Meet UNC Table Stakes coach Nation Hahn

 In December 2021, the newest group of Southeastern local news organizations will begin the UNC-Knight Table Stakes Initiative. In this program, newsroom leaders will define and tackle challenges using a performance-driven framework to craft innovative solutions. 

In anticipation of the fifth cohort’s kickoff, the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media talked with each of the new coaches, independent advisors who will help guide the news organizations throughout the process.  

Meet Nation Hahn, one of five coaches selected for the upcoming cohort.  

CISLM: What’s your day job and what does that involve?  

Nation Hahn: I am the Director of Growth at EducationNC. At EdNC, I help drive the postsecondary and community college coverage, including the Awake58 weekly newsletter and Twitter account. As of November 2021, I have traveled to 46 of the 58 community colleges — many of them more than once. I work on fundraising and partnership efforts, iterating an investment strategy that combines a theory of change, leadership development and force amplification through “go and see” opportunities for philanthropists and policymakers to build relationships with community college and local leaders. I lead a responsive innovation strategy for EdNC, including audience growth and engagement. The Reach NC Voices journalism engagement project, which connects people to policy and policy to people across NC, launched in 2017 with a $1.5 million investment from Blue Cross NC. Reach is a suite of tools to build diverse audiences, including surveying, texting, and live events. Reach is used by nonprofits across North Carolina and media outlets across the country. I also love experimenting with new storytelling formats to foster engagement. 

CISLM: Have you participated in a Table Stakes program yourself? If so, which one and what was your biggest lesson learned?  

NH: We participated in the UNC Table Stakes program in 2018. In addition, I participated in the Media Transformation Challenge (formerly Sulz) in 2019. Within the Table Stakes universe of work, I have come to understand the importance of defining your challenge, building momentum through early wins, and measuring what matters. The most vital lesson in my view is the importance of going public internally and including your entire team in the process of creating change. Getting change right means bringing folks along for the journey — as a mentor once told me, people are a lot happier with the destination if they come along for the ride.

CISLM: What are you most looking forward to in terms of coaching this cohort?  

NH: I view Table Stakes as both my chance to give back to journalism and my chance to learn from great journalists across our country. I look forward to both.

CISLM: In our UNC Table Stakes program, we love to celebrate our wins, big and small. What’s your best win recently?  

NH: Professionally, my best win has been watching the continued growth and success of EdNC as we provide vital resources and journalism to North Carolina around all of the pressing issues related to education. Our audience continues to grow, as does our impact. Personally, I averaged over 20 miles a week running for a six-week stretch this fall — my best distances since I was training for a half marathon in 2014.