Poynter selects 21 news organizations to participate in Local News Innovation program

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The Poynter Institute has selected 21 news organizations (including nine SNPA members) to participate in the first year of a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation-funded initiative to accelerate digital transformation in local news. The Poynter Local News Innovation Project is an outgrowth of the Knight-Temple University "Table Stakes" project, now renamed the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative.

The 2017 roster of participants in the Poynter program spans the nation, from New Hampshire to Alaska. It also represents news organizations from a 5,700-circulation community daily in Colorado to a metro news organization like Newsday in New York. The cohort includes both private, family-owned operations and giant public publishing companies such as the USA Today Network and GateHouse. SNPA members are identified below in bold.

  1. Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska)
  2. Beaver County Times (Beaver, Penn.)
  3. The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio)
  4. Citrus County Chronicle (Crystal River, Fla.)
  5. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)
  6. Denver Post (Denver, Colo.)
  7. Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Mich.)
  8. Durango Herald (Durango, Colo.)
  9. Lawrence Journal-World (Lawrence, Kan.)
  10. New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)
  11. The News-Press​ / Naples Daily News​ (Fort Myers/Naples, Fla.)
  12. Newsday (Melville, N.Y.)
  13. The Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)
  14. Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa)
  15. Reading Eagle (Reading, Penn.)
  16. ​Sandusky Register (Sandusky, Ohio)
  17. State Journal-Register (Springfield, Ill.)
  18. Statesman Journal (Salem, Ore.)
  19. Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
  20. Tyler Morning Telegraph (Tyler, Texas)
  21. The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)

The Poynter Local News Innovation Project, a three-year initiative funded by the Knight Foundation, will include in-person conferences, online seminars and personalized coaching for each of the 21 news organizations. Every news organization in the program will include senior representatives from both the news and business-sides in an effort to fuel innovation, collaboration and cultural change through all aspects of the operations.

"This new program will revolutionize legacy newsrooms that produce local news. For some of us, it could be a life-saver," said Amy Maestas, senior editor of The Durango Herald in Colorado. The Herald is the program's smallest-market newsroom with a daily circulation of 5,690.

"Opportunities of this scope and length to work with Poynter's first-class faculty and forward-thinking consultants have been rare in recent years, especially for local news organizations," Maestas said. "So when I learned about the program, I knew immediately that it was one that, if we were chosen, will accelerate our in-progress digital transformation and do so with a targeted approach rather than a broad approach."

To accelerate and amplify digital and cultural change, in addition to the participating newsrooms, all media organizations and journalists around the country will have access to the key takeaways of the project through a series of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and robust coverage via a new Digital Transformation Channel on Poynter.org. Poynter also will incorporate the lessons of Table Stakes into other programs offered by the Institute.

"Local communities need responsive, credible news sources more than they ever have," said Butch Ward, who is heading Poynter's part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. "To deliver on that need, news organizations – especially in this very challenging business environment – must dramatically expand their capacity to compete digitally. This program can help them do that."

Ward is working with Douglas K. Smith, project director for the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, and independent consultant Quentin Hope.

Initially, the Poynter program envisioned including 20 newsrooms annually. It was expanded to 21 this year to include the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by The Poynter Institute. "The Tampa Bay Times submitted a strong application and represents the largest circulation newspaper in the group. We felt it was the right thing to do to expand the program to include the Times, rather than to take a seat away from another deserving newsroom," Poynter President Tim Franklin said.

Launched in 2015 as the Knight-Temple Table Stakes project, the now-renamed Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative features two other key programs in addition to the Poynter project. One expands on Year One's work with four metro newsrooms, bringing together five news organizations – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Media Network and Bay Area News Group – for a year-long effort to enlarge their digital capacity. The third program is being led by the Center for Innovation & Sustainability in Local Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism. In that program, eight to 12 North Carolina newspapers, radio and television stations, and digital startups will also seek sustainability through the lessons of Table Stakes.

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