More than 4,400 people have so far applied for 83 regional journalism jobs created under a scheme being funded by Facebook.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists has hailed the early success of the £4.5m community news project, which was launched in a bid to improve newsroom diversity along with coverage of under-reported communities.
More than 90pc of the roles created by the scheme, which is being administered by the NCTJ, have now been filled, with more than 50 people applying for each job on average.
Regional publishers who have taken on new recruits under the scheme included Reach plc which has employed 28 community journalists, Newsquest which has taken on 23 and JPIMedia which has recruited 19, with Archant, MNA Media, the KM Group, Baylis Media, the Barnsley Chronicle and Newbury Weekly News also involved in the project.
Will Gore, pictured, head of partnerships and projects at the NCTJ, told HTFP: “With 4,400 applications so far for 83 roles, and with more than 90pc of the positions now filled, the community news project has got off to a terrific start.
“Across nine publishers we have a hugely diverse cohort of reporters working in a wide variety of locations – already tackling community-based stories in places previously under-served by local news provision.
“As we know from our work administering the Journalism Diversity Fund, recruiting people from a wide range of backgrounds is key to engaging with Britain’s multi-faceted society, so we are delighted that diversity has been at the forefront of this project.”
Those taken on under the scheme are briefed with giving better coverage to communities on their patch seen as currently being under-represented in local news.
Recruitment has been focused on attracting local applicants with no previous journalism experience, alongside journalists who are currently in training or who hold the NCTJ’s Diploma in Journalism.
Those who have already achieved the diploma are employed at a higher salary, and will work towards the NCTJ’s National Qualification in Journalism for community journalists.
Added Will: “The formal training element of the scheme will begin in September, with most reporters working towards their NCTJ diploma.
“Already some of the trainees have benefitted from a Facebook-hosted bootcamp at which they learned key digital skills; and the NCTJ has begun a programme of online seminars too.
“The challenges facing the regional newspaper industry are well-documented; but the Community News Project shows how innovative partnerships, which focus on the needs of local people and on good journalism, can help to sustain this vital sector.”
Facebook declined to comment, but the social media giant is understood to have been very pleased with the interest shown in the project across the board.