Revenue diversification, audience measurement and a focus on business planning were among the key takeaways from the three-day Community Journalism Executive Training program held in Los Angeles, Calif. last week.
More than 30 independent for profit and nonprofit publishers attended the event, a collaboration of the Investigative News Network, Block by Block and the Knight Digital Media Center at USC Annenberg. The program is based on the Block by Block Super Camp — a training and mentoring program for publishers, produced by KDMC and supported by the Patterson Foundation.
Among the speakers were Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, Chris Sopher from the Knight Foundation, and Joseph Meyer from the Sundance Festival. The newsrooms were also mentored by Janet Coats and Rusty Coats.
This program was possible thanks to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Patterson Foundation and the McCormick Foundation.
INN’s goal was to provide hands-on training and guidance from mentors to build sustainable independent journalism organizations. Block by Block‘s Super Camp model provided business strategy for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
By working in small groups and pairing publishers with mentors, CJET helped to identify the strengths and weaknesses that each independent news organization currently faces.
Many community news leaders did not start out with a business plan. Instead, the mission to serve their communities with vital information came first. To correct that, each CJET participant walked away with an attainable 100-day business plans and realistic strategy to bring it to fruition.
Evan Smith, CEO and Editor in Chief of the Texas Tribune spoke to CJET attendees about the importance of making money. (More on Smith’s Q&A will be posted soon.) It’s not possible to ignore the business part of running a news organization, Smith told the audience. Publishers must be just as involved in business planning and revenue generation as they are in producing stories.
The focus on revenues led to several discussions and planning around diversification. Nonprofits and for-profits must not rely on a single source of revenue, because having only one source leads to a weak and vulnerable business. Many of the lessons about revenue generation, including leveraging crowdfunding and getting sponsorships, will be detailed here in later posts.
Another highlight from the training program was an emphasis on measurement. Whether it’s tracking your clients or measuring your impact, concrete records are vital for running a business and participants were educated in the various software possiblities. The training isn’t over yet. Mentors will continue to work with these community news leaders as they develop their businesses into sustainable operations.
INN thanks the many participants who made the CJET training program a productive and enjoyable experience.