When Reach began recruiting for 29 reporters as part of the Facebook-funded, NCTJ-managed community reporter project, editors were overwhelmed with the response. With almost 3, applications for the roles, which overtly asked for people who felt their communities were under-represented in local media to consider applying, Reach editors across the country found themselves meeting many different people with very differing views on how local media could be more representative.
I am incredibly excited to dive straight into my role as Community Reporter for Birmingham Live. I believe this role has the potential to not only help me grow as a journalist and set me up with the basics I need to climb in this industry but to show the public that journalists still care about keeping local news alive. Setting up these roles and having reporters dedicated to bridging the gaps between newsrooms and under-served communities will help make for more inclusive stories that will inspire and inform people from all walks of life. I live in Middlesbrough with my husband and two children.
I previously worked to establish two thriving community groups, which focused on Middlesbrough heritage and protection of the environment. I am particularly interested in local environmental and community issues. As a community reporter, I would like to showcase the wonderful work going on across Teesside at a grassroots level. As one of the first Facebook-funded reporters in the UK, I am looking forward to creating content and reporting about local issues in Hull, as well as positive news stories, with the aim to bring more representation to the people of east Hull and to bring current ongoing issues to the forefront.
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I am really excited to be part of this unique scheme, and what it means for local news in Coventry and Warwickshire. I was born and raised in Cov and returned two years ago to work in the city that I love. The anticipation in the city is palpable, we are a city and a region on the up, and to be able to contribute to that is a brilliant opportunity.
There are some amazing characters and unsung heroes in Coventry and Warwickshire with great stories to tell that may have slipped under the radar.
I am pleased that my role will enable me to represent them as well as hold local authorities and organisations to account. Being part of the Community Journalism Project has been a great experience. I have really settled into the job at Leicestershire Live and have already learnt so much from my colleagues. My work so far has involved meeting some fascinating people and gaining valuable contacts.
My aim is to reach out to the South Asian community and other ethnic minorities which has been a great success so far. What I especially like about the project is how diverse the group of community journalists are. As someone with no journalistic training or background I surprised, but very pleased, to be offered the chance to be the community reporter for mid Somerset. I have been getting out and about making contacts across my area and picking up some amazing and surprising stories in this lovely part of the country.
My background is in community engagement and networking so building communities and groups is something I am passionate about. The individual human interest stories keep me constantly in awe of how people react to adversity. As a person of more senior years than many community reporters I am enjoying talking to the younger journalists and learning from them, especially the technology side of things. As I become more involved with towns, villages and the City of Wells the more excited I become about the role.
It is nice to be welcomed as previous under-reported communities are keen to tell you everything and promote the numerous community projects and groups. The Mendip hills and Cheddar Gorge make driving to and from interviews is a joy not a chore and I get to talk to lots of interesting people as a bonus. My name is Lisa Rand and I am the new community reporter for L8, a part of the city that is close to my heart and an area that has been traditionally underrepresented in the media.
This purpose is explored in the following two research questions:. The first issue pertains to the extent of news coverage. Following a similar approach to that of Napoli and colleagues , we opted to use municipalities as a starting point. Municipalities are the smallest political unit in Sweden, providing a large proportion of public services and with a high level of autonomy. In order to investigate what the absence of an editorial office means for the coverage of a municipality, we took a number of steps. The first step was to review a study carried out by Tenor that mapped the presence of at least one editorial office from legacy media organisations in all Swedish municipalities.
From this study, we created a list of municipalities that did not, at the time, have any editorial office. The second step was to use data from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions in order to acquire the number of inhabitants and what types of municipalities these were e. The third step was to find municipalities of a similar size and character in order to have functionally equivalent points of comparison. These are in different parts of Sweden and are covered by various media outlets, but belong to the same type of municipality manufacturing and rural.
The fourth step was to collect relevant news content. For that purpose, the Retriever database — the largest archive of news articles in the Nordic countries — was utilised. A sample from seven randomised days from the period — was created and the Retriever database was then searched for each of these days using the name of the municipality. This procedure created a sample of news items, published in various outlets.
It should be noted that this sample only contained legacy media news items. In total, there were different outlets of which the majority were local newspapers. Regional newspapers, regional public service radio and regional public service television also appeared. In a few cases the municipalities were mentioned in national newspapers and magazines. The analysis did not separate printed from online publications and the same content that showed up as both printed and digital editions were counted as one item.
The fifth and final step was to determine content variables that are suitable for the evaluation of news performance and, ultimately, detail the possible news gap that a lack of an editorial office might create. Since much of the debate about hyperlocal media gravitates around the issue of whether they can fill the gap left by legacy media, a suitable starting point is to utilise measures frequently used in research taking stock of legacy media. We followed Reinemann and colleagues recommendation to study thematic, focus and style dimensions in assessing news performance.
