A pioneering scheme to improve diversity in newsrooms is to be extended after Facebook confirmed funding for a third year.

The Community Reporters Project was launched two years ago and has resulted in more than 80 trainee reporters being hired in newsrooms across the UK.

Each focuses on a community which is under-represented in local news. This morning, Facebook confirmed it was funding the scheme for a further year, at a cost of £2.5m to the social media giant.

It is administered by the NCTJ, with those funded through the project studying for tailored community journalism qualifications.

Sian Cox-Brooker, strategic partnership manager at Facebook, said: “It’s been a privilege to work with the Community News Project reporters and I’m delighted we’re investing an additional £2.5m and extending the project for another year.

“The CNP is one of our most successful programmes globally and a testament to the importance and vitality of local news in the UK. I look forward to meeting the new reporters and building on our success with our publishing partners and the NCTJ.”

Joanne Butcher, chief executive of the NCTJ said: “The wonderful news that Facebook is extending this brilliant project is a real boost for journalism and the news industry at such a challenging time.

“The NCTJ is proud to be a partner in a scheme that, thanks to Facebook’s support and the commitment of publishers, provides more journalism jobs, an innovative training scheme based on NCTJ qualifications and makes a real difference to the diversity of local newsrooms.”

Martin Wright, Editor-in-chief, Midland News Association said: “We are delighted at Facebook’s decision to extend the Community News Project. Since its launch in 2018, the project has enabled us to extend our coverage, reaching parts of our community that were not previously as well-served as they might have been. I am looking forward to building on the success of this excellent initiative.

Newbury Weekly News CNP reporter Charlie Masters said: “The scheme has allowed me to engage on a day-to-day basis with the joys and nuances of life in a newsroom, while honing my craft as a journalist and developing a real sense for West Berkshire society.

“From the start, I have been able to champion the news of those rural communities I am charged with documenting, cultivating invaluable relationships in the process. In all, my experience here has been incredible.”

The original $6M/£4.5M investment enabled the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to oversee the recruitment of 80 trainee ‘community journalists’ over two years and place them at the heart of local newsrooms of nearly 80 news outlets.

The NCTJ and publishers focused on finding trainees from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, designed to reflect the rich diversity of the local communities they serve.

At least 68 per cent of the reporters hired in the pilot scheme, met one or more of the diversity criteria being measured. The goal wasto encourage more reporting from towns which have lost their local newspaper and beat reporters.

A blog post on Facebook from Sian and Sarah Brown, the company’s head of news partnerships for Northern Europe, said: “Given the crisis that every town has faced this year, this objective continues to be imperative. “ To date, the journalists in the CNP have collectively produced hundreds of front pages and 80% of reporters have achieved print front page bylines or homepage leads within three months of starting in their post.

“We are committed to working with industry partners to find ways of supporting journalism and helping news organisations develop business models that are sustainable for the long term. We will continue building products, making global investments and developing partnerships to support the future success of journalism.”

The extension means just over half of the existing cohort, who came in as trainees to study for the Diploma in Journalism, could be in line for an additional year of training.

Those trainees will work towards the senior level National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ). Meanwhile, dozens of new reporters will be recruited to train in some of the UK’s leading newsrooms as they in turn study for NCTJ qualifications.

The NCTJ and its publisher partners will open the application process for the new cohort of CNP reporters in the new year.