Calling news journalists! Can you help us tell SE London’s coronavirus stories?

We’re delighted and thrilled to announce that Flyover Media, the publisher of 853 and The Charlton Champion, has been awarded a grant to help us report on the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic in SE London.

The €5,000 grant comes from the European Journalism Covid-19 Support Fund, which has been set up to support independent reporting across the continent.

While the existing regional media outlets covering SE London let reporters go during the pandemic, Flyover – which is funded by over 110 readers of 853 and The Charlton Champion – invested in bringing freelance reporters on board to talk to people making a difference during the crisis.

This work has now been recognised with the award. We join organisations in Manchester, Leeds and Portsmouth, among others, as British recipients of this money.

We’ve been given the money to cover stories in the boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley – boroughs that effectively have no local media of their own – although we’re happy to blur the boundaries a little if a story is directly relevant to the people of those three boroughs. There will also be a special focus in Charlton to serve the community who read The Charlton Champion.

We wouldn’t have got to this point without continued help from our readers – we’re very grateful for their help. We will shortly be asking them for their help in finding the stories to write about.

Who’s writing the stories?

We’re delighted to have been joined by Tom Bull, the former local democracy reporter for Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley; and Emily Finch, a former reporter for the Islington Tribune.

Tom was travelling in Belize on a career break when the pandemic hit and managed to get a flight out before England went into lockdown. So far he’s written about Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice, how Blackheath’s Age Exchange charity has been changed by lockdown and the remarkable work of a Charlton cafe owner making meals for the vulnerable at the height of the crisis.

Emily’s work on the Tribune helped it win a prestigious industry award last month. Now she’s freelancing, and has covered how musicians have had to adapt, and community efforts to make facemasks for key workers.

Site editor Darryl Chamberlain will be co-ordinating and editing the stories as well as trying to keep up with the normal news agenda.

Are you a journalist at a loose end?

However, we will need more help get SE London’s coronavirus stories told. We’re interested in hearing from people with news reporting experience and who are familiar with the boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley to help us with this project.

You’d be responsible for talking to people, writing their stories and sourcing good quality photos – something that is very important for this site. We’d be especially delighted to hear from experienced reporters who come from groups and communities that are poorly represented in news media.

And yes, the grant means we can pay you. Drop us a line at tell853something[at]gmail.com if you’re interested.

Why did we go for the grant?

853 has just one part-time reporter/editor (that’s me, Darryl), while The Charlton Champion is run in our spare time. We talk to lots of people, but rarely have the time to actually sit down and interview them. In the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, it became apparent that there was very little reporting of community initiatives – so Tom Bull came on board to help out. We published the Old Cottage Cafe story two weeks into the lockdown, and we’ve kept going since then.

The grant means that while others in our area have cut back, we can tell local people’s stories during this time – just like local papers used to do. We’ve actually been so busy that it’s taken us a few weeks to get around to announcing the grant, although we’ve paid for, commissioned and published pieces already.

Other outlets supported by the fund include the West Leeds Dispatch (which is using the money to go into print), Portsmouth’s Star & Crescent, the Manchester Meteor and ViewDigital, a social affairs publisher in Northern Ireland. A number of freelance projects around Europe are also being supported along with a plethora of other outlets. We’re proud to be listed among them and are looking forward to seeing what they do – just as we’re excited about our own project.