The Knight x LMA BloomLab, a major expansion of Local Media Association’s Digital Transformation Lab for Publishers of Color, had its official virtual launch event on April 28. The purpose of the BloomLab is to improve sustainability for Black, locally owned and operated media companies via technology.
The BloomLab team — Robert Walker-Smith, digital revenue director; Apryl Pilolli, technology director; and John Celestand, program director — and other LMA team members welcomed the 10 publishers participating in the first cohort of the BloomLab.
The event featured a fantastic lineup of guest speakers to engage the publishers. Karen Rundlet, director/journalism with the Knight Foundation, touched on the inequities in journalism opportunities for people of color, further supporting why the Knight x LMA BloomLab is so important for Black-owned local media organizations.
Rebecca Carroll, award-winning writer, podcaster and author of “Surviving the White Gaze,” captivated the participants by sharing her journey as a writer, editor and cultural critic in an industry where the black perspective is not always welcomed. She challenged the industry and its ability to accurately depict a diverse range of perspectives to all audiences. “If journalism stays segregated how can we still call it objective?” said Carroll.
Todd Handy, LMA board member and chief digital officer at Beasley Media Group, rounded out the event by speaking on the importance of innovation and “Dual Transformation” for Black local media organizations. “Dual Transformation is the greatest single challenge a leadership team will face,” said Handy. “It is also the greatest opportunity a leadership team will encounter.”
More than 80 percent of participants indicated in a survey that they were extremely satisfied with the launch meeting content.
In the weeks leading up to the official launch meeting, the BloomLab team engaged the first cohort of participating publishers. Early accomplishments include:
- Developed relationships with key point people at each publication
- Conducted a preliminary SWOT analysis on the participating organizations
- Performed technology assessments on each organization
- Scheduled monthly individual one-on-one calls with publishers
- Facilitated a “soft launch” virtual webinar April 14 to relay logistical information.
The BloomLab team also asked publishers to complete an internal organizational needs assessment that helped identify potential focus areas for both LMA and the participating publishers during the lab. Some of the areas identified included updating and/or creating internal organizational charts and business manuals; employee training and retention; revenue performance analysis; and improving time management.
The BloomLab team shared some of these early findings May 5 during the first two-per-month regular meeting with all 10 publishers.
Applications for the second cohort of eight publishers will open in July 2022. A third cohort will be announced in the first quarter of 2023. News organizations that are accepted will receive shared learning opportunities, technology stipends of $50,000, access to the lab’s three full-time dedicated directors and consulting around business transformation and technology. All Black-owned local media outlets are encouraged to apply.