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

The UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media is pleased to announce the third round of the UNC Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative and is soliciting applications for participation.

Our first and second cohorts of the program were tremendously successful in helping 18 media organizations achieve performance outcomes and transformative change.

For this third cohort, eight to 12 news organizations from throughout the Southeast will be chosen 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 national 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.

Program Outcomes

Participants will work directly with coaches Charlie Baum and Tim Griggs (and a third coach to be announced), 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 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.

In short, we believe the program substantially increases the odds of success regarding opportunities and challenges posed by the digital transformation of the journalism arena.

Program Schedule

The program will begin in August 2019 and conclude in July 2020, with in-person meetings approximately every three months. Meetings will be held on the UNC campus, during which participants will work with expert coaches and update one another on progress with their performance challenges. 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 Media Transformation Challenge is more than $30,000 per person, CISLM’s funding from the Knight Foundation 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 $3 million: $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. If the fee presents a hardship for an organization, CISLM is willing to discuss options. A signed commitment letter agreeing to invest and reallocate resources to accomplish the initiatives will be required.

The deadline for applications is June 15, 2019.

Questions can be emailed to Susan Leath, CISLM’s interim project director, at [email protected]

Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative support logos

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