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Highland News and Media celebrates successful application to £6m Meta scheme for new journalism role in north-west Highlands

By John Davidson

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Steve Barron welcomed the successful application to the Community News Partnership. Picture: James Mackenzie
Steve Barron welcomed the successful application to the Community News Partnership. Picture: James Mackenzie

A new community reporter role will be set up to cover the north-west Highlands as part of a local journalism scheme funded by the owners of Facebook.

Highland News and Media (HNM) made a successful application to the Community News Project (CNP) as part of a £6 million expansion of the project.

The project was launched in 2019 as a partnership between the NCTJ, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) and nine regional news publishers, and aims to support quality local journalism and improve the diversity of UK newsrooms.

The significant funding boost, which will create up to 100 new community reporter roles across the UK, enables 14 additional publishers including HNM to join the project and take on journalists to report on under-served communities.

HNM applied for funding to recruit a community reporter to cover the north-west Highlands, and publishing director Steve Barron is delighted that the area will be better served thanks to the CNP.

He said: "Local news matters and makes for a more engaged society – we're committed to covering all of the communities we serve in as much depth as possible.

"This funding will allow us to extend our coverage of the north-west Highlands and, crucially, cover it with a journalist living and working amongst its communities.

"The recruitment process will start almost immediately. If you're passionate about local issues and want to make the first step in a journalism career then get in touch."

The new publishers joined the project following a tender process in which applicants were asked to demonstrate clearly how a CNP reporter would engage a currently under-served community and/or location, as well as how they could offer a suitable level of support in the newsroom.

All recruits receive NCTJ training to achieve a professional qualification, either the Diploma in Journalism or the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) depending on experience.

Sarah Brown, head of local news partnerships, Northern Europe, at Meta, said: “At the heart of the CNP is a goal to surface real-life stories from under-represented groups – from our first ever Welsh language title in Aberystwyth to the African and South American communities in London.

“We look forward to working with the NCTJ and our publishing partners in onboarding a new cohort of trainees who will share stories and viewpoints that don’t often get told.”

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ, said: “This brilliant project continues to be a success story for the industry thanks to Meta’s on-going investment and the support of the publishers involved in the scheme.

“It already had diversity at its core with more than 60 per cent of the reporters coming from under-represented backgrounds to report on 80 previously under-served communities.

“With a welcome increase in funding and 23 wide-ranging news media partners now covering 100 communities, we have an even more diverse range of publishers involved in the scheme who are as committed as we are to the sustainability of quality, trusted local news journalism.

“We had the challenge of making sure the funding goes where it will be effective so it had to be a rigorous tender process, which involved some tough decisions. Those who were successful put forward the best proposals for recruiting, training and qualifying people who will benefit their communities.”

Joanne chaired an independent panel of judges which considered applications for 31 community reporter positions.

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