Trainee reporter Alex makes news during dramatic homes evacuation

A reporter who joined us as part of an innovative training partnership found himself making the headlines rather than just writing them, when he was caught up in a police evacuation.

Alex Bowen is working for the Cambrian News – based in Aberystwyth – 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.

When police ordered residents living in his neighbourhood in Aberystwyth to evacuate their homes due to a security risk, Alex was among those who had to collect belongings and move into a nearby leisure centre while the area was made safe.

Alex wrote an article on his experiences, which appeared in the Cambrian News. He says: “I was at home with my girlfriend when there was a knock on the door. The police told us to grab essentials and to go to the leisure centre because of reports of explosive substances at an address nearby.

“Although it was early in my career, I was able to draw upon my training to date to communicate with the office.

“I contributed to the ongoing news story on our website and then wrote a first person piece for the newspaper while the police action continued.”

Online success

A local man was arrested in connection with the incident with legal proceedings still active.

Mick O’Reilly, editor of Cambrian News, said: “How apt, a community news reporter right in the thick of things — a community evacuation. It was a big story, fast moving. And Alex was about a week into the job and one of those evacuated.

“He shot video and photos until his phone died. Then used his girlfriend’s and framed a piece from right inside the centre where those evacuated were taken too. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. He was. And came up swimming.

“We even had a first-person piece from him to add to our coverage in print. Online, the evacuation package got close to 30,000 hits – and that was the same day as the Queen died. Good work all round.”

Alex joined Tindle to pursue his ambition of working as a journalist by starting as a CNP reporter for the Aberystwyth region, reporting on local news.

The role had required a Welsh language speaker to focus on issues within the Welsh-speaking community, a requirement met by Alex , who is originally from Llanystumdwy in Gwynned.

Alex, who had graduated in his philosophy degree last summer, had been working as a cleaner while job hunting when he saw the opportunity with Tindle advertisers.

He said: “It seemed like a miracle that it came up in this region. I did not want to study again and run up further costs so it was fantastic to be able to learn on the job, giving me more valuable experience than doing another university degree.

“Without this I would probably still be working as a cleaner trying to find something else.”

Learning fast

Alex began his work-based journalism training with Tindle in August having applied to be part of the CNP programme and is pleased with his initial progress.

He explained: “I have been out to villages quite a way away, looking at local issues around water pollution and infrastructure. I have also had the chance to engage with people on social media, joining local interest groups to build contacts.

“I feel I am quickly learning new skills. A lot of new information has come to me but I have felt it was digestible. This is a whole different universe to being a cleaner and I am treated like a proper person.

“If you had told me two years ago I would have got to learn a role like this in a place like Aberystwyth I would not have pictured it, but working for Tindle as a CNP has allowed me to become a journalist.

“This role has allowed me to feel more connected with Welsh culture and identity. I can see the beauty of the unique culture here.”

Run in partnership with the National Council for the Training of Journalists, 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.

Alex said: “I have felt very welcomed by the local news team. Editor Mick O’Reilly and News Editor Dylan Davies have taken the time to introduce me to everyone, both at work and outside of the office.

“I am looking to get my qualifications and be a part of the company as I learn. I am getting everything I wanted from joining the company.”

Local connection

Alex will spend 24 months mixing studying for NCTJ qualifications in journalism with work-based experience. He is one of four CNP Tindle reporters who joined the company, with the others serving the Tamar Valley, the Wellington region of Somerset and the farming communities throughout Mid-Devon.

Managing Director Scott Wood said: “As a trusted publisher building on our strong heritage of delivering local news in the communities we serve, it is great to see the progress being made by Alex and the cohort of CNP journalists.

“Becoming part of the story when he was among a community evacuated by the police, Alex was able to draw upon the skills he is developing in his role to share a unique account of the experiences of those affected.

“We look forward to seeing all the CNP journalists develop to further strengthen our connection with local audiences through print and digital.”

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