UNC welcomes new cohort for UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative


Ten media organizations have been selected to learn how to engage audiences and create sustainable revenue streams as part of the year-long UNC Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative starting on April 30, 2018 and ending in April 2019.

The participating organizations exist on a variety of platforms — radio, broadcast, newspaper, and digital — with teams of varying sizes, but they all face similar challenges in this disruptive digital age. They come from North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia.

The second cohort, which begins their workshop on Monday, April 30, include:

Participants will work with coaches Charlie Baum, Tim Griggs and Eric Ulken, and program founder Douglas K. Smith to identify their organizations’ weaknesses and opportunities through performance challenges in order to create new solutions to thrive in the digital age. The challenge-centric and performance-driven change methods the coaches use to help participants move forward in their chosen goals, come from the Punch Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University, which Smith created.

This group follows the first cohort of eight news organizations, all of which were based in North Carolina, which met for a final time on April 17-18. Brian Sickora, Executive Director and General Manager of inaugural program participant UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina, explained their ultimate challenge was taking a 63-year-old legacy public television station and turning it into a digital media publishing company. “We want to be fueled by partnerships and inspired by data,” Sickora said.  “This project really helped us set discrete and concrete goals to help us along that path.”

One key element of the program is the collegial atmosphere that emerges as organizations learn from each other and work together on new ventures. Several partnerships have been built and continue to expand among the organizations, including a series on mental health and the opioid epidemic in eastern North Carolina by The News Reporter newspaper and Scalawag magazine. That series developed into a public forum which was recorded by UNC-TV to be broadcast statewide.

The Knight-Lenfest 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 39 newsrooms from Houston to the Bay Area to Philadelphia to Alaska.