By Dumbarton Democrat reporter
Liberal Democrat media spokesperson, Jamie Stone, has today written to the government asking for support for trainee journalists.
The call follows Meta’s (formerly Facebook) announcement that it intends to cease funding for the Community News Project, which supports 100 trainee journalists across the UK.
Over the past 5 years, Meta has contributed £13.5 million to ensuring the training of aspiring journalists with no previous experience in the sector and that recruitment enhances the diversity of local news teams.
This funding will be axed at the end of the year, meaning these trainees face their contracts being terminated unless newsrooms can create permanent roles for them at a time of unprecedented economic challenge in the local media landscape.
Mr Stone said: “The Community News Project has not only given many young people the opportunity to explore journalism as a career but has also improved local news through its focus on grassroots community issues.
“Without it, 17-year-old Iona MacDonald may not have been able to carry out the extraordinary work she has during her time as a trainee for Highland News and Media.
“Alongside her studies, Iona has worked on the SNP leadership contest and met with senior politicians, while also reporting on important issues that affect small communities in the Far North. Her work is a testament to the depth and breadth of the training she has received as a result of this funding.
“”I have written to the government today to implore that support is put in place to protect these traineeships if Meta does go ahead with its decision to cease funding.
“I have also highlighted the importance of levelling the playing field between platforms and publishers in the upcoming Digital Markets, Consumers and Competitions Bill.”
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Full letter from Jamie Stone is below:
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you following Meta’s (formerly Facebook) recent decision to axe funding for the Community News Project (CNP). Over the past five years, Meta has contributed £13.5 million to this scheme.
The CNP is a ground-breaking trainee journalism scheme, run in partnership with Meta’s Journalism Project, the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and publisher groups across the UK, including Highland News & Media in my constituency – publisher of local papers including the John O’Groat Journal, Northern Times, and Ross-Shire Journal. 17-year-old Iona MacDonald is a fantastic example of how important this scheme is to young people hoping to become journalists in the Far North.
The project has enabled communities to hire trainees with no previous experience in journalism, ensuring that recruitment enhances the diversity of local news teams and improves the ability to be truly representative of the communities they serve. More than 70% of reporters hired through the CNP met one or more of the diversity criteria set by the project.
The reporters under the CNP scheme cover grassroots community issues which have traditionally been under-served by mainstream media, all the while working towards an NCTJ qualification covering core professional journalism skills.
If Meta follows through with this decision at the end of 2023, 100 trainee community reporters will see their contracts come to an end, unless newsrooms can create permanent roles for them at a time of unprecedented economic challenge in the local media landscape. It means that many talented journalists may be forced to leave the industry.
I urge the Government to ensure that the upcoming Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill does enough to reset the balance of power in the online ecosystem and to create a level playing field between platforms and publishers.
In the meantime, I am writing to you to ask what the Government plans to do to support these promising journalists who are now facing a very uncertain future. Yours sincerely, Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport