20 community news publishers will get Knight training

Twenty community news publishers challenged by the business aspects of running their news sites will receive expert coaching through the Community Journalism Executive Training (CJET) program, a joint effort of The Patterson Foundation and the Investigative News Network, with $100,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Hosted by Knight Digital Media Center at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, the executive training program will be held October 18 – 20, 2012 in Los Angeles. The application process has not yet been announced, but all community news publishers are invited to apply.

Forty executives – 20 from investigative sites and 20 from community news sites — will be selected to participate. During the two-day training, they’ll be broken down into small groups to work with coaches experienced in running successful technology, media and digital news operations. Publishers will walk away with a 100 day tactical plan for building their businesses.

“This will be a highly focused working group. Not a lot of sage on the stage,” said Janet Coats, New Media Journalism Initiative Manager with The Patterson Foundation.

“We have been sharing with INN,” Coats said. “We wanted to talk about the general issues facing publishers – for-profit, nonprofit. Rather than trying to treat discrete problems.” Because INN already has an association it made sense for them to be the grant-seeking organization.

At a meeting of foundations in Florida last year, Knight had said it would be willing to fund a gathering of publishers from both the investigative and community news worlds to focus on issues of sustainability.

“There needs to be a change in the philanthropy. We knew we needed to do something different, because the way we have been doing things in the past has not met the urgency of the situation,” Coats said.

“Knight’s funding is about understanding that this is about a particular problem not about a particular community. These are people with different approaches, content, and financial models. Let’s work with the problem.

“This will be an important next step of testing,” Coats said.  “A lot of funders are watching this to see how can we build on what we’ve done.”

The executive training program has been under development since late last fall when the BlockbyBlock Super Camp started. Twelve community news publishers have been participating in SuperCamp, which also was developed as a program of Knight Digital Media Center at USC and consisted of two days of intensive business coaching after the BlockbyBlock Summit last year, and ongoing coaching. The initiative ends in September.

The Patterson Foundation funded SuperCamp,  which was kept under the radar because they did not know what was going to happen. They wanted to maintain a safe environment where the publishers would feel free to share.

“Patterson works in the cracks,” Coats said. “We look for what others are working on and how can we support those efforts or incubate new efforts. We are the laboratory so the other funders won’t have to take those risks.”

SuperCamp has been very active, coaching community news publishers through the specific next steps of running their businesses.

“The focus has been on what they needed; It’s been very personalized and tailored,” Coats said.  “The coaches describe it as helping the publishers transition from being the business to running the business.

“What I am pleased to see is that some of the publishers in SuperCamp are beginning to make that transition,” Coats said.

Findings from SuperCamp will be reported out in September and lessons learned will be incorporated into the next round of training.

Michele McLellan, who started the Block by Block initiative, said she was pleased with the results of Super Camp. “A major goal of the effort was to better understand the needs of online community news start ups as they try to become sustainable businesses. Knight saw the value of what The Patterson Foundation and KDMC have developed and is willing to support efforts to scale up the learning to reach more publishers.”

Read the announcement of the executive training for community news publishers on the Knight Foundation site.


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