There’s now no doubt that Guardian News & Media is planning a local online news project. Despite parent company Guardian Media Group laying off almost 250 staff in its regional division this year, GNM is hiring for metropolitan “beatbloggers” in Cardiff, Leeds and Edinburgh for local news services set for launch early next year.
A job ad is seeking “bloggers interested in creating and curating local multimedia content (text, photographs, audio and video) for their city”.
In a line that will doubtless anger old-fashioned newspaper reporters and the National Union of Journalists, it says a traditional journalism qualification is “desirable but not essential”.
The full ad says: “This is a completely new role for the Guardian, which we believe reflects the shifting nature of journalism.” The successful candidates, who will work from home or “anywhere with wifi”, will know their “tweets from their yelps”. The posts will be “properly paid positions” and not quasi-voluntary blogging positions, I’m told by someone with knowledge of the project.
The Guardian Local project, as it is now called, is edited by former Manchester Evening News head of online editorial Sarah Hartley, who joined GNM in May to run then-unspecified web projects.
Journalist Dave Hill already writes an award-winning London blog for Guardian.co.uk that mixes original reporting with links to London blogs and newspaper coverage, a template that could now be repeated across the country. The job ad says candidates must be “willing to collaborate with others to create a vital resource for the city”.
The company was rumoured to be launching a network of local blogs under the “Guardian Cities” banner earlier this year, though both officially and in private GNM execs have studiously neither confirmed or denied those reports. Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger told us in May that there was an “interesting opportunity” in city-based local reporting but stressed the importance of GNM’s global mission to win over readers in the US, Europe and Asia.
Guardian.co.uk has close to 30 million unique users a month, two thirds of whom come from outside the UK. But, while its international coverage and staff has increased in recent years, particularly through the launch of Guardian America, its staff in the UK regions has dropped steadily since the 1990s leaving only a handful of reporters to cover the north of England, Scotland and Wales.
The project also comes against the backdrop of recent job cuts at the Manchester Evening News and Channel M by GNM parent Guardian Media Group in its original home town of Manchester. And it happens as a smorgasbord of publishers and broadcasters vie for public funds to replace ITV’s regional news output after 2012. GMG has signaled its intention to run a pilot in the north of England.
Disclosure: paidContent:UK’s parent company ContentNext Media is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.