UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative cohort meets

Ten media organizations representing the spectrum of the industry took part in a Jan. 22-23 UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative gathering at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, focusing on how to innovate, sustain and succeed in a rapidly changing digital mediascape.

The gathering was the fourth meeting in a yearlong change management coaching program sponsored by the Knight Foundation, during which coaches Charlie Baum, Tim Griggs and Eric Ulken have helped the organizations identify their weaknesses and opportunities. At each gathering, the media organizations share their progress and receive feedback from the group on their yearlong goals.

The Daily Tar Heel, Savannah Morning News, Myrtle Beach Sun News, UNC-TV, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Carolina Public Press, EducationNC, Richmond Times-Dispatch, The News & Record /Winston-Salem Journal and The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette are taking part in the initiative. The group meets for a final time in April. The group represents the second cohort to move through the program at the UNC Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media, located within the MJ-school.

Griggs said the diversity of the initiative’s organizations—which includes non-profits, for-profits, startups and established media—leads to great discussion. From the fundraising skills of public media to the digital nimbleness of startups, each niche brings a specific level of expertise to the conversation, he said.

Angie Newsome, executive director and editor of the Carolina Public Press, praised the deadline element the yearlong initiative creates; At each gathering, participants report back on movement they’ve made toward their goals. “It gives it a built-in accountability structure,” she said.

A common goal threaded throughout the diverse organizations’ needs: not only finding success in digital platforms, but how to quantify and monetize that success.

“It’s important for us to be able to transition beyond traditional radio and television and strengthen our digital platforms,” said Jane Wright, director of grants and underwriting at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. “It’s then important for us to funnel those digital users into membership.”

The UNC-Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative, which has grown from the Table Stakes program for major metro newspapers, has created partnerships among the UNC Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media, the American Press Institute and the Poynter Institute to add to the depth and impact of the effort. The program, supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, has brought together over 40 newsrooms from Houston to the Bay Area to Philadelphia to Alaska.