Most newspapers employing Facebook-funded community reporters believe they have helped their newsrooms engage with under-served communities, research has found.
The National Council for the Training of Journalists has unveiled the results of a study on the community news project, which currently employs 77 journalists at regional press titles to cover under-represented areas.
According to the research, 96pc of line managers in regional newsrooms agreed the reporters had brought “something new” to their publications after six months in post, including engaging with under-served communities and unearthing new stories.
More than two-thirds of the reporters also meet one or more diversity criteria being measured – notably around socio-economic background, ethnicity, sexuality and education – with all of those interviewed saying they were finding the NCTJ-administered partnership either “very good, good or satisfactory”.
Asked how well the reporters were fitting into the newsroom on a scale of one to five – with five being the most positive response – the average score given by line managers was 4.3 and 4.2 by the reporters.
The average number of monthly page views was 112,272 per reporter at the six-month stage, while 80pc had written front page stories in print or homepage leads online within their first three months in post.
The figures follow the recent publication by the NCTJ of a short report by Mark Spilsbury, who has been commissioned to carry out an independent evaluation of the project throughout its two-year pilot.
Mark found the project had resulted in coverage of more “good news” stories, while several publishers had also amended recruitment practices in order to attract a more diverse range of candidates.
Will Gore, pictured, the NCTJ’s head of partnerships and projects said: “We are delighted that the reporters hired as part of this innovative partnership are bringing new vantage points to newsrooms.
“During the present coronavirus crisis, they are facing particular challenges; but the networks they have built up in their communities will stand them in good stead over the coming months, as the project enters its second year.”
Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partner manager at Facebook, added: “Diversity is a key focus of the community news project so it’s wonderful to see the new perspectives the reporters are bringing to newspapers across the country.
“It’s more important than ever that communities have access to local, relevant and trusted news so it’s heartening to see the impact the reporters are having.”
Newbury Weekly News editor Andy Murrill added: “Having a CNP reporter covering the isolated rural villages in West Berkshire has really helped us to strengthen our connection with those communities.
“We now have a dedicated villages page in the paper each week and a new villages section on our website. The CNP has undoubtedly enabled us to re-engage with a section of our community that had previously been isolated and unheard.
“We are now covering their issues and concerns in a way we have not been able to do for many years. And it is paying off in terms of growing audience and a renewed empowerment in those rural communities.”
Laura Adams, Archant’s content director for London, Kent, Herts & Cambs and Southwest Newspapers, added: “It is great to see that the community reporters are making their mark – not just in their communities but also in their newsrooms.
“We are so glad to be seeing talented individuals develop into highly-skilled journalists: they are a true asset.”
And Toby Granville, editorial development director at Newsquest, said: “The Facebook community reporters are making a big impact in our newsrooms.
“We are pleased to bring on this talented crop of journalists – particularly those from a diverse background, who wouldn’t have had this kind of opportunity to come into the industry if it hadn’t been for this scheme.”