Table Stakes: Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program


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Table Stakes: Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program

This intensive, 10-month program is proven to help local newspapers, public radio stations and digital news organizations make the transition to sustainable digital publishing and build a culture of performance-driven change.

February 1, 2022– November 30, 2022


  • Application closed on Dec. 1, 2021
  • Identify a performance challenge
  • Attend monthly webinars, participate in coaching and peer group calls, and attend two summits
  • Collect data and measure outcomes to track progress


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Learning Outcomes

Poynter’s Table Stakes program is challenge-driven. Your organization will define your own digital transformation goals, and then learn tools that help you accomplish those goals. Poynter’s coaches and resources offer you support as you lead your entire newsroom in pursuit of your challenge. Participants will:

  • Learn the principles of performance-driven change
  • Understand the seven Tables Stakes to sustainable publishing
  • Develop the individual skills and organizational capabilities to meet your challenge


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  • Application closed on Dec. 1, 2021
  • Identify a performance challenge
  • Attend monthly webinars, participate in coaching and peer group calls, and attend two summits
  • Collect data and measure outcomes to track progress

Training five or more people?
Check out our custom training.

It’s hard to find a newsroom that wasn’t transformed out of necessity by the crises of 2020 and 2021. Knowing what we know now, how will your news organization move forward with intention and ambition? 

Big challenges include how to reach and engage new and diverse audiences; how to lock in the new, more efficient and effective ways of doing business you’ve developed out of necessity (and not revert back to business as usual); and even how to regroup, lay out a fresh roadmap and drive forward on your sustainability goals.

Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program, part of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, can provide the structure, tools, performance focus, coaching support and peer network you need to align your enterprise around your biggest challenge. You don’t have to do it on your own. Each element of this program is designed to deliver high value while respecting and adapting to the time and resource constraints of your organization. 

We combine in-person gatherings (pending pandemic restrictions), regular online group seminars, peer group support and personalized coaching sessions to hold you accountable and help your entire organization succeed. You’ll also experience this transformation alongside other news organizations of different sizes and from different regions; they will serve as a sounding board, motivator and source of inspiration.

We viewed this as a reinvention of our entire organization. We see this program, and Poynter in general, as a way to stay on top of what’s cutting-edge and make sure we’re not an organization that looks back. We want to stay forward-looking, and Poynter helps with that.
— Mitch Pugh, former executive editor at The Post and Courier (now executive editor at the Chicago Tribune)

Program goals

Poynter’s Table Stakes project brings together leadership teams from eight to 10 diverse news organizations to:

  • Provide a pathway, based on the seven Tables Stakes, for transforming your news organization into an audience-focused, digital-first, market-leading, sustainable enterprise.
  • Define specific performance initiatives that will significantly advance your digital transformation and successfully achieve your objectives over the course of the year.
  • Identify and address the underlying skill, role, workflow, technology and culture changes required to achieve the objectives of the performance initiatives you take on.
  • Develop the individual skills and organizational capabilities you’ll need to continue the work beyond the project, using the tools and methodologies of performance-driven change.
  • Develop a peer network of news organizations that you can draw on to share and gain approaches, tools, technology and other resources in your mutual efforts to transform your organizations.

READ MORE: Anchorage Daily News went bankrupt in 2017. Now they’re making money.

The 2022 Table Stakes: Local News Innovation Program will primarily be virtual, with monthly webinars and quarterly coaching calls, peer group calls, and data tracking. The opening session will take place Feb. 8-10, 2022, and the closing session will take place Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2022. These three-day sessions will likely be in-person at the Poynter Institute in sunny St. Petersburg, Florida, depending on health guidelines.

Before the opening session, participants are highly encouraged to attend three pre-program webinars to learn key concepts of the Tables Stakes philosophy. These webinars take place Jan. 4, Jan. 12 and Jan 29.

This will literally transform the way you view your job. It will guide your interactions with your staff, your colleagues on the business side and your decisions on how to allocate scarce resources.
Lee Ann Colacioppo, editor of The Denver Post


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at

Want more information and community about how local news is changing? Join the conversation in our weekly newsletter, Local Edition.

Who should apply

The Poynter program is open to all local U.S. newspapers, public radio stations and digital news organizations. We specialize in coaching small to medium-size news organizations, with a focus on family-owned, Black-owned or independent newspapers. To be considered for this program, senior leaders in each organization must commit to full participation in the project.

Organizations in our 2021 Table Stakes cohort include: 100 Days in Appalachia, The Washington Informer, The Houston Defender, The West Central Tribune, The Redding Record Searchlight, The Observer Media Group, Richner Communications, Wick Communications, Boise State Public Radio, Alaska Public Radio, Oregon Public Radio, Houston Public Media, KUT (Austin), Texas Public Radio (San Antonio), and KERA.

Application process

To complete the application, you’ll need information about your market, your listeners, members and subscribers, circulation numbers and the names of four team members who will participate (they should be in leadership positions overseeing business and/or editorial).

In addition, you will be asked to carefully read and sign this Memorandum of Understanding to indicate your news organization’s commitment to prioritizing and providing resources to your Table Stakes project. This program requires leadership and commitment to tracking your progress and interacting with Poynter’s team of coaches and consultants. Your understanding of the time and effort is crucial. That’s what makes the difference in effectiveness. 

The time investment and hard work definitely pays off. Make it happen.
— Shane Benjamin, deputy editor at The Durango Herald


The yearlong training and individual coaching sessions cost $500-$6,500, depending on the size of your news organization.

For newspapers:

  • Sunday circulation exceeding 100,000: $3,500 (reduced from $4,500)
  • Sunday circulation between 50,000 and 100,000: $2,000 (reduced from $3,000)
  • Sunday circulation of less than 50,000: $500 (reduced from $1,500)

For broadcast organizations:

  • Market size of 1-10: $6,500 (reduced from $7,500)
  • Market size of 11-25: $4,000 (reduced from $5,000)
  • Market size of 26 and below: $2,500 (reduced from $3,500)

For digital-only organizations of local or hyperlocal focus: $500 (reduced from $1,500)

In the event that the closing session is in-person, participants will pay for their own travel, lodging, ground transportation, meals outside the sessions and related expenses for the in-person gatherings. 

A $500 temporary authorization will be placed on your credit card when you apply. You will not actually be charged. Once you are accepted into the program, you will be invoiced for the correct total, based on the size of your newsroom. The authorization on your credit card will be dropped at that time.


We’d love to hear from you. Email us at

Want more information and community about how local news is changing? Join the conversation in our weekly newsletter, Local Edition.



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