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.

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.

The program is 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.

Application Process

  • August: Applications open
  • August - September: Read through the application and apply; applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. We highly encourage you to schedule an initial meeting with CISLM Director Erica Perel and Program Coordinator Sarah Vassello before submitting your application. 
  • September 3: Deadline for applications

UNC Table Stakes Participants

Latest UNC Table Stakes blogs

How Enlace Latino NC grew newsletter subscribers by 390 percent


La Tortilla may be the only newsletter of its kind in North Carolina — an important part of Enlace Latino NC’s mission to deliver powerful journalism to Latinx communities across NC.

How the Florida Times-Union learned it was tracking the wrong social media metrics – and watched engagement soar


By Katelyn Chedraoui Emily Bloch figured social media would be part of her job when she started covering education and youth culture at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Fla. But she did not expect that a massive upgrade to the Times-Union official social media accounts would become central to the legacy…

6 Table Stakes terms your news org needs for transformation


By Katelyn Chedraoui At the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, we research and identify local news practices and successes and use our findings to educate news organizations who can commit to transformation. Through our Table Stakes program, we help news organizations identify…

How HBCU Gameday creates an immersive digital experience


By Preston Fore Sports culture at historically Black colleges and universities is big — from the marching bands and screaming fans to the long historic rivalries, but it has often gone under covered in legacy media. Enter HBCU Gameday, a…

How Enlace Latino NC and Southerly partnered to cover the rural Latino community


By Brianna Atkinson The partnership between Enlace Latino NC and Southerly started at the community college in rural Robeson County in early 2020. In that room, the two news organizations hosted a listening session with the Latino community of southeastern…

How Chatham News + Record started reporting in Spanish


By Brianna Atkinson Last year, when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in central North Carolina’s Chatham County, it hit the county’s Hispanic population the hardest. This inspired the team at The Chatham News + Record to create La Voz, a section…

Two UNC-Knight Table Stakes coaches create Anti-Racist Table Stakes framework


 “You can’t move “to” if you don’t know where you’re starting “from,” and for most news organizations, their current reality, “from” is participation in community harm, neglect, or both.” — Cierra Hinton and Lizzy Hazeltine, from their Anti-Racist Table Stakes…