Yesterday was graduation day for our first cohort of community journalists. Following a month of working with us, their first report will air on tonight’s “Up Your Street” programme at 7pm on Preston FM. Since they started with us, we’ve learned the truth behind a deserted house in a local park; met Brian Blessed; debated cycling safety; and discovered how difficult it is for people with disabilities to find the information they need.
We’ve been working with them to trial some of the activities we hope to use out in our three Neighbourhood Challenge areas over the coming year. They’ve had a great teacher in Che Seymour – one of our existing community radio volunteers who’s stepped in to design and pilot a new community journalism course in just two short months.
The six new recruits have been excellent apprentices – really engaged with the course, but also tolerant of our need to try out new ideas and get feedback from them about what works well and what’s rubbish. Their input will make sure that the training we deliver in the Neighbourhood Challenge areas will be engaging and accessible for everyone.
The finishing touches are now being added to that training plan, alongside our project partners, ready for us to start delivering in St Matthew’s in the middle of May. Before then, there’s the task of recruiting people from that neighbourhood to join the community journalism revolution – we have a bus, a mocked-up news room, a huge map of the area and a “story treasure hunt” ready to go for our taster sessions, which start next week. Our recent graduates are also helping us out – with the taster sessions, with recruiting participants and, we hope, with mentoring some of the people we expect to enroll on the new courses. Leaflets are on the streets (only just – the multiple bank holidays have hit hard in terms of time to publicise what’s happening) and we’re enlisting the help of agencies working in the area to help spread the word.
Those agencies will all be with us – along with a couple of local councillors, some headteachers and a few other interested folk – for our “launch lunch” on May 12th. It’s important that we get buy-in from those organisations that are already working in our Neighbourhood Challenge areas – to make sure we’re not duplicating existing provision or stepping on any toes; so that groups that could benefit from being part of the project know how to engage; and so that decision makers understand what we’re doing and what we’re expecting of them in response to the issues the community uncovers during the next year. There’s already a fair bit of interest – ranging from a special school to a local small business support agency – and we hope that getting everyone together face-to-face will spark more ideas and excitement.
Behind the scenes, the techies are working away on the on-line platform that will host all the reports, audio, video and photos that community journalists will produce; and we’re working on formalising arrangements with partners to make sure expectations are clear across the board. There’s lots more to do – and time is flying by – but we’re learning all the time and, before this is all over, we’ll be ready for our own graduation ceremony.