A local democracy reporter, who champions social issues in London, has revealed how support from the Journalism Diversity Fund helped kickstart her career.
Ruby Gregory, who works for MyLondon, completed her NCTJ diploma in 2021 on the fast-track course at News Associates in London.
After originally deferring her place on the course to try to save up for the fees, she found out about the Journalism Diversity Fund and was accepted for a bursary.
The 25-year-old, who lives in south London, opted to study journalism after realising her passion for documentary-making while completing her degree in film studies in Leicester.
She said: “I realised what I liked to do was analysing and researching. I didn’t realise how documentaries are a type of journalism and often come from news articles.
“After I realised that it was what I wanted to do, I got a place on the course at News Associates but I decided to defer the place for a year because I didn’t have the money to pay for it.”
In order to save up for her journalism training, Ruby moved to London and worked two different jobs as a nanny and at a café. It was at the café that she met Linda Quinn, editor of the online community newspaper Brixton Blog and Bugle, who offered her some work experience.
Ruby said: “It was a real foot in the door and my editor told me about the Journalism Diversity Fund and helped me with my application. I was really grateful.
“The JDF offered to pay for half of my course and I had a monthly allowance for living expenses.
“I didn’t realise how good that was but it really helped me. Without that support I would have had to work for another two or three years before I could afford my training.
“It really kickstarted my career and motivated me because I had something that was supporting me.”
Despite the impact of the pandemic forcing home working and learning, Ruby achieved the gold standard diploma and soon began applying for journalism jobs.
After applying for a general reporter role at MyLondon, she was thrilled to be offered the role of a community reporter in March 2021.
The role was created through the Community News Project, a partnership between the NCTJ, Meta and regional publishers, to diversify the media, champion local voices and connect with under-served communities.
Ruby said: “They said I would be better suited for this role and when I found out about it, I was so excited. I really like the human-interest side of things and I don’t know if I would have got those types of stories in general news reporting.”
Also including remote NCTJ training, the role allowed Ruby to study for the senior-level National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ), which she passed in April 2023.
With a remit of reporting on communities in Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Croydon, Ruby also carved a niche for herself, reporting extensively on London’s housing crisis.
She said: “I have been determined to cover every single housing story that came my way and met with housing campaigners. I think people underestimate the power of young people and young journalists. They are leading the way and changing the newsrooms and the narrative.
“What was so great about the community reporting role was that you have a lot of time to explore what you like reporting on. The role was created because there was previously a gap in that form of journalism and I had a duty to carry that out and serve the public.
“You are there to give people a voice and change that coverage. It’s been really nice to listen to local people.”
In September 2022, Ruby’s editor offered her the local democracy reporter role, noticing that many of the stories she was doing could be explored further by engaging more closely with public authorities.
Ruby said: “It’s taken time to learn where to find the news and decipher the council jargon but I am starting to get there now.”
One of Ruby’s stories about a family living in a mould-infested house recently went viral on social media, with more than two million people engaging with the story on Twitter alone.
She said: “I found the story by typing into social media and I found a GoFundMe link and it mentioned bad housing conditions. I messaged the woman on Twitter and called her explaining that I can’t promise help but I am here to tell her story and put some pressure on the people in charge.
“After that initial call I went round there and sat with her for a good hour. We took some pictures and she talked about how she was fundraising for a housing deposit to get out of there.
“I normally tweet every housing story but I didn’t expect it to get that sort of reaction. MPs were even tweeting about it.”
Thanks to Ruby’s coverage, the council intervened and offered the family new temporary accommodation.
She said: “It’s really nice to have that feeling that I have helped. I think it will take some time to sink in.
“I am glad I have been able to shine a light on this problem and people are realising we are in such a bad time right now with housing. I am glad I have been able to be one of the leading journalists to do that.”
Giving her advice to prospective journalists, Ruby said: “If anyone is looking to get into journalism, they should contact their local news organisation, even just to do a taster session.
“If anyone needs any help financially, I think the JDF is probably the best there is out there. Be honest and transparent – there is a real chance for you.”