Five news organizations will participate in the American Press Institute’s communities sprint program, a five-month cohort aimed at helping newsrooms better engage with and serve diverse audiences. Designed in partnership with the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, this initiative serves alumni of the Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program, which advances innovations in local journalism through intensive change-management training for news leaders. 

The participating news organizations will test new strategies to build relationships with underserved communities, rebuild trust, diversify sources and coverage, experiment with new platforms, and deliver Spanish-language content. A team of coaches will guide participants to apply the tools of performance-driven change as they test new concepts and workflows. 

Table Stakes communities sprint cohort

Members of the cohort met for kickoff sessions earlier this summer.

Congratulations to the five organizations that will participate in the program:

Table Stakes Alumni Sprint Cohort

Teams will be supported by coaches (clockwise, from top left) Lacey Daley, Samantha Melbourneweaver, Fernando Soto, and senior coach Calvin Lawrence Jr.

Participants will be supported by industry coaches:

Calvin Lawrence Jr., who has coached previously in the Major Market Table Stakes program, will serve as a senior coach. Lawrence worked most recently at Newsday as director of community affairs and newsroom development and is now the aquatics director at a YMCA branch in New York City. 

“We are very excited to be working with API, these organizations and coaches on this initiative,” said Martin G. Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard Institute. “What makes this program unique is that we’re being intentional about relationship-building as a goal with these communities, which feels like a subtle and yet profound distinction.

“In our conversations, we are being real about the significance of that challenge, and discussing harm that some outlets may have inflicted on communities over the years. The willingness on the part of these outlets to acknowledge their legacies — which vary significantly — is a huge step in helping them evolve, develop new products that inform, and to forge relationships to better understand and serve diverse communities.” 

To further support newsrooms’ efforts to serve diverse communities, API will provide participating organizations with free licenses to Source Matters – API’s tool that tracks and improves the diversity of sources in news coverage. In addition, Dr. Letrell Crittenden, API’s director of inclusion and audience growth, will present to the participants API’s newest initiative that assesses how news organizations cover communities of color, the Inclusion Index.

“It is crucial that these organizations improve their relationships with diverse communities — crucial for the sustainability of these organizations and in contributing to the well-being of their whole communities,” said Emily Ristow, API’s director of local news transformation. “We are proud to be working with these organizations, our coaches and the Maynard Institute in supporting this important work.”

The sprint program is funded by The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, a joint initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

Table Stakes was founded in 2015 to support major metro newspapers. Since then, other iterations of the program, which are funded separately, have been created in partnership with the University of North Carolina, the Poynter Institute and Arizona State University. The core methodology used in Table Stakes was developed by Douglas K. Smith based on his 30-plus years experience with performance-driven change.

For more information, please contact Emily Ristow, director of local news transformation, at emily.ristow@pressinstitute.org.

About the American Press Institute

The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. We believe that for democracies to thrive, people need accurate news and information about their communities, the problems of civil society and the debates over how to solve them. That requires an economically sustainable free press that reflects the diversity of American society and understands the needs of its communities. API is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance.

About The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund

With a focus on sustainability and equity, The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund is designed to strengthen local journalism at scale, by supporting journalistic excellence and serving the information needs of communities. The Knight-Lenfest Fund collaborates with news organizations, leaders and communities to grow capacity and meet journalism’s technology, business, and audience realities of the future. It believes that journalism is at its best when it is of service. The Knight-Lenfest Fund is an independent joint venture of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

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