New funding from Knight Foundation will help LMF assist publishers of color with building stronger digital platforms

(October 30, 2020) — The Local Media Foundation today announced new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in support of its efforts to assist publishers of color with migrations to state-of-the-art digital publishing technologies. Knight support will also help LMF report to the media industry on the impact and key lessons of the migrations.

The $60,000 Knight investment will fund a one-year comparative analysis and in-depth report on the state of digital readiness for a cohort of Black newspapers. Research for the report will be conducted in the process of advising and assisting the publishers’ migration to Newspack, a digital content management framework built on WordPress.

“Many publishers of color lack the resources to transition from print to digital ” said Paul Cheung, director of journalism and technology innovation at Knight Foundation. “This grant will identify what technology is most effective for the sustainability of these important community newspapers and surface the unique challenges that publishers of color face.”

LMF and Local Media Association, via their Digital Transformation Lab for Publishers of Color,  have worked with five Black newspaper organizations on general business transformation strategies — including digital publishing technologies — since September 2019. More recently, LMF and 10 Black publishers, including the five in the Lab, formed Word in Black, a news collaborative focused on reinventing the Black press for a sustainable future.

Four of the five Lab participants, and one additional publication in the Word in Black collaborative, are all converting to Newspack over the course of the next year.

Michael Grant

LMF has named Michael Grant, founder of Get Current Studio and teaching fellow at Google News Lab, to serve as lead consultant and prepare the report.

“This is an opportunity to reshape the online operations of this special cohort of the Black press,” Grant said. “Get Current Studio is pleased to support their efforts in becoming exemplary newsrooms. Capturing the fundamentals of a digital transformation along the way, and making these insights widely available, will help ethnic publishers rebuild from a roadmap.”

“A common tech stack for publishers of color has been on our wish list for some time,” said Nancy Lane, chief executive officer, Local Media Association. “We are grateful to the Knight Foundation for making this significant investment that will help our partners in the LMA Digital Transformation Lab with their conversion to Newspack. We’re thrilled to be working with Michael Grant as the manager for this project. We will share our learnings every step of the way.”

The key outcomes for this project include:

  • Strategic consulting for digital content system implementation at The Atlanta Voice, the New York Amsterdam News, Houston Defender Network and The Washington Informer. Others from the Lab or Word in Black cohorts may be added.
  • Consulting on key interfaces and integrations of third-party content and business platforms, such as video, ad server, membership, email and social tools.
  • For the industry report, development of “before-and-after” benchmarks and measures of project success, and case study reports that demonstrate the impact of the project. The four publishers that convert will be also compared to others in the Digital Transformation Lab and Word in Black cohorts that will not convert CMS in this time frame, to determine relative effectiveness of the migrations on business performance.

“Converting to Newspack is going to be a game changer for us,” said Elinor Tatum, publisher, New York Amsterdam News. “We are looking forward to working with Michael Grant and the LMA team on the execution so that we can continue to transform our business in new and exciting ways. We couldn’t have done this without the financial support of the Knight Foundation.”