My Community News Project experience: Jessica Molyneux

"My favourite thing about being a community reporter was giving people from similar backgrounds to myself a voice and seeing the difference it made to their lives and those around them."

The Community News 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.

We caught up with six former community reporters who are now working in permanent roles with their publishers.

Jessica Molyneux is a district reporter at the Liverpool ECHO. She formerly worked as a community reporter at the Liverpool ECHO. Here, she shares her experience:

I’ve always had an interest in writing and media since I was aged 11 and had to write a blog as part of a secondary school open day. Fast forward to my undergraduate studies, I was heavily involved in my student newspaper alongside my English with philosophy degree and loved the busyness and working with a team.

Hearing people’s interesting stories, reaching new audiences and wanting to give the inspiring people of Merseyside a platform is what attracted me to working in journalism – but to start I never thought it would be possible.

After doing my NCTJ, I worked for a few months on the Merseyside weeklies when I heard about the Facebook community journalism project. I thought it would be an exciting opportunity to not only gain vital skills in the industry and work for the Liverpool ECHO, but to give residents from underrepresented communities more coverage in the media.

When I found out it was for Knowsley – the borough I was born and bred in – I thought it was the perfect fit.

My favourite thing about being a community reporter was giving people from similar backgrounds to myself a voice and seeing the difference it made to their lives and those around them.

I loved giving the area more positive coverage, showcasing its fascinating history and highlighting issues that were at the heart of the patch.

I really enjoyed working as a team with my colleague Lisa Rand who covered L8 as a Facebook reporter and I’m really grateful for the support from our amazing mentor Laura Davis, editor Maria Breslin and the rest of the Echo team who helped us develop our skills and championed the coverage of our grassroot communities.

The pandemic completely changed how I connected with my community. Prior to the first lockdown, myself and Lisa were out on patch building contacts and doing interviews face to face. But what was beneficial was the fact we had also established strong hyperlocal Facebook groups to keep connected to contacts and continue to build more.

Whilst it was challenging at times, social media was a vital tool during the pandemic and still is today and without it, I think many important stories would have gone untold.

The NQJ training the group did as part of the community reporter 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.

Whilst this year has been challenging in many ways due to the pandemic, I managed to pass my senior exams and my 100wpm shorthand exam.

After 18 months as a CNP reporter, I became a district reporter for the Liverpool ECHO covering St Helens, a borough I went to college in and where some of my family live. I’ve loved it so far, giving the borough more representation in our paper as well as recently covering the local elections.

The advice I would give for aspiring journalists is to take the time to find what you’re interested in and just start writing. Whether it’s writing a blog or being part of a school newspaper, look at what is happening in your community and reach out to as many people as possible.

Another tip I found useful was paying attention to national news and thinking how it could apply or affect residents where you live. Be confident and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The CNP is a great initiative to be a part of and it is a great opportunity for anybody wanting to break into the industry and see a difference in local media coverage.

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