Community reporting grows up with its own Institute

Good to see another burst of energy from the Manchester-based People’s Voice Media, with the launch of their Institute of Community Reporters, and also a European Network for community reporters.

In a news release Gary Copitch, PVM’s Chief Executive says: “We now have over 1000 reporters on the database from across the UK and a further 600 across Europe so it seems to make sense to develop the network and recognise the achievement of the reporters.”

Gary emphasises what he sees as the difference between citizen journalism and community reporting:

Community Reporting is a community development tool with individuals producing the content/stories they want to in order to encourage dialogue and discussion and establish online and offline networks. We feel this is different to citizen journalism where the emphasis is more often on individuals reporting on other people’s news.

This chimes in with some discussion sparked by Richard Millington, who blogged that hyperlocal sites were struggling, because of too much focus on technology and on news-style content, adding:

What we need is a genuine community building approach. You identify your first members, initiate discussions, invite members to participate in those discussions, write content about what’s happening in the community, and repeat as you grow.

More here on the PVC institute:

The Institute of Community Reporters (ICR) will be the accrediting body for the Community Reporter programme. It will accredit courses, issues certificates and manage the Community Reporter badge scheme. The ICR will also:

  • Provide access to online training resources and support for running local meet ups
  • Host Community Reporter content on the web site
  • Curate content at a European, national, local and organisational level to feed into policy and consultation

There will be three types of membership, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Platinum members will be for authorised trainers who have completed the ICR training programme.

I’ve raised the issue of the value of citizen journalism in community building before here, and on the Media Trust Newsnet site, which started with a commitment to a journalistic approach, while offering support to a wider range of projects including a competition.

There should be a chance to discuss this issue, among many others, next Saturday at the Talk About Local unconference – updates here – which will be a gathering of the liveliest of the country’s hyperlocal bloggers, and managers of community sites.

These various approaches to citizen-generated content, and other aspects of local media, are being studied by the innovation agency NESTA as part of its programme to support the hyperlocal sector, as I reported here. Talk About Local are one of the partners. There’s a detailed report on the hyperlocal scene, commission by NESTA, available here, written by Damian Radcliffe.

I think there’s value in a diversity of approaches. Which route to go depends, as usual, on what you want to achieve. Holding local councils and agencies to account may best be done through a lively mix of news and discussion like that at Pits n Pots in Stoke on Trent.

Sites like Harringay Online and W14 provide all members with an opportunity to contribute in ways that reflect their many and varied interests.  People’s Voice Media is focussing on training for citizens to develop their own reporting skills using a range of media, rather than necessarily developing and maintaining sites.

I’m currently particularly interested in how community and social reporting approaches can be adopted by community builders and organisers, who don’t see reporting as their main activity but can benefit from the use of new technologies.

The challenge for those promoting these approaches is how, on the one hand, to acknowledge the need for a variety of styles and methods, while on the other hand providing a sufficiently distinctive offering to appeal to funders and other customers. I think the People’s Voice Media Institute, and associated training, shows how the sector is maturing in its search for different business models.

I’ve no doubt there will be plenty more innovation surfacing at the Talk About Local unconference, where NESTA and Guardian Media Group are sponsors.


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