Centre for Community Journalism: engaging and innovating

One-to-one support, hyperlocal journalism hubs and massive open online courses with global reach and thousands of participants, Cardiff’s Centre For Community Journalism’s (C4CJ) mission is to strengthen journalism from the ground up. Through encouraging the public and supporting hyperlocal publishers, it offers training, resources and networking, and has received five-years of funding from Cardiff University to enable it to continue its work throughout Wales and beyond.  

Although not strictly a development lab, it offers a range of opportunities for industry collaboration and digital development, and has strong links with the BBC and hyperlocal networks.

 

Reach and connected communities

C4CJ has a small core staff of two people – but its reach and engagement with a range of communities, local and national media and citizen journalists across the globe is impressive.

With estimated engagement figures of over 32,000, the centre’s MOOC (massive open online course) on the futurelearn platform extends hyperlocal and citizen journalism support beyond the communities and ten hubs in Wales, and creates an opportunity for a global audience spanning 140 countries to connect with C4CJ’s support.

But the approach is an open one, and the centre is dedicated to responding to its users’ needs, rather than any pre-determined approach.

Emma Meese, the Centre’s manager, said: “We put the information out there and ask – what do you think? And we start the conversation. It’s about listening and engaging – everything we do is about engaging with communities, listening to them and assessing the community’s needs. We then offer help and advice.”

 

Methods and innovation

Meese highlights that the centre’s approach is flexible, and responds to the specific environments and challenges.

“We take innovative methods and approaches, and create new tools. If we find patterns of behaviour or activity that demonstrate a problem, we try to find a way of solving that problem for them.”

A response that has emerged from this approach include the Storini platform and Newstori app, which was co-designed with REACT at the Pervasive Media Studio and allows users to publish and share stories. The app also allows users to send content to a range of hyperlocal publishers based on the geolocation of the story the citizen journalist is cover.

A second project saw the centre receive funding from the Welsh government to create a dedicated citizen journalism WordPress theme to combat barriers to entry for start-up community journalism initiatives.

The centre is also involving in hacking hyperlocal activities – and plans to hold Hack-the-local event in the summer. Meese also highlighted that all of the work is based around real-world impact, and includes long-term engagement, start-up support

 

Industry collaborations

The centre has a track record of collaborating with a range of news media publishers around training and hyperlocal development. Meese sits on the BBC’s local journalism working group, which seeks to establish ways that the industry figures can support and work with hyperlocal content providers, and assists in identifying opportunities that larger publishers can amplify community news.


As part of this general approach, the centre works established media organisations such a the Press Association, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press.

It collaborates with non-media organisations that have a vested interest in supporting journalism. These include the UK’s National Endowment for Science and the Arts (Nesta) and the Welsh Assembly.

 

Future plans

The centre has a number of specific plans in the coming months and years. They will continue to support community and citizen journalists through training, support and innovative methods. Some of the plans include setting up a representative body for community news working with communities of interest as well as geographic communities , and exploring other hyperlocal news portals such as schools and from with government structures.

 

CONTACT POINT

Emma Meese, centre manager

Web: communityjournalism.co.uk/en/

Twitter: @EmmaMeese

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