New wins from UNC Table Stakes alumni organizations

The wins keep coming for news organizations that recently completed the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Initiative.

The initiative, which served more than 60 news organizations across the Southeast since 2017, wrapped up cohort 6 in November 2023. It focused on newsroom transformation, change management and audience and revenue best practices.

Here’s a selection of ways UNC Table Stakes alumni are keeping up the momentum:

Triad City Beat

The alt-weekly hosted its 10th-anniversary celebration on Wednesday, March 20. Current and former staffers, readers, story subjects and general well-wishers came together at the Flat Iron in Greensboro for a party featuring local artists, the Queen Bees and katie.blvd.

The milestone event was free to their First Amendment Society subscribers, and acted as part of their 2024 election fundraiser for non-members, with a suggested fee of $20/entry.

“One of the best things about working in local news is that people run into me in the grocery store and they can talk to me,” Publisher Brian Clarey told the NC Local newsletter. “I’m incredibly accessible and the work that we do has immediate impact and we can see it and we can feel it and we can touch it.”

Blue Ridge Public Radio

BPR launched a regional reporting partnership with Grist, Grist announced on February 27. The reporter hired for this partnership will cover climate and energy in western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountain region for both publications.

“The partnership with Grist enables us to better serve audiences across western North Carolina on multiple platforms,” BPR News Director Laura Lee said in the announcement. “There is no shortage of important environmental news in the region, and this position will provide audiences with coverage we could not otherwise offer. We look forward to working with Grist to amplify the critical climate and energy issues that affect so many Appalachian communities.”

Henrico Citizen

The Chronicle of Philanthropy announced on February 26 that the Citizen would receive one of four $30,000 Philanthropy and Nonprofit Accountability Fellowships. The Citizen will use the fund to cover nonprofits who are working with the growing refugee and immigrant populations in Henrico County.

The fellowship also includes training and mentorship from Chronicle editors and reporters alongside coaching from national nonprofit experts.

“As the social sector grows rapidly and its role in addressing crucial community needs becomes ever more important, it’s heartening to see these local news outlets commit to in-depth reporting and analysis of both solutions and accountability,” Chronicle chief executive Stacy Palmer said in the press release.

Border Belt Independent

On February 29, the Border Belt Independent announced that the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust renewed its three-year, $495,000 grant to the BBI. The Reynolds Trust focuses its grants on rural areas with high poverty rates and poor health outcomes.

“Our stories help people who live in the Border Belt understand these challenges,” BBI publisher Les High said. “We regularly report on issues like health, mental health, adverse childhood experiences, justice, race, the environment, and education. The goal is to write stories that have an impact.”

Hadley Hitson of The Montgomery Adviser wins award

In February, Hitson won the 2024 Emerging Journalist award from the Alabama Press Association. Hitson, a children’s health, education and welfare reporter, has written for the Advertiser since 2021 when she joined as a Report for America fellow. She has covered stories on aging in environmental racism in the Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Whether it’s the women working to resolve Lowndes County’s lack of adequate wastewater management systems, the teachers who are dedicated to reaching Alabama’s children on a daily basis or the doctors who are taking pay cuts to care for the patients who need it most, I’ve learned that you can always find a little bit of hope,” Hitson said in her acceptance speech.

Former Table Stakes participant, coach to lead NC Press Forward

Lizzy Hazeltine, a UNC Table Stakes cohort 1 team member and a former coach, will lead the NC chapter of Press Forward as director of the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund.

Press Forward is a national coalition of donors that seeks to inject over $500 million into local news over the next five years. On February 21, the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund announced it will be the home of the NC chapter of Press Forward in collaboration with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. NC is one of 11 local chapters so far in the national Press Forward coalition.

“When we take a collaborative approach and distribute funding where it’s needed most, all of our communities are better informed about their health, government, local educational and professional opportunities, and other essential news,” Hazeltine said in the Press Forward announcement.

Hazeltine spoke with CISLM in a Q&A about what NC Press Forward means for NC publishers in April 2024.