CISLM welcomes 11 Southeastern news orgs to fifth cohort of UNC Table Stakes program

A meeting of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative at UNC. This year’s program is a hybrid of in-person and remote education.

This week, 11 local news organizations from across the Southeast will come together to form the fifth cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Initiative.  

The initiative, hosted by UNC’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helps news organizations identify challenges and opportunities and create sustainable solutions. This year’s participating organizations represent a diverse slice of the local news spectrum in terms of media format, geography, ownership, business model and coverage. 

“In this program, you learn from the presenters and from the coaches, of course, but you also learn a tremendous amount from your fellow cohort members,” CISLM director Erica Beshears Perel said. “Each of the news organizations will bring their critical challenges and special needs to the group, and we’ll all learn from their wins and support them through their tough times.” 

The 2021-22 cohort will meet in a hybrid of in-person and online meetings depending on public health conditions. The 2020-21 cohort met entirely on Zoom, while earlier groups met on the UNC campus before the pandemic. Prior participants have celebrated wins from their time in the program, including revenue growthadditional staffnotable collaborations and building trust with previously underserved communities. 

The UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Initiative is one of four Table Stakes programs held across the country, nationally organized by the American Press Institute and supported by Knight. 

Meet the 11 news organizations in cohort five:  

The Assembly: A statewide digital magazine focused on long-form reporting about power in North Carolina: who has it, how they got it, and what they’re doing with it. 

Border Belt Independent: A nonprofit news outlet that reports on issues that affect people in southeast North Carolina encompassing four rural, high-poverty counties: Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland. 

The Current GA: An inclusive nonprofit, non-partisan news organization founded in 2020 to provide in-depth watchdog journalism for Savannah and Coastal Georgia. 

Fayetteville Observer: A Gannett-owned daily newspaper published in Fayetteville, North Carolina. As the oldest North Carolina newspaper, the paper was founded in 1816 as the Carolina Observer.  

The Lighthouse: Housed under nonprofit organization The Lighthouse, the Black Girl Times blog offers Black creatives a platform to discuss their experiences and those of southern Black girls, women and gender non-conforming people. 

Louisville Public Media: Through 89.3 WFPL News Louisville and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, Louisville Public Media produces fact-based storytelling, watchdog investigations, cultural programming, events and education. 

Montgomery Advertiser: A Gannett-owned legacy newspaper that began publishing in 1829 in Montgomery, Alabama.  

Athens Banner-HeraldThe Athens Banner-Herald is the daily newspaper located in Athens, Georgia. Owned by Gannett, the paper serves Athens, the University of Georgia, and surrounding areas.  

The News Leader: The News Leader is a daily newspaper owned by Gannett and serving Staunton, Virginia, and the surrounding areas of the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. 

Substantial Magazine: A digital magazine based in North Carolina, birthed out of Eastern North Carolina, that amplifies stories about substantial people and issues within the Black community. 

UAB Blazer Media: UAB Student Media is the home of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s student-run media outlets. They include Kaleidoscope, an award-winning weekly newspaper; BlazeRadio, its podcast network; Aura, a much-heralded literary arts magazine; and UABtv, original, web-based video programming. 

Participants will work directly with experienced coaches throughout the media world in order to carry out their transformations. Meet our coaches, and learn more by clicking on their names:  

Charlie Baum is a consultant and expert who helps businesses find success amidst change.  

Chrissy Beck is the General Manager of The Chronicle, the independent student media outlet at Duke University.  

Nation Hahn is the director of growth for EducationNC, an education reporting nonprofit.  

Felecia Henderson is the Director for Cultural Competency at the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the oldest journalism nonprofit dedicated to diversifying America’s newsrooms.  

Alesha Williams Boyd is the senior digital director at Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States. 

This cohort will kick off Dec. 1 and end in December 2022.