Credit: Facebook

Following the launch of its Community News Project earlier this year, Facebook has trained the first cohort of freshly recruited local journalists to help spark innovation in regional newsrooms.

The two-year pilot project saw the social platform invest £4.5 million and train 82 regional journalists to strengthen local democracy and better inform underserved communities across the UK.

The candidates were selected from a pool of more than 4,000 applicants and they come from many diverse backgrounds to provide their readers with coverage of a broader range of issues.

The first group of 33 community reporters came to London to be trained in news-gathering, interviewing, storytelling, and the use of Facebook tools, such as CrowdTangle, Facebook Live, IGTV Stories or groups to report on community issues.

Credit: Facebook

"They were extraordinary," said Sarah Brown, training and news literacy manager at Facebook.

"It was probably the most diverse group of journalists I have ever trained."

Fellow trainer Will Gore, head of partnerships for the NCTJ, added that the boot camp proved "inspiring and practical" in equal measure.

"It was quickly clear to me that the publishers involved in the project have successfully recruited a remarkably talented and energised group, and have attracted a diverse intake. The reporters’ obvious desire to cover underserved communities was great to see."

The main purpose of the scheme is to empower reporters who are members of local communities. With the number of regional newsrooms dwindling in the UK, some areas had no access to local news for years.

Participating publishers include Archant, Barnsley Chronicle, Baylis Media, JPI, Iliffe Media (formerly KM Group), MNA (Midland News Associates), Newbury News, Newsquest and Reach.

"It was very rewarding," concluded Brown. "After one of the reporters returned to their newsroom at Newsquest, their colleague told me: ‘I don’t know what you’ve done to them, I’ve never seen anyone so fired up.’"

Facebook also offers online journalism courses, including a course on keeping information safe online.

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