Facebook to fund 80 trainee local journalists in £4.5M scheme

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Facebook has announced a new £4.5 million training scheme to support local journalism in the UK, with the social network funding the recruitment and training of around 80 new journalists.

The Community News Project will be used to create "community journalists" in newsrooms around the country to offer local reporting in areas no longer covered, Facebook said.

Publishers Newsquest, JPIMedia, Reach, Archant and the Midland News Association are all taking part in the project - overseeing the hiring and training of staff - alongside the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

It will initially run as a two-year pilot scheme.

Facebook is being increasingly cited as a news source and the firm's UK head of news partnerships Nick Wrenn said the company recognises "the important role Facebook plays in how people get their news today, and we want to do more to support local publishers".

He added that the goal of the scheme was to "encourage more reporting from towns which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters".

The project will provide those recruited with access to key industry training programmes while they work, including working towards their NCTJ Diploma in Journalism.

Applications for the scheme will open in early 2019, with a focus on finding trainees from a range of backgrounds.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said: "The NCTJ cares deeply about the number, quality and diversity of journalists working in our local communities.

"We are very proud to support the sustainability of quality local journalism by overseeing the recruitment of additional local news journalists from diverse and inclusive backgrounds and by ensuring they are properly trained and qualified."

Facebook said it hoped the scheme would be used to help boost community engagement in regions across the country, as well as to open up opportunities for future journalistic talent.

Karyn Fleeting, head of audience at Reach PLC, said: "As publishers, we already work closely with Facebook, so this collaboration is a logical next step.

"Community news is shared widely on Facebook, on pages and in community groups, and this collaboration will help us reach communities which don't currently benefit from in-depth community news.

"We think it will be good for journalism, good for our newsrooms and good for the local communities we serve."