Knight-Lenfest Fund awards $1.65 million to API to continue management of Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program

The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund today announced a $1.65 million grant to the American Press Institute (API) to continue API’s management of the core activities of the Table Stakes Local News Transformation Program through 2023. 

The Table Stakes program advances innovations in local journalism through intensive change-management training for news leaders. The program has a proven track record of helping news organizations build foundations for sustainable futures in the digital age. The metaphor of “table stakes” alludes to the capacities publishers must have to be “in the game” of contemporary news publishing, and the program identifies specific skills and abilities news organizations must master to thrive.

“We are proud to continue partnering with and supporting the Table Stakes program and extended community of news leaders, coaches, and alumni,” said Knight-Lenfest Fund Director Diana Lu. “The program has continued to evolve and adapt to an audience-centric approach and respond to the critical needs of news leaders and the communities they serve. This includes diversifying revenue streams and audiences, addressing equity in tandem with business sustainability, and fostering a culture of care for journalists.” 

In 2019, the Knight-Lenfest Fund, a joint initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, awarded API a $3.3 million grant to manage and expand the Table Stakes program. The funding announced today will continue to build on that momentum and will help news organizations put a laser focus on building audiences through new suites of products and creating new lines of revenue. These efforts will include:

  • Updating the Table Stakes offerings for changing business models, product development and to further center principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging
  • Training and supporting a larger and more diverse team of new coaches for all versions of the program
  • Supporting the Better News website, where learnings from Table Stakes are published as case studies that detail the strategies used to achieve success
  • Providing new programming to support alumni organizations through sprints on themes identified by alumni as areas they most need to improve — 1) digital subscription growth and retention, 2) engaging with and serving diverse communities and 3) product development

API will continue to partner with the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education to emphasize diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as part of the Table Stakes programming. Transforming the internal cultures and business practices of news organizations is crucial to serving the whole of their communities and critical to ensuring long-term sustainability. 

The nearly 170 Table Stakes alumni organizations that have learned the tools and frameworks for managing change are poised to dig deeper on the most pressing issues the local news industry faces. In 2022, API’s Table Stakes programming will focus on advancing the work of these alumni organizations. 

News Catalyst, which provides news organizations with digital tools, fosters collaboration and promotes experimentation, will support teams with product development initiatives. News Catalyst is also funded and supported by The Knight-Lenfest Fund.

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.

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