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.

Associate Professor and Reese News Lab Chief Innovation Officer Steven King, engages with media organizations across the country as he leads students in the Reese News Lab and Emerging Technologies Lab in developing new technological solutions to address business challenges.

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

The Center's Interim Director Susan Leath directs 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.

Speaking Engagements

Sept. 16:  New York State Bar Association—Penny Abernathy will meet with members of the Task Force on Free Expression in the Digital Age to discuss legal issues related to The Expanding News Desert report.

New York, New York

Oct. 3-5: DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy, Duke UniversityPenny Abernathy, Participant, Seminar on Local Journalism Issues 

Durham, North Carolina

Oct 16: Columbia University—Penny Abernathy will receive the 2019 Christopher J. Welles Memorial Prize for her “groundbreaking local news crisis research” at the 44th Anniversary Celebration of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship

New York, New York

 Nov. 14: 50th Anniversary of the Southeastern Council on Foundations MeetingPenny Abernathy, Panelist, New Models for Supporting Local News , hosted by Robert Woodruff Foundation 

Atlanta, Georgia

Recent Education & Outreach

CISLM welcomes Cohort 3 of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative

The UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media welcomed 13 media organizations this week for the third cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative. The initiative focuses on audience engagement and creating sustainable revenue streams during…

Better News profiles UNC Table Stakes participant Carolina Public Press’ journalism collaboration

As part of an ongoing series of articles profiling success stories of the Table Stakes Newsroom initiative, Better News examined the collaboration led by Carolina Public Press of 11 North Carolina media organizations that investigated sexual assault conviction rates in…

Table Stakes success stories

As the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media (CISLM) gears up for a third cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative, a selection of past participants of the initiative give their thoughts on what the program has…

EdNC’s award-winning N.C. community college coverage inspired by UNC Table Stakes initiative

For Education NC, taking part in the second cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative proved a fruitful path, pivoting the four-year-old digital organization’s thinking about audience engagement and leading to an award-winning, week-long road trip to all of North Carolina’s 58…

UNC Table Stakes partner leads news collaboration investigating N.C. sexual assault conviction rates

As the #MeToo movement amplifies dialogue about the prevalence and impunity of sexual assault throughout the nation, Carolina Public Press has led a collaborative effort among 10 other news organizations to start a crucial part of the conversation here in North Carolina.…

CISLM holds fact-checking workshop

A group of students convened on the third floor of Carroll Hall last week to learn the facts of fact-checking from some of the best in the industry. “Fact-checking is its own unique art form,” said Associate Professor Ryan Thornburg,…