The Oklahoma Media Center, a collaborative of local news media covering key issues for the state, has grown to 18 local journalism partners, and set its initial focus on ways COVID-19 has affected education in the state.

The OMC launched April 29 after Local Media Association leaders and consultants worked with Inasmuch Foundation to develop the model and bring the local media partners together.  Inasmuch provided $50,000 initial funding for OMC, allowing OMC partners to ramp up collaborative coverage. 

Since launch, the OMC has grown to 18 Oklahoma journalism partners, including newspapers, broadcasters and digital news outlets: Big If True, OU Student Media, Griffin Communications, KOSU, KFOR, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Watch, KGOU, StateImpact Oklahoma, Curbside Chronicle, Tulsa World, Oklahoma Eagle, Oklahoma City Free Press, The Luther Register, Nondoc, CNHI, Telemundo Oklahoma, and Center for Independent Journalism.

“It’s been wonderful to see the willingness of these newsrooms to work together,” said Jim Brady, a respected industry veteran who serves as LMA project manager for the OMC. “When you listen to the discussions about what stories to pursue, it’s obvious how much everyone cares about serving Oklahomans. I can’t wait to see the collective impact we can make working together.”

Initial journalism efforts will focus on ways the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis have affected education in Oklahoma, from pre-kindergarten through high school levels.

The OMC aims to make its first collaborative story efforts available by the first week of July. The news media partners have developed a set of topic ideas, within the overall education scope, for initial investigation and reporting, including:

  • Technology and the digital divide
  • Curriculum and teaching approach
  • Extracurricular activities and socialization 
  • Funding and spending
  • Physical and mental health 
  • Effects of housing dislocation 
  • Effects on non-traditional education modes

The Oklahoma Media Center, along with LMA’s newly launched collaborative in Chicago, is also focused on business transformation — making it different from other industry collaboratives.

“We call it ‘news collaborative meets business transformation,’” said Nancy Lane, chief executive officer, Local Media Association. “We’re working with the media partners on business performance indicators such as growing reader revenue and selling joint sponsorships. The group voted on email marketing as the first business project to work on together. We’ll be bringing in a top consultant in this space to help every company in the collaborative grow newsletter subscribers.” 

The Oklahoma Media Center is in talks with other funders and expects to announce more support soon. We’ll share our learnings with the industry every step of the way.