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The Online News Association (ONA) announced today that it will receive funding from the Knight Foundation to expand ONA Local to more communities around the United States.

The $800,000 (£524,700) will be used to add more local groups to the current 50, which bring together journalists, technologists, bloggers and entrepreneurs interested in learning about new tools and techniques in digital journalism.

Since the programme launched in 2008, between 100 and 150 attendees have been meeting once a month at ONA Local chapters around the world, whether that's in the US, Europe or Africa.

Jane McDonnell, executive director for ONA, told that each local group has "its own culture".

The meetings range from "small gatherings in bars, where people discuss overlapping issues they have and how they can help each other", to bigger meetings with guest speakers, training sessions on tools and discussions around job openings.

"We're hoping to see issues in the community covered that we're losing coverage on –  in the US especially, there's considerable loss in government and state policy coverage," said McDonnell.

"We want journalists to broaden their horizons in terms of what constitutes coverage and to think more strategically about the stories they do, because you can really make an impact in your community with your work."

Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism, said the grant will enable ONA to hire a community manager and support its network of members "to help produce terrific journalism and build and find new audiences".

She hopes the funding will enable ONA to expand to at least 20 new communities over the next two years, as well as hiring ONA Local Leaders and developing stronger partnerships with leading journalism and technology organisations.

"Most small and regional news organisations have not provided digital training for their journalists," Preston pointed out.

Although digital resources and university journalism programmes are available, she said that "while online training is useful, it is limited" and ONA Local hopes to fill that gap by helping people learn from each other.

The Knight Foundation has recently provided $4 million to the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism, supporting the development of a new research centre for community news and digital media tools for local news sites.

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