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Independent publishers sign up to Facebook-funded community reporter scheme


Four independent publishers have joined the Facebook-funded scheme to enable local newspapers to boost coverage of under-reported communities.

The Barnsley Chronicle, Baylis Media, the KM Group and the Newbury Weekly News have now been confirmed as participants in the project, which will see around 80 community journalists recruited across the country.

When the scheme was launched in November, Reach, Newsquest, JPIMedia, Archant and Midland News Association were announced as the groups which would be employing the journalists using funding from Facebook.

The move was criticised at the time by hyperlocal trade body the Independent Community News Network on the grounds that no small publishers had been invited to take part.

Facebook defended the initial decision, saying it wanted the journalists involved to work in “medium-sized newsrooms”, but the inclusion of the new partners comes after they submitted “very strong proposals” to Facebook and the National Council for the Training of Journalists, which is overseeing and administering the project.

The project was formally launched at a conference in Leicester organised by the Behind Local News website.

Speaking at the conference, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher, pictured, said: “We are thrilled to be working with a great mix of publishing partners to recruit, train and qualify a new breed of community reporters.

“As so many publishers are interested in the project and want to play a part, the publisher partners and the NCTJ decided to open the pilot to additional independent publishers. We all believe that working together will be good for the industry and for the success of this exciting project.”

The scheme is being funded by a £4.5m charitable donation from Facebook, and the recruitment process began earlier this month.

David Higgerson, chief audience officer at Reach, who was involved with the NCTJ in the selection, said: “The additional publishers we’ve signed up for the project submitted very strong proposals and fully understand the objectives and criteria we set.

“This project is about innovating and supporting communities as well as getting a mix of diverse voices into our newsrooms.

“I’m pleased we have such a stellar line-up of publishers to make these ambitions a reality.”


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  • January 31, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Just what can you say to this? The reason that the big publishers need these reporters is because the type of news they produce doesn’t get the big hits on the websites that are needed.

    We saw that with the local council news and now we are seeing it with these community funded reporters.

    In the meantime the organisations that could really do with this kind of help – the hyper local websites get nothing. The big boys are busy making sure they scoop up all the extra resources.

    And look who is setting the “objectives and criteria”?!! The very people who decided that those exact same people who didn’t think those “objectives and criteria” were worth paying for themselves.

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  • January 31, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I agree Percy, ironic isn’t it that the very ones who ejected the more experienced journalists and top commercial staff, the ones who had the contacts and a real grip of and connection with,the local communities in favour of copy and paste, easy to manage people to save a few salaries and FTEs, are the ones now benefitting from this prop up.
    Doubly ironic that they’re even involved in deciding who gets the support!

    Those groups who took the decision to turn their backs on hyper local reporting by cutting district staff, closing offices and reducing news rooms should also be given the same treatment when it comes to funding extra free staff. Give it to the new local independents, both print and online news providers ,by all means,they’re the ones filling the gap and providing the real local news service the ‘medium sized newsroons’ chose to ignore.

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  • January 31, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I think another problem with recruitment is that there aren’t enough people willing to relocate to out-of-the-way places, and this scheme won’t be able to address that. If a large business is offering a below-average salary with no relocation payments, who can afford to make such a move? And in the current economic current, will many people have the confidence to undertake such a move? It’ll end up with more positions filled by applications supported by the Bank of Mum and Dad.

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  • January 31, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Sadly what will happen is that community news will end up being all the press releases that now get ignored.
    The news editors will be too busy trying to hit online targets to have much time to train the reporters in the real (not nctj) art of journalism.
    Lots of these jobs will go unfilled or have high turn overs, just look at the local democracy reporters.
    The standard of reporting will be low.
    Occasionally there will be a star, some woman or man who will stand out. Their stories will be lauded as proof that the whole scheme works. We will have articles on holdthefrontpage with praise lavished upon them for a real scoop. And that will be great. Except it will be a lie. Most won’t be very good and no one will bother with them after a few months.
    Now a hyperlocal will have had a lot more time, they would have had a real and vested interest in making the scheme work. Their small businesses would be given the breathing space to improve. They would have chosen the right people that really do represent the community they serve. Not just ticking a few boxes.

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  • February 1, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Can they go OUT and find stories? Can they write? that would be a start.

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