Education & Outreach

The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media provides current and future media leaders with the tools and analysis to succeed in a rapidly changing environment.

The UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative helps advance media organizations through digital transformation and development of sustainable business models.

Knight Chair Penny Abernathy works with editors, publishers, press associations, nonprofits and journalism policy groups seeking to preserve quality journalism while creating a path to profitability.

UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative

The UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media (CISLM) is a proud partner in the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative. The yearlong program helps media organizations identify challenges and opportunities, as well as create sustainable solutions to survive and thrive in the digital age.

Susan Leath

Susan Leath, the Center's director, leads the program, modeled after the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, which is a collaborative effort designed to help advance digital transformation at local and major metropolitan news organizations across the country. The program is based on the core principles used to create the Media Transformation Challenge  (formerly the Sulzberger Program at Columbia Journalism School) that has helped approximately 250 participants deliver major performance and improvement to media organizations such as The New York Times, ABC News, the Associated Press, National Public Radio, as well as a number of local market organizations.

The yearlong program includes in-person meetings approximately every three months held on the UNC campus, during which participants work with expert coaches and update one another on progress with their performance challenges.

Program Outcomes

Coaches guide participating organizations through the program to reach the following outcomes:

  • Provide a pathway, based on the principles modeled after the Knight-Temple Table Stakes effort that was piloted in 2015-16 with four major metro newspapers, to transform their media organization into an audience-focused, digital-first, market-leading and sustainable enterprise. (Learn more about the seven Table Stakes here.)
  • Define specific performance initiatives that will significantly advance digital transformation and successfully achieve identified objectives over the course of the year.
  • Identify and address the underlying skill, role, workflow, technology and culture changes required to achieve the objectives of the chosen performance initiatives.
  • Develop the individual skills and organizational capabilities needed to continue the work beyond the project, using the tools and methodologies of performance-driven change.
  • Develop a peer network of news organizations to draw on shared experiences, approaches, tools, technology and other resources.

CISLM Wraps Up Table Stakes Cohort 3

CISLM's third cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative completed their yearlong journey with a final meeting at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media in August 2020. Twelve media organizations from the U.S. Southeast took part in the yearlong program that focuses on creating sustainable solutions for media organizations to survive and thrive in the digital age. CISLM will welcome the fourth cohort of the Table Stakes initiative in a virtual convening Sept. 30 - Oct. 2, 2020.

Read more about the third cohort here, and then check out photos of the cohort's first meeting at UNC below.

Recent Education & Outreach

Better News profiles UNC Table Stakes participant EducationNC

This Better News piece profiles an innovative town hall-style event hosted by EducationNC, a 2018-19 participant of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative. The February 2020 EducationNC event allowed high school students in a rural North Carolina county to…

WATCH: Strategic Digital Media Entrepreneur

  Revolutionary new technologies are compelling news organizations to recreate their business models or be left in history’s wake. New business models are beginning to emerge as leaders explore ways to tap into the potential unleashed by this interactive, always-on…

UNC Table Stakes participants — past and present — win big at 2020 NCPA awards

Several participants of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative — past and present — were recognized at the recent North Carolina Press Association (NCPA) awards, in categories ranging from website excellence to best headline writing. Many of the media…

A publisher’s story: We need to diversify

With newspaper print advertising at historic lows, publishers of local newspapers, regardless of size, have to move quickly and decisively to seek new sources of revenue and income to support their journalism. The Pilot, a twice-weekly paper in the Sandhills…

Better News profiles UNC Table Stakes participant UNC-TV’s digital audience build

This Better News piece profiles how UNC-TV — a member of all three cohorts of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative — is building a new and larger audience by producing digital content while staying committed to its traditional…

Poynter features Gannett project inspired by UNC Table Stakes initiative

This Poynter piece examines a newly launched Gannett feature called The American South. A Cohort 3 member of our UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative, Gannett launched the feature section to tell stories about the South from the South, exploring…