Attendees at the Community News Project Conference 2023

Community reporters benefit from masterclass, panels and speakers at NCTJ Community News Project Conference 2023

Staying safe online, editing videos for social media and pursuing your dream journalism career are just some of the topics discussed today at the NCTJ’s Community News Project (CNP) Conference.

Staying safe online, editing videos for social media and pursuing your dream journalism career are just some of the topics discussed today at the NCTJ’s Community News Project (CNP) Conference.

Held at Darlington College, the CNP Conference saw more than 70 community news reporters plus other industry leaders gathering to meet, network and learn new skills.

Joanne Forbes, NCTJ chief executive

Joanne Forbes

Joanne Forbes, chief executive of the NCTJ, opened the event. She said: “The NCTJ has been involved in the CNP since it was conceived back in 2018. It’s a brilliant project we’re really proud of.”

There was a masterclass on editing video by Michael Pearson, social media lead at BBC Radio 4 and BBC Sounds, as well as panels on building a journalism brand and careers after community reporting.

The former was chaired by Helen Dalby, audience and content director at Reach, with lively discussion on online safety for journalists, how to manage personal and professional personas and tactics to reach wider audiences.

Laura Adams, head of the NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Academy, chaired the careers panel.

Topics discussed included how former community news reporters have used the project to launch their careers.

Winners of the NCTJ’s community awards were also announced by communications coach Alfie Joey, former BBC Newcastle radio host.

He praised community journalism, adding: “If anyone ever tells you that what you do is a lightweight career, they’re wrong.

“You have several careers going on: detective, investigator, counsellor, performer on social media, lawyer – you’ve got to know the legals!”

The winners received a certificate and a prize:

Sam Harrison, Megan Howe, Iona MacDonald, Emily Jane

Sam, Megan, Iona, and Emily. Picture: Paul Norris

  • Best campaign or content series
    Iona MacDonald, Highland News and Media
  • Connecting communities in difficult situations
    Emily Janes, Caerphilly Observer
  • Top light-hearted community story
    Sam Harrison, Bury Free Press/Suffolk News
  • Academic achievement award, Diploma in Journalism
    Eleanor Lawson, Express & Star
  • Academic achievement award, National Qualification in Journalism
    Megan Howe, Shropshire Star

The conference was initially scheduled for earlier this year, but had to be postponed amid train strikes disruption.

The CNP has seen more than 260 reporters hired to cover underserved communities while working towards an NCTJ qualification.

More than 70 per cent of reporters hired through the CNP have met one or more of the diversity criteria identified at the project’s outset, and many CNP alumni have moved into full-time jobs in journalism after completing their training and fixed-term contracts.

Meta has contributed $17 million to the project over the past five years. However, it announced this month it will not continue to fund the scheme beyond its current phase, which runs into 2024.

Current contracts are not affected by Meta’s decision to end its involvement, and many community reporter roles will continue into 2024 as journalists complete their training.

Community news reporter at Wokingham Today, Ji-Min Lee, who was also a panellist on the building a journalism brand session, said: “My favourite thing about being here at the Community News Project Conference is to meet lots of like-minded people and celebrate all our community news reporters.”

Find out more about the CNP here.

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