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100 UK journalist jobs at risk as Facebook pulls Community News Project and News Tab

Around 100 regional journalism jobs could be lost by the end of 2024 after Facebook owner Meta pulled its funding for UK local newsrooms.

Meta has confirmed it will not renew funding for its Community News Project, which has paid for the training and employment of more than 260 regional journalists through a total $17m of funding since its launch five years ago.

A spokesman for Reach, publisher of some of the UK’s biggest regional titles including the Manchester Evening News and the Liverpool Echo, and employer of 28 journalists under Meta’s scheme, told Prolific North: “The CNP has cultivated terrific journalistic talent in our newsrooms and we’ve been proud to be able to keep so many of the CNP journalists at Reach through permanent positions after their training has finished.

“Our focus today is on supporting the brilliant journalists we currently have working with us in the scheme and in continuing to support them over the coming months through their remaining training and contract.”

Meta also plans to pull its Facebook News Tab. The News Tab had led to the social media giant paying participating publishers for curated, and theoretically objective content following a protracted battle with publishers and media organisations.

Since the start of 2021, most major UK publishers have received payments from Facebook to use their content in its News tab. The tab was previously curated by a team of around 15 journalists at Upday, but this contract ended last year as Meta turned it into a fully automated product. It will now be a former tab in the UK, France and Germany from December.

Reach’s spokesperson said: “While unsurprising, today’s news clearly has broader implications about Meta’s commitment to providing a safe space for reliable and trusted information, which should be a serious concern for the industry and society at large.”

The latest move from the online giant follows changes to the Facebook news algorithm which have already been blamed for loss of earnings by news publishers, particularly those focusing on local and regional news over Facebook’s algorithm-friendly daily Taylor Swift stories.

Newsquest, publisher of the Northern Echo and Bury Times among others, chief executive Henry Faure Walker told Hold the Front Page: “This is a cynical move from a company that takes billions of pounds from the UK advertising market and built their Facebook platform in part by free riding the quality content that news publishers provide.

“I’m not surprised by their behaviour but it’s disappointing that Meta is retreating back to their ivory tower leaving brilliant community journalists out in the cold.”

Of around 100 reporters currently employed under the scheme, approximately 22 work for Newsquest, 28 for Reach plc, 32 for National World, five for Iliffe News and Media and the remainder for other smaller publishers.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists, which has administered the Community News Project, has said it is “currently exploring ways to secure the project’s legacy and take it forward into the future, in partnership with regional news publishers.”

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