Lockdown journalism: Mean it when you ask people how they really are

Posted on: September 1, 2020 by admin

Community Reporter Gurjeet Nanrah, based at NottinghamshireLive website and Nottingham Post newspaper, told Behind Local News about the challenges of keeping in contact with a rural beat during the Coronavirus lockdown.

Reporting on a rural patch over the lockdown has been a big challenge — especially when you live in the city and have been working from home.

While working remotely has kept me closer to the fridge and kettle, it’s kept me much further from covering the north Nottinghamshire patch I report on.

But it hasn’t put me off getting stories out on this areas, and in some ways it’s brought me closer to the residents living there.

It takes little effort to start a conversation with someone about a story and ask them how they are, mean it, and remember something meaningful they have said the next time their thoughts would add to a story.

It’s a great feeling to then be the first person in mind to come to when something newsworthy happens in that community.

This has been the case for me covering stories in the Mansfield and Ashfield area of Nottinghamshire — which I live around a 40-minute drive from.

Asking for input from members of local historical groups in this patch has led to them tagging me in social media posts I can follow up on.

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Mansfield — one of several rural towns Gurjeet covers

It’s also hard not to see Facebook as one my greatest tools over the lockdown.

Checking local community groups has provided me with stories such as pubs breaking Covid-19 rules and — as is the case in a pandemic or not — residents sharing views on local planning issues.

I’ve also considered what it is I’m reading myself. Keeping people up to date with the pandemic is of course hugely important, but writing about other interesting local features still has provided me with a sizable readership.

Gurjeet is one of around 80 community news reporters funded via a scheme run by the NCTJ and paid for by Facebook

This has included writing about monuments within the Mansfield area, historical features on buildings and villages, and also features on what has happened to local coal mining pits.

Writing these kinds of stories has been much more manageable given the contacts I’ve built in these areas who are more than willing to provide me with insight on stories they are genuinely interested in.

Pictures: Behind Local News