guardian 300x56 Guardian BeatBloggers prepare for local dutyThe Guardian has hired bloggers to report on local stories in three UK cities.

The trio of ‘Beatbloggers’ will cover news from Cardiff, Edinburgh and Leeds as part of the newspaper’s experimental ‘Guardian Local’ initiative.

In an announcement yesterday, the project’s launch editor Sarah Hartley explained that the bloggers will be operating “A small-scale community approach to local newsgathering, and will focus on… three politically engaged cities”.

When the Guardian advertised for its local bloggers in October it caused a bit of a stir amongst observers of British journalism. The ad said that “A traditional journalism qualification is desired but not essential”. Would the cash-strapped Guardian Media Group attempt to further cut costs by employing untrained writers?

Of course, bloggers are perfectly capable of quality journalism without holding an National Union of Journalists membership card, but as it turns out the three bloggers that have been hired all come from a journalism background.

The bloggers

Cardiff’s Hannah Waldram describes herself as “an online journalist, blogger, and freelance dance critic, recently graduated from Cardiff School of Journalism, with particular interests in arts, social media and technology” and her CV lists work experience at The Guardian and Th Times as well as a number of local papers.

John Baron from Leeds, meanwhile, describes himself on Twitter as a “Journalist with an interest in local community reporting and community empowerment.” He appears to have previously run ‘Social Media Surgeries’ for the public sector in Leeds and travelled the country as an editorial trainer in his previous job according the comments here.

Edinburgh’s Tom Allan has a multimedia reporting background (although I couldn’t ascertain whether he has a formal journalism qualification UPDATE: I’ve now confirmed he does) with many video reports from the city and beyond on his Vimeo and Vodpod pages, while he provided a text and audio report from a protest at an Edinburgh Starbucks on Indymedia.

An open strategy

The Guardian’s digital strategy has differed from other UK newspapers. Others, such as Rupert Murdoch’s News International titles, have discussed building paywalls around their content; The Guardian has converserely embraced an open approach.

Under director of digital content Emily Bell the organisation has launched an API for third parties to access its content and an iPhone app, while editor Alan Rusbridger has recently ruled out any kind of Guardian paywall. Despite having laid off many journalists in the past few months, being owned by a Trust does somewhat protect The Guardian from the harshest commercial threats endured by other titles.

No date has been set for the launch of the new local blogs although they should be in action by the middle of the year. We’ll follow their progress with interest.