UNC Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative: Taking applications for second cohort

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media is pleased to announce the second round of the UNC Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative and is soliciting applications for participation.

The program’s purpose is to help news organizations understand the “table stakes” required to survive the digital transformation and to help them identify and realize critically important performance challenges based on specific gaps and opportunities they face. (The term “table stakes” comes from the strategy-as-poker metaphor “what is required to even be in the game” as opposed to differentiators or “what it takes to win the game.”) These challenges relate to substantial, measurable gains in audience, engagement, revenue and other important outcomes.

Our first cohort of the Initiative – comprising eight North Carolina media organizations, including traditional newspapers, commercial and public television, public radio, and a print and digital magazine – will wrap up their one-year program in April 2018. Due to the tremendous success and transformation achieved by the first cohort, the Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media (CISLM) will host a second year of the program.

To expand the reach of the program, participation will be open to organizations in the Southeast region as well as North Carolina. Eight to 12 news organizations will be selected to participate in the yearlong program that will help them identify challenges and opportunities and create sustainable solutions to survive and thrive in the digital age.

The program is part of the larger Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, which is a collaborative effort designed and led by Douglas K. Smith to help advance digital transformation at local and major metropolitan news organizations across the country. The program also is based on the core principles Doug used to create the Punch Sulzberger Program at the Columbia Journalism School, which 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.

Program Outcomes

Participants will work directly with coaches Charlie Baum and Tim Griggs, as well as with founder Doug Smith, who will guide them through the program to reach the following outcomes:

  • Provide a pathway, based on the principles developed during the Knight Temple Table Stakes effort that was piloted in 2015-16 with four major metro newspapers, to transform the news 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, as used in the Sulzberger Leadership Program at the Columbia School of Journalism
  • Develop a peer network of news organizations to draw on to share experiences, approaches, tools, technology and other resources.

Program Schedule

The program will begin in May 2018 and conclude in April 2019, with in-person gatherings approximately every three months. Meetings will be held on the campus of UNC, during which participants will interact and update one another on progress against their performance challenges and work with coaches and other experts. The first gathering will be a chance for all of the organizations to review and discuss the overall program and approach, and to share each enterprise’s current strategies as well as begin to identify specific and critical enterprise-wide challenges.

Program Cost

While the tuition for the Sulzberger Leadership Program is $27,500 per person, CISLM’s grant funding makes it possible to offer this program for a greatly reduced rate that is tiered, based on total revenue. The cost for each organization to participate is:

  • Revenue below $1 million: $1,500
  • Revenue between $1 million and $3million: $3,000
  • Revenue above $3 million: $4,500

This highly subsidized fee includes customized one-on-one coaching, breakfast and lunch during the gatherings, and a kickoff dinner during the first gathering. The organizations will be responsible for any travel and hotel expenses related to attending the gatherings in Chapel Hill. If the fee presents a hardship for an organization, CISLM is willing to discuss options. A signed commitment letter stating an agreement to make investments and reallocate resources in order to accomplish the initiatives they choose to pursue will be required.

The deadline for applications is February 28, 2018.

Questions can be emailed to Craig Anderson, CISLM’s project director, at [email protected]

Apply Here

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