Media Trust offers some answers on Newsnet

Earlier this week the Media Trust announced some new developments in its £1.89 million Newsnet programme, and Civil Society Governance reported:

The Media Trust describes newsnet as “the UK’s first online network of community reporters, citizen journalists and local storytellers”. The online portal aims to provide local people with a platform to connect and tell their local stories, as well as find resources and share ideas. The ultimate aim is to support community cohesion at a local, regional and national level.

This caused some upset with others in the community reporting field – as I reported here, with some of the backstory. The upset was partly about the claim to be first, and partly a feeling that the Media Trust should be doing more to collaborate with existing networks. Gavin Sheppard, Marketing Director at the Trust and Community, came back with a long comment, and the offer of an interview.

That was difficult to fit in before Christmas, and so I gathered a few questions, invited more, and suggested a bit of DIY to Gavin, and Adam Perry, who is working on Newsnet as development manager for Community Voices.

Adam taped an audio interview, which you can see above, and also provided some answers to the questions I had posed, drawn from conversations with a number of people. Here’s the q and a below.

I feel there’s still some outstanding issues – but the main point for me is that the Trust is prepared to join in a workshop to discuss further collaboration. I hope that Big Lottery Fund, who invested the £1.89 million as part of People Powered Change, might help convene. I’ve been working with BIG for the past few months, as you can see here. I think one of the roles of a social reporter is to try and do some constructive joining up … not just spotting the conflicts. I hope this may be a demonstration of what’s possible. I’ll update in the New Year.

Meanwhile, thanks to Gavin and Adam for responding so quickly with the interview.

The Trust is very good at partnering with major media interests and sponsors – could that now extend to other community reporter
organisations and networks?

Yes, absolutely. We’ve already identified a number of beacon projects that we want to hold up as inspirational examples of citizen journalism and the aim of this project is to work with as many as possible by collating and sharing learning, ideas, practical tools, experiences etc to inspire others and spread the best practice. We also want to build connections between difference citizen journalism projects and like minded individuals and provide access to professionals who want to mentor and support.

You are offering to partner with local reporting sites – but does that mainly mean promoting their content?
No, it means giving their people access to learning content, a space where best practice can be discussed and shared, a mechanism for connecting with other like minded individuals, access to volunteer mentors and pro bono support, distribution channels, showcasing their content nationally, accessing new audiences, signposting training and more. We want the project to develop to be led by citizen journalists themselves and be responsive to what they need.

Local sites are struggling to survive. Are there any deals you can broker that will help with sustainability?
We hope this will be an outcome, yes. If we can identify the best practice and make sure it’s shared we hope that’ll go some way to make sure everyone can tap into successful models. And absolutely we’ll be looking at ways in which we can broker larger deals to support local citizen journalism.

Would you join in a workshop to develop some joint approaches?
Yes, we’re happy to be involved as much as we can and we’ll be organising some workshops in the countries and regions ourselves too. We’re not aiming to prescribe any set approach, simply to be a catalyst, an inspirer, an connector and an amplifier of brilliant ideas and content and make sure they are shared as widely as possible.

Comments welcome, of course.

Update: Gavin has provided a strong and more detailed commitment to partnership working on the Nessnet blog


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