vulnerable.
“The CNP has enabled us to employ journalists in communities that we wouldn't otherwise be serving which has boosted our ability to connect readers.
“The work that Becky has documented also shows just how resilient and agile our new breed of journalists have become. But if I were to single out one benefit of her tremendous work, it is what she says here:
“‘One of the benefits I have found in setting up a specific Facebook page for my professional role is that it gives me the opportunity to build trust between my news outlet and the community. I receive messages to my page daily from local people asking me to write about their achievements, or letting me know about things they feel need to be addressed.’"
Gillian Parkinson, editor of the Blackpool Gazette and JPIMedia’s editorial director for the north west, added: “Becky is an absolute star. She's a mother of three small children, came in with no journalism experience or qualifications and hit the ground running – she just got it straight away.”
The Community News Project, launched last year, is being managed by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Will Gore, the NCTJ’s head of partnerships and projects, said: “It is abundantly clear that the coronavirus pandemic has created considerable difficulties for parts of the news media industry in the UK.
“Yet as Becky’s diary demonstrates, journalists are working incredibly hard to stay connected with local communities, to be a trusted source of information and to give a voice to those who might otherwise not be heard – which is more vital now than ever.
“She, and the other reporters hired as part of the Community News Project, should be proud of the public service they are providing.”
Rebecca joined the project in July 2019 and is studying for her Diploma in Journalism at The Sheffield College. Her course leader, Sam Cooper, said: “Becky is just one example of the fantastic extra effort the CNP reporters – and the apprentices we are teaching – have put in since the college closure.
“Daily shorthand at 8am and 5pm as well as remote teaching sessions on Thursdays and countless mock exams would not be easy at the best of times, let alone when they are all in the middle of reporting on the biggest story to hit this country since World War II.
“Commitment is one thing you can't teach but this group are going above and beyond, driven by determination to get their NCTJ diploma."
The Community News Project was launched in 2019 and is a partnership between Facebook, the NCTJ and nine regional news publishers (Archant, Baylis Media, Barnsley Chronicle, JPIMedia, KM Group, Midland News Association, Newbury Weekly News, Newsquest and Reach plc).
All reporters hired under the scheme are studying towards the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism or National Qualification in Journalism.