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Regional press bosses slam Meta newsroom cuts

IanCarterEditorialDirectorKM (1)Industry bosses have branded Facebook owner Meta’s cuts to funding for the UK regional press as “cynical” and “disappointing.”

In a double blow, Meta revealed it is withdrawing funding for 100 community news reporters employed in newsrooms across the country, while simultaneously axeing the Facebook News Tab – a tool believed to be worth seven-figure sums annually to participating publishers.

Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker, whose company employs around 22 journalists under the Meta-funded Community News Project, said the social media giant was leaving “brilliant community journalists out in the cold” by withdrawing the funding, but said he was “unsurprised” by the move.

Now Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter, pictured, has also hit out at the decision, revealing that he had been “slightly cynical about the platform’s commitment to the project” over the five years it has been in operation.

Iliffe employs three reporters directly under the scheme, which was set up with the twin aims of increasing the coverage of underserved communities across the country and recruiting journalists from more diverse backgrounds.

Three groups partially-owned by Iliffe – Highland News & Media, Newbury Weekly News and Stratford Herald – also employ one community news reporter each.

Posting on X, Ian wrote: “The timing and delivery of this Meta announcement were disappointing but unsurprising for those of us who have been involved from the start – and slightly cynical about the platform’s commitment to the project.”

“Good luck to all those who have entered journalism through the Meta scheme. We desperately needed more diverse newsrooms and this has been a step in the right direction – I hope they all manage to remain in the industry.”

With funding set to cease at the end of the project’s current phase next year, all will be at risk of losing their jobs once their current training contracts run out.

Many of the 100 reporters are on a two-year contract leading up to the Level 5 qualification, the Diploma in Journalism. Although these contracts will be honoured, the withdrawal of funding means that their contracts won’t be renewed for the level 6 qualification – the National Qualification in Journalism.

A spokesperson for Reach plc, which employs more than 30 journalists under the scheme, told HTFP: “The CNP has cultivated terrific journalistic talent in our newsrooms and we’ve been proud to be able to keep so many of the CNP journalists at Reach through permanent positions after their training has finished.

“Our focus today is on supporting the brilliant journalists we currently have working with us in the scheme and in continuing to support them over the coming months through their remaining training and contract.

“While unsurprising, today’s news [about Facebook News Tab] clearly has broader implications about Meta’s commitment to providing a safe space for reliable and trusted information, which should be a serious concern for the industry and society at large.”

The National Council for the Training of Journalists, which has administered the Community News Project, has said it is “currently exploring ways to secure the project’s legacy and take it forward into the future, in partnership with regional news publishers”.

Meta itself pointed out it has spent $17m on the Community News Project, which has trained and funded more than 260 journalists over the course of five years.