Community journalism: launch your own local news service

Professor Richard Sambrook is lead educator on Cardiff University’s free online course, “Community Journalism: Digital and Social Media.” Here, he looks at some of the trends and ideas behind the course.

A community journalist interviews a local carpet shop owner


What’s your local newspaper like and how often do you read it? The “local rag,” as many of them are affectionately known, has a special place in the hearts of many communities – but there are fewer and fewer of them. Budget cuts, the economic downturn and the impact of the internet mean that local papers have been hollowed out with less news, fewer reporters and, in many cases, closure.

It’s a real problem, which is leaving many communities isolated and unconnected. It means that many local decisions and issues are undiscussed or under-reported.

The rise of community journalism

However, the internet, which has undermined many local news services, is also providing alternatives. Community news sites – or hyperlocal sites as they are sometimes called – are springing up across the UK and around the world.

The simple, and often free, technology now available means that anyone can launch and run their own community news service – and more and more people are choosing to do so. It often means that members of the community (rather than media organisations) choose how a place is reported and what is discussed, bringing it closer to home.

These new local services are a dynamic new sector in the media – democratic, open and responsive to the communities they serve.

Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism helps nurture and support these site, and study this new media phenomenon. We have helped to launch numerous sites, have supported others and have undertaken studies of what works, where the problems lie and what success looks like.

Launch your own local news service

In our course on FutureLearn, “Community Journalism: Digital and Social Media,” we will be sharing some of those conclusions – and offering guidance on how to set up your own hyperlocal news service at almost no cost.

The course will look at what’s happening in local media, what best practice is, and how to succeed in launching your own local news service (however you choose to define it).  We will be hearing from a number of hyperlocal sites and the people who run them, sometimes from their living rooms!

We will also be hearing from media professionals about the changes that are happening in the sector, and we will have some very practical and simple guidance on how to get started with the best chance of success.

Topics covered on the course include basic journalism skills, digital publishing, verification, media law and using social media for news gathering and promotion. We also examine sustainability and business models, including the rise of crowdfunding.

Get ready for the course

To start you thinking, here are a few of the questions we’ll consider on the course:

  • What kind of people live in your community and what are they interested in? We’ll show you how to use online research to find out.
  • How do you set up a website, and what are the legal and other issues you have to know about if you publish one? We’ll give you simple steps to find out.
  • What is success for a hyperlocal site? Revenue? Number of visitors? Impact in the community? We’ll give you some ways of thinking about it.

Above all, the course will connect you with a network of people all interested in helping communities to communicate.

Want to know more? Join “Community Journalism: Digital and Social Media” or follow the discussion using #FLcj.

Category Learning

Comments (33)


  • nathan

    We are interested in launching our own local newspaper.

  • bright

    when is this course starting ???? some of the comments down here are two years ago and stuff

  • bright

    waiting !!

  • Poonam

    This course looks inspiring. Hoping to enrol on the next one.

  • Donna Fuerst

    Really inspiring, thanks FL Programme for such a valuable course. Wish all the Courage to put this into practice.

  • Dave Bunker

    Hi, really looking forwards to this course. Can you tell me the start date for the next course presentation please? Thanks.

  • Patrick .U. Onokpise

    This is very interesting. I think the course will give me the opportunity to develop the kind of journalism and information dissemination that my community will need. I can not wait to start the course.

  • James Tolu Solomon

    Hi everyone am looking forward towards the course: community journalism: digital and social media starting on the 16th of March 2015. I will also like to confirm if a Certificate will be issues at the end of the programme as it indicated on the programme?

  • Samson Younan Fajali

    This course is good but problem is that when you are you doing it no give or to the citefiget here in affrica

  • Gabi

    Hi there!
    I am enrolled with the course community journalism starting on March 16th 2015. Are we meeting in a virtual class room or is this simply the date of start and we can log in and off as we wish in the following 5 weeks…?
    Hope to hear from you! Gabi

    • FutureLearn Team

      Hi Gabi,
      Yes, the start date is when you can log in and access the course. There is not a virtual classroom – you do not have to be online at a certain time, but can go through the course at your own speed.

      • Gabi

        Thanks, Luke!

  • Mariama H. Gandi

    I’m very happy to know about this course, your program is making my long time dream be of a past. Isn’t possible to study two programs the same time?

  • Leslie

    As the term community is as global or local or sector or interest as there are people, I am interested in learning to better use new communication tools in differing ways.

  • Arun Sapkota

    I am so excited for this course community journalism: digital and social media

  • Valerie Eccleston

    Is there any way of accessing courses after they have been aired? I missed this course because I was doing another!

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Valierie, thank you for getting in touch.

      If you were registered on the course you will be able to access all the course materials even after the course has finished. If you did not register in advance don’t worry, keep an eye on the FutureLearn website where we announce all repeat runs of courses.

      You might also be interested in ‘Introduction to Journalism’, by the University of Strathclyde, starting at the end of September. Find out more here:

      Happy learning,
      The FutureLearn team

  • akmal wajih

    It seems that I have missed the 14/04 start date. Would it still be possible to join the course?

    • The FutureLearn Team

      Hi Akmal, I’m afraid it is now too late to enrol for the course as the current run has finished. I recommend registering for a FutureLearn account (if you don’t already have one), so that you will get our announcement emails which will help ensure you don’t miss any future runs.

  • Jane

    This looks interesting. Will it be run again in the near future?

    • The FutureLearn team

      Hi Jane, thank you for getting in touch. We announce new courses and repeat runs of courses every month so keep an eye on our website. Happy learning!

  • Graeme Stuart

    This looks great. I hope it is run again as I have to much on too do at the moment. Hope it goes well!

  • Steve Morley

    I would be really interested in taking this course but echo some of the questions mentioned below.

    • Lily at FutureLearn

      Hi Steve,
      Thank you for getting in touch. I hope that our responses to people’s questions below are helpful. Please also see the ‘How it works’ video to find out more:
      I hope you enjoy the course.

  • Farid Ahmed

    My question is regarding time. It says 4 hours per week. Is it in my time or the time will be allocated by the course tutor?

    • Lily at FutureLearn

      Hi Farid, thank you for getting in touch. The courses on FutureLearn are totally flexible, you can log in and learn whenever you like and come and go as you please.
      If you are unable to complete one week you can always catch up the next.
      Happy learning.

  • Laura Morris

    Can you give me more details about how the course will be run – will you send material/modules by email, will we have to return some examples etc? Also, is it delivered on set times, or is this flexible? Thanks

  • Adam Essack

    I am interested in this course. But is still OK for me to sign up for it even though I am currently not living in the UK ?

  • Engr. Sufi

    Will be certificate given by you?