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Community News Project reporters achieve first NCTJ gold

Posted on: September 30, 2020 by Mariella Brown

A group of Community News Project reporters have become the first of the scheme’s journalists to complete their NCTJ Diploma in Journalism to ‘gold standard’.

Alison Bagley, Rebecca Beardmore, Emma Shepard and Lisa Wong heard they passed their final 100wpm shorthand exam this week after starting training from scratch as part of the Facebook-funded initiative.

Lisa Wong was among the reporters who achieved the goal despite the hurdles faced in the switch to online learning forced by the pandemic.

Today Lisa revealed how she adapted to the role as Sheffield Star’s community reporter, having this year been diagnosed as having dyslexic traits.

Writing for her paper, she said: “Although I’ve been a journalist for just over a year, unbeknown to a lot of people, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.

“I’ve sort of learnt to adapt, but at the beginning I panicked at the thought of turning around a certain amount of stories each day and learning shorthand filled me with dread.”

Lisa Wong, Community Reporter

However, having discussions with a friend who was also recently diagnosed with dyslexia, Lisa heard an experience that resonated with her – and subsequently discovered her own diagnosis. This enabled Lisa to be assessed for exam adjustments such as extra time to help her complete her NCTJ qualification.

Lisa added, “I think there is that assumption that dyslexic people are ‘stupid’, that they are bad at reading and writing but there is a whole lot more to it.

“I can read and write but I am a bit slower than the average person and I struggle with spelling sometimes but not all the time. Ironically, I always have to think how to spell ‘dyslexic’!”

Jeremy Clifford the editor-in-chief of JPIMedia, which owns Lisa’s publication, said he was delighted at the news that Community News Project reporters have reached the gold standard of journalism.

He said, “It demonstrates that this programme can be successful in identifying people we may not have ordinarily recruited and take them on a career progression to become a fully-fledged journalist.”

Alison, Rebecca, Lisa and Emma are among more than 80 reporters who have been deployed in new roles across the country to focus on previously under-served communities, as part of the Community News Project. The Facebook-funded initiative partners with the NCTJ and nine regional news publishers and sets out to recruit reporters from diverse backgrounds.

Will Gore, head of partnerships and projects at the NCTJ, said “Given the enormous challenges they have faced in recent months because of the coronavirus pandemic – at work, at home and in their studies – I’m sure their success will taste particularly sweet.

“It is also a further indicator that the Community News Project is driving important, positive change at what remains a testing time for the industry.”

Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partner manager at Facebook added: “We’re delighted to hear these community reporters have achieved the NCTJ’s gold standard. It demonstrates the impact the CNP is having both in telling local community stories and in growing journalistic talent across the UK.”