This enables us first to establish the character of the potential gap and second to analyse how well suited hyperlocal media are to filling different facets of the potential gap. The full list of variables is shown in Tables 1 and 2. At first glance, the results show that there is very little difference: the coverage of municipalities without editorial offices is 94 per cent of the other municipalities Table 1.
While collecting the data for RQ1 and comparing the amount of coverage between municipalities with and without editorial offices, we discovered that some of the news items were syndicated e. If syndication is taken into consideration, then the impression is rather different. As Table 1 shows, non-syndicated news items i. Hence, the absence of an editorial office seems to result in a dilution effect, producing news stories that are feasible in several news outlets and possibly municipalities.
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Or, put differently, the absence of an editorial office in a municipality seems to result in less news aimed specifically at that municipality. Thus, the answer to RQ1, taking syndication into consideration, is that the absence of an editorial office in a municipality implies less coverage than in similar municipalities with an editorial office. There is indeed a news gap when journalists leave town. The next step is to characterise the shape of that gap. With regard to RQ2, which concerns investigating news performance, we can see that the observation made in relation to RQ1 is confirmed by the share of original news items e.
As regards what news topics are covered, there are only significant differences in two areas: crime and community news. Municipalities without an editorial office are more likely almost twice as likely compared with other municipalities to be covered in crime news. Conversely, they are less likely to be covered in community news.
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Looking further into these differences, Table 1 shows that municipalities without an editorial office are more likely to feature decision-making authorities, have episodic coverage and have less expressive news than that in other municipalities. These three observations, together with the higher share of crime news, point to a possibility that news about municipalities without an editorial office emanates, to a greater extent, from institutional sources.
We base this on the rationale that crime news is unlikely to come from anywhere other than the police especially when there are no journalists present. Organisations issuing press releases or pursuing similar activities are likely to focus on themselves e. In terms of the issue of sources mentioned in news items, Table 2 gives an overview.
The results in Table 2 illustrate that there are significant differences in four kinds of sources. National government elected officials, non-affiliated associations and organisations for instance Statistics Sweden, a state agency but run by a director general rather than directly run by a political body , and media analysts are the three most common in municipalities without editorial offices. Local government official employees i. It should also be noted that the difference in using ordinary citizens as a source was close to significant.
Interpreting the results in Table 2 , it seems that sources that are not locally anchored are more common in news stories in municipalities without an editorial office. This too is, in our view, an indication of an increased role of various institutional actors in the sense that the news item might originate from press releases and not from actual interviews.
To explicitly answer RQ2, the results suggest that there are some differences between how news organisations perform, depending on whether there is an editorial office present in the municipality or not. Moreover, this difference points to a weaker news performance e. Before moving on to the discussion, it should be noted that this study has some limitations. While the method used is sufficient to give an initial sense of the issues discussed, caution must be advised. Distance decay is treated as a binary — there either is an editorial office or not; a more fine-grained measurement of distance was not applied.
Other dimensions can affect the coverage of a municipality; these have not been accounted for in this study. The results indicate that there is a distance decay effect, that is, geographical distance matters in how municipalities are covered. Moreover, distance decay does not affect local news coverage uniformly because stories containing news properties associated with resourceful actors counter distance decay better than those news properties without.
The lack of an editorial office creates a gap that affects the amount of original coverage, what areas are covered and how. Thus, the findings from this study support the suggestions of previous research on hyperlocal media e. Kurpius et al. Phrased as a theoretical proposition, the study suggests that: the absence of regularly physically present journalists in a community leads to less original news and institutional actors exercising more influence on the coverage at the expense of community news.
There are at least three inferences that can be made from this. The first is theoretical, the second concerns the role of journalism when the ties to the communities it allegedly covers are weakened and the third relates to the role that hyperlocal media can reasonably play as the gap takes shape. First, while most research dwelling on the role of proximity of news coverage considers foreign news, which by definition takes place in distant places, one could instead ask: how far is too far before news coverage is affected?
Not so far, it seems, according to the results from this study, because physical distance between journalists and the municipality seems to impact on reporting already at the local level the distance to the nearest editorial office in the municipalities without one varies roughly between 30 km and km. The findings from the present study point towards a need for geographical distance e. Shoemaker and Vos posit that gatekeeping starts with the event. Yet, as evidenced by the differences in covering community events Table 1 , when the first gate in the form of journalistic presence is absent, it has ramifications for which events are recognised and how stories are told.
This leads to the second inference about the consequences of editorial absence for media organisations and citizens alike. An absence of a steady presence of local journalists seems to lead to fewer community news stories and more crime stories. From the perspective of helping local news survive in the future, it could be asked whether legacy news media organisations are digging their own graves.
Cutting back on news content that is expensive to produce, yet most appreciated by the public, might save money in the short term, but might be a strategic mistake in the long term.