One of the first reporters to join Tindle Newspapers under an innovative partnership with the owners of Facebook has benefitted from the access given to journalists by going behind the scenes at a nuclear power station.
Former mechanic George Harman, aged 26, joined Somerset title the Wellington Weekly News as part of the Community News Project (CNP), the journalism recruitment scheme funded by tech giant Meta in conjunction with the National Council for the Training of Journalists to create new community reporter roles.
George has changed careers to pursue his long held ambition of writing for a living, by starting work as a CNP reporter for the Wellington region, reporting on local news in the rural communities – and the issues that affect them.
In his first month he was given a tour of the Hinkley Point B power station near Bridgwater, Somerset, as it began the three-and-a-half year de-fuelling process to make way for the new Hinkley Point C site. The station has been in service since 1976 and was the first advanced gas cooled reactor to generate electricity to the UK grid.
As George wrote in his article: “We were invited on a tour of the plant before the work to de-fuel the nuclear reactor begins. The news of the wind-down of Hinkley Point B has been seen by many as an end of an era in nuclear-driven power generating. This has caused some sadness amongst current staff.”
George said he had appreciated the chance to see sides of the power station operation which are restricted for the public.
He said: “It was amazing to get to see behind the scenes of Hinkley Point B. It was like a maze so it was great to be shown around.
“The visit was the first time I have done in-person interviews of this kind and been out on my own.
“I have not always had a great deal of confidence in myself so it was a fantastic opportunity to get the story.”
George began his work-based journalism training with Tindle in June having applied to be part of the CNP programme. He had previously worked as a mechanic for eight years.
He explained: “After leaving school I did not know what I wanted to do, even though I had been good at writing. I got into cars and worked as a mechanic, which – even though I was in a great place with lovely people – was not for me.
“I have lived in Wellington for many years so when I saw the chance to become a CNP reporter come up, I made sure to apply.”
Run in partnership with the NCTJ, the CNP was launched in 2019 for Meta (formerly Facebook) to work with regional news publishers to support quality local journalism and improve the diversity of UK newsrooms. Tindle joined the scheme earlier this year.
George said: “Although I had got no experience in journalism I had always been interested in current affairs locally.
“I was interested in community-based social media which was important given the strong link with Meta. I also strongly believe in the importance of a local news source in the community like the Wellington Weekly News. Trusted local news is more important than ever.
“I bring my real world experience from my previous role and feel that having been a mechanic I can interact with a mix of people.
“Becoming a CNP reporter with Tindle has made me realise I should have done this years ago. If anyone is considering going for one of these roles they should go for it.”
George will spend 24 months mixing studying for NCTJ qualifications in journalism with work-based experience.
He is one of three CNP Tindle reporters who joined in June and July, with the other two serving the Tamar Valley; and the farming communities throughout Mid-Devon. A fourth CNP reporter started this week to focus on the more traditional, remote – and often Welsh language – communities around Aberystwyth.
Managing Director Scott Wood said: “As a publisher committed to delivering trusted news in the communities we serve, we have been pleased to bring in new talent like George and the cohort of CNP journalists to build on our heritage of reporting on the stories which matter most to local people.
“We look forward to seeing them progress to bring the stories like the Hinkley Point B closure which resonate with local audiences.”