The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) has published an insight into the work carried out by reporters hired under the Facebook-backed Community News Project (CNP) while under lockdown.
Rebecca Beardmore, who is a community reporter for the daily Blackpool Gazette, has written a diary detailing a week-in-the-life juggling the demands of being a journalist and mother-of three under lockdown.
The diary shows how due to covid-19, reporters have had to grips with sourcing stories remotely from local people, along with Rebecca’s additional hurdle of undertaking training for a Diploma in Journalism studies which is currently being taught virtually.
Rebecca said: “There is no denying that we are all facing a huge adjustment to the working lives we are used to during the coronavirus pandemic. But now more than ever people need a voice in their community. From celebrating achievements to looking into their concerns, it’s important to me that I represent my communities accurately and efficiently. It’s a juggling act sometimes, but I love being a journalist, helping to bridge the gap between the media and the public.”
The Community News Project was launched in 2019 as a partnership between Facebook, the NCTJ and nine regional news publishers – in Rebecca’s case for the JPI Media-owned Gazette. All reporters hired under the scheme are studying towards the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism or National Qualification in Journalism.
The NCTJ’s head of partnerships and projects, Will Gore, said: “It is abundantly clear that the coronavirus pandemic has created considerable difficulties for parts of the news media industry in the UK.
“Yet as Becky’s diary demonstrates, journalists are working incredibly hard to stay connected with local communities, to be a trusted source of information and to give a voice to those who might otherwise not be heard – which is more vital now than ever.”
JPIMedia’s editor-in-chief, Jeremy Clifford, said: “The coronavirus crisis has brought out the best in journalists and a heightened recognition of the invaluable work we do in serving our communities and, at this time, particularly the isolated and vulnerable.
“The CNP has enabled us to employ journalists in communities that we wouldn’t otherwise be serving which has boosted our ability to connect readers.
“The work that Becky has documented also shows just how resilient and agile our new breed of journalists have become. But if I were to single out one benefit of her tremendous work, it is what she says here:
“‘One of the benefits I have found in setting up a specific Facebook page for my professional role is that it gives me the opportunity to build trust between my news outlet and the community. I receive messages to my page daily from local people asking me to write about their achievements, or letting me know about things they feel need to be addressed.’”
Gillian Parkinson, editor of the Blackpool Gazette and JPIMedia’s editorial director for the north west, added: “Becky is an absolute star. She’s a mother of three small children, came in with no journalism experience or qualifications and hit the ground running – she just got it straight away.”
Rebecca joined the project in July 2019 and is studying for her Diploma in Journalism at The Sheffield College. Her course leader, Sam Cooper, said: “Becky is just one example of the fantastic extra effort the CNP reporters – and the apprentices we are teaching – have put in since the college closure.
“Daily shorthand at 8am and 5pm as well as remote teaching sessions on Thursdays and countless mock exams would not be easy at the best of times, let alone when they are all in the middle of reporting on the biggest story to hit this country since World War II.
“Commitment is one thing you can’t teach but this group are going above and beyond, driven by determination to get their NCTJ diploma.”