The University of North Carolina Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media hosted a virtual wrap-up and graduation on August 25 and 26 for the third cohort of the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative. Charlottesville Tomorrow’s team, which included Executive Director, Giles Morris, News Editor, Elliott Robinson, and Development Director, Michaux Hood, spent the past year in the program with news organizations from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.

The Table Stakes Initiative seeks to help media organizations identify and overcome challenges to succeed in the changing landscape of journalism and focuses on change management, audience growth, and digital revenue strategies. The Charlottesville Tomorrow team worked with Table Stakes coach Lizzy Hazeltine, Fund Coordinator for the North Carolina Local News Fund, as well as Fran Scarlett, Institute for Nonprofit News Chief Knowledge Officer, Charlie Baum, project consultant, and Tim Griggs, advisor and former publisher and chief operating officer of the Texas Tribune, to identify organizational opportunities through audience- and revenue-centered performance challenges.

“There’s no way we would have doubled our audience in the past year or grown our reader-supported revenue by 40% without Table Stakes,” said Charlottesville Tomorrow Executive Director Giles Morris. “The coaching and the framework helped us take big goals and ideas and turn them into concrete processes that helped us meet the moment.”

The challenge-centric and performance-driven change methods used in the Table Stakes program are modeled after the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, an organizational change methodology designed to drive digital transformation in news organizations across the country. The Maynard Institute’s Fault Lines framework for creating equitable news organizations was also central to the cohort’s experience.

“Ignoring communities of color essentially is baked into journalism. We constantly see outlets nationwide try to address it without properly equipping their newsrooms or having any real engagement,” News Editor Elliott Robinson said. “There’s a lot of work to do to get this right, and we’re up for it.”

Charlottesville Tomorrow was one among a group of 13 media organizations to graduate after a full year of participation in the program that included large legacy papers like Atlanta Journal Constitution and small, innovative independents like QCity Metro.

About UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
The UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media exists to support established and emerging local news organizations through applied research on economic sustainability and entrepreneurship as well as innovative news and digital product solutions. The Center is funded by grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and UNC’s Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost.


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