Table Stakes: Poynter’s Local News Innovation Program

DEADLINE: Sept 15, 2020
TEACHING DATE:  Jan. 26-28, 2021 — Nov. 16-18, 2021
LOCATION: Online and at the Poynter Institute
COST: $500-$6,500, depending on newsroom size

We realize it’s been hard to think about anything but your COVID-19 reporting, your staff’s well-being and holding operations together in a virtual world.

But you’re also probably starting to think about what’s next, where you will be and what you will do after the pandemic subsides. And now is exactly the time to be thinking about and acting on how to get ahead of the curve. Big questions include how to:

  • Sustain and build on the audience gains that you’ve experienced
  • 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)
  • Regroup, lay out a fresh roadmap and drive forward on your digital transformation

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

Program details

This intensive, 11-month program, now in its fourth year, 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.

We combine in-person gatherings, 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,” said Mitch Pugh, executive editor at The Post and Courier. “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.”


Cheryl Carpenter
Leadership Faculty
The Poynter Institute

Quentin Hope
Independent Consultant

Tom Huang
Assistant Managing Editor
Dallas Morning News

Kate Myers
Executive Director, Revenue and Operations
First Look Media Work

Program goals

Poynter’s project brings together leadership teams from 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.

In short, Poynter’s Table Stakes program for local news innovation is challenge-driven. Your organization will define your own digital transformation goals, and then receive the tools, Poynter resources and support you need for your entire newsroom to rise to your challenge.

Who will benefit

The Poynter program is open to all local U.S. newspapers, public radio stations and digital news organizations. To be considered for this program, senior leaders in each organization must commit to full participation in the project.

Application process

To complete the application, you’ll need information for your market numbers, 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 sign this Memorandum of Understanding to indicate your news organization’s commitment to prioritizing and providing resources to your Table Stakes project.

Program Cost

“The time investment and hard work definitely pays off,” said Shane Benjamin, deputy editor at The Durango Herald, after his organization completed the program. “Make it happen.”

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)

Participants pay for their own travel, lodging, ground transportation, meals outside the sessions and related expenses for the in-person gatherings. (The program pays for coaching fees, as well as for one dinner and all lunches during the in-person sessions.)

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


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