The Society of Editors has welcomed news that Facebook is to invest £4.5m in supporting local journalism under a Community News Project and has urged other organisations to follow suit.
But the Society, which campaigns for freedom of expression and high standards of training in the media, says it hopes future investment will extend to smaller, independent news organisations as well as the major publishers.
“The announcement by Facebook that it is to support the recruitment and training of some 80 journalists to cover truly local news through a partnership with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), often where such services have been lost, is very welcome indeed,” commented the Society’s executive director Ian Murray.
“It shows a commitment by the digital giant to grassroots journalism, and also just as importantly to supporting high standards of editorial training.
“When seen alongside the BBC-funded Local Democracy Partnership where some 150 journalists are being supported in the regional press to cover local councils and authorities, there is now a pattern set of how grassroots journalism can be supported where traditional revenue models are struggling.
“If similar funding could be sourced for other important areas of local reporting which have fallen by the wayside, such as attending magistrates and crown courts, then we could truly have a roadmap for underpinning the vital role that grassroots journalism plays in communities.”
The Facebook campaign involves the NCTJ as well as major regional publishers Newsquest, JPI Media (formerly Johnston Press), Reach Plc and Archant and also the Midland News Association. Recruitment will start in 2019.
“I would hope that if the two-year pilot proves a success and continues that the initiative can expand to include small independent publishers or even start-ups in areas where there is no longer any local paper,” added Murray.
Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Nick Wren, said the initiative recognised the important role Facebook plays in how people get their news today.
“We want to do more to support local publishers,” he added. “The goal of the scheme is to encourage more reporting from towns which have lost their reporters.”