Facebook to fund local journalism with £4.5m Community News Project

A woman using her phone under a Facebook sign. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A woman using her phone under a Facebook sign. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
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Social network giant Facebook is funding a new project which is looking to support local journalism in the UK.

Facebook is to provide £4.5m of funding to local journalism through the Community News Project, which will see around 80 trainee community journalists being recruited and placed in newsrooms across the country.

Nick Wrenn, head of news partnerships at Facebook, said: “This is a project we hope will give people across the country more relevant, quality information and journalism from their favourite publishers.”

The social media company is partnering publishers Newsquest, JPIMedia, Reach and Archant, as well as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to launch the initiative.

The NCTJ will oversee the recruitment the trainee community journalists and place them in local newsrooms on a two-year scheme.

The Community News Project comes against a backdrop of growing pressure for social media companies to do more to support journalism.

Dame Frances Cairncross has launched a review into the sustainability of the UK news media market.

Facebook said the project has been in planning for the best part of a year and that it is unlikely to have any bearing on the Cairncross review.

“The conversations and this project has been in the planning stage for some time,” Mr Wrenn said. “I’m not sure that Baroness Cairncross would be swayed particularly by what we’re doing.”

Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partnerships manager at Facebook, said: “Local news is vitally important to communities. It holds local institutions to account. It’s also the best way of finding out what’s going on in your community.

“At Facebook we know that it’s what people want to read on our platform, it’s very popular with people who use Facebook.”

The NCTJ will be administering, auditing and evaluating the scheme and Facebook will play no role in the recruitment of the trainee journalists.

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “It’s a pilot so evaluation is really important.”

It will recruit trainee reporters who have yet to do the entry level diploma as well as those working towards the National Qualification in Journalism.

Facebook said there is scope for a larger scheme to be run in the future if the pilot is successful.

Ms Cox-Brooker said: “It’s a pilot scheme so it depends whether or not it’s successful. If it is successful and if the news publishers think it’s successful then we would hope to but it’s too early to say at the moment.”

The official application process is to open next year.