Thought Leader Summits

The American Press Institute gathers leaders from a variety of news organizations for one- or two-day summits on focused topics of importance in the current journalism landscape.

For example, recent events have touched on truth-telling in an age of polarization and misinformation and the shift to reader revenue. Another focused on reimagining opinion journalism for today’s digital audiences.

Each summit addresses the critical issues and potential solutions for evolving strategies around the event’s topic.

Unlike a typical conference, API Thought Leader Summits are highly participatory and include only several dozen invitees. The events treat each attendee as an active participant, sharing his or her expertise and experiences while gaining actionable insights from others. Participants are in for a day of peer learning, rather than being another face in the audience.

In addition, the agendas for summits are informed by the participants who will be in the room, helping to ensure the conversations are useful and insightful.

After the events, API works to share the knowledge through new resources, new and existing programs and other learning opportunities to help news organizations navigate the challenge at hand.

Below are the practical resources, reports and other information from our Thought Leader Summits:

Sustainability through listening: Reader revenue in the wake of COVID-19
Initially planned for Chicago, API’s spring 2020 summit became a “virtual summit” addressing the same urgent topic: the connection between community listening and sustainability, especially reader revenue. The shortened, digital version of the summit will be followed by additional remote work on the topic, all against the backdrop of the coronavirus.

Truth-telling in the modern age: Strategies to confront polarization and misinformation
API’s June 2019 gathering convened journalists and experts outside of journalism to explore emerging ideas about truth-telling in today’s digital, polarized age. Hosted outside the nation’s capital, the convening considered insights into how people process new information, and what it might mean for journalists today. Read one outcome of the summit, a report on strategies to confront misinformation, polarization and media attacks, and learn about our network to help local news leaders with misinformation and Election 2020 reporting challenges.

Reimagining opinion journalism: Ideas for depolarizing public debate
In April 2019, API gathered innovators in opinion content, civil dialogue and audience development who are leading change around opinion and discourse projects in media. Hosted in Phoenix, Ariz., the program evaluated big and small steps opinion sections might take to help facilitate better public discussion in the communities they serve. Follow our ongoing essay series on reimagining opinion journalism for today’s challenges.

Building reader revenue for news
In May 2018, API convened news business leaders, product managers, editors and audience development specialists to identify ways to strengthen reader revenue models that support journalism. Hosted outside Washington, DC, the agenda included finding and converting audiences for digital subscriptions, organizational structures that best support newsroom- and business-side collaboration, and other topics. Follow API’s practical resources for reader revenue, building on these conversations.

Creating a culture of listening: Using dialogue to bridge divides
API’s first 2018 summit gathered community-minded journalists, editors and nonprofit leaders who are pioneers of listening and dialogue projects in journalism. Hosted at The Tennessean, the agenda included discussions on how to create organizational cultures of listening, effective strategies for facilitating dialogue among divided community groups, and other topics. Read the resulting report on how to build a culture of listening and learn about our fellowship to help news organizations start more journalism from a place of listening.

The rise of distributed content: Building sustainable platform strategies
API’s second 2016 summit gathered executives and editors responsible for platform-related strategies, including plans for Facebook Live, Snapchat, and more. Hosted at the Wall Street Journal, the agenda was based on feedback from participants, allowing the group to explore the practical and big picture topics they most wished to discuss in-depth. We later distilled best practices for building sustainable platform strategies.

Serving diverse communities: A new look at news, the public and engagement
In June 2016, API held a summit in association with Temple University’s School of Media and Communication. The agenda focused on information needs of a variety of communities and explored qualities of ideal sources in the digital age. The discussions were designed to inform strategic thinking of the American Press Institute and Democracy Fund, one of API’s funders.

Diving deep into mobile: Advanced conversations for modern newsrooms
In November 2015, API’s second summit on mobile news gathered innovators to push beyond the basic mobile-related topics that journalism conferences commonly rehash. The agenda involved small, in-depth discussions on issues surfaced by mobile-focused participants, and took inspiration from the event’s location: 1776, a DC-based global incubator and seed fund.

Cracking the code for effective product management
Held at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, API’s first fall 2015 summit gathered executives, product managers and other leaders responsible for creating and managing news organization products and services, ranging from mobile news products to advertising products to in-house tools. From that we distilled best practices for product management in news organizations.

Harnessing data in new ways to grow business and audience
API’s first summit for 2015 took place at the New York Times and gathered executives, strategists and data scientists at the forefront of audience development from leading legacy and startup news organizations.

Truth in Politics 2014: A status report on fact-checking journalism
Our first summit produced through API’s fact-checking project assessed the state of political fact checking following the 2014 midterm elections, previewed major research projects sponsored through API, and looked ahead at what’s needed to improve and expand fact-checking efforts during the 2016 campaign. A summary of the event is here.

Producing value and revenue with online video
API’s summer 2014 summit was hosted at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and gathered executives, managers and producers pioneering creative digital video strategies at both legacy and startup news organizations. We discussed how leading publishers were approaching video during industry change.

Unlocking mobile revenue and audience: New ideas and best practices
Hosted in association with Google, API’s spring 2014 summit broke participants into small working groups for focused discussion on how to make strong mobile news products based on audience data and behavior. We discussed and then later distilled the best lessons learned from current leaders in mobile news.

Understanding the rise of sponsored content
API’s fall 2013 summit was held in association with The Atlantic to clarify and inform discussion around the increasingly common revenue stream. We talked about sponsored content’s potential, definitions, ethics, and more.

For more information, contact Kevin Loker, API’s director of program operations and partnerships, at