News Integrity Initiative gives $150k to American Press Institute to expand mentorship initiative and improve newsroom-community relationships

The News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY has granted the American Press Institute $150,000 to deepen and expand its existing newsroom mentorship initiative and help newsrooms create organizational cultures built on community listening.

With the funds, API will add to the mentorship capacity it has tested over the past year. In 2018, API sent expert advisers to nine newsrooms. These individuals acted as “just-in-time” advisers, helping news organizations with issues identified as critical to their larger strategy of change. These focus areas included podcasting, social strategy, newsletters, analytics and reader revenue funnel management, in addition to understanding audiences through engagement.

The News Integrity Initiative will help API expand its efforts in news organization culture change. See other sources of funding at API.

In 2019, newsrooms can apply for this hands-on guidance, as well as the opportunity to be part of a new cohort program with a special emphasis on community listening. The newsrooms in the cohort will learn and receive help alongside each other, including through in-person events and remote support. Each newsroom will also benefit from an adviser’s help in implementing core engagement techniques designed to cultivate a spirit of listening throughout the organization.

This cohort program builds on a growing body of API work on community listening in news. In September 2018, API published “How a culture of listening strengthens reporting and relationships,” a practical look at how newsrooms can gather and integrate community input and perspectives to produce more audience-centered reporting. The report synthesized ideas from an API summit earlier that year in Nashville, Tenn. In April 2018, API also published “The empathetic newsroom: How journalists can better cover neglected communities,” which explored ways newsrooms can repair relationships with communities they’ve overlooked or misrepresented. These practical guides complement findings from API’s Media Insight Project about the relationship between the American public and the news media, and what the two groups do and don’t understand about each other.

“We are so pleased to be able to expand our work with newsrooms and to focus on helping them learn how to listen to communities, which is so crucial to our mission as journalists and to the sustainability of journalism overall,” said Amy Kovac-Ashley, director of newsroom learning for the American Press Institute, where she focuses on the culture change required for journalism’s transformation and long-term success. “It is both necessary and critical for newsroom culture to support and encourage these efforts.”

“At the News Integrity Initiative, we believe the path to building enduring trust between news organizations and the public starts with listening and a genuine desire to understand and fulfill the public’s information needs,” said Molly de Aguiar, Managing Director of NII. “This grant will help API expand and deepen its work to foster listening and collaboration skills in newsrooms, toward a more informed and engaged public, and financial stability for local journalism.”

Journalists and publishers interested in better understanding the communities they want to serve, especially those alienated, neglected or marginalized, can contact Amy at amy.kovac-ashley@pressinstitute.org to learn more about receiving advice and support for culture change and other diversity or professional development initiatives. More information on the open application and cohort program will be coming in Need to Know, API’s daily newsletter that covers innovations and change in the media industry.

API mentorship work in 2018 was supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which will fund additional adviser projects in 2019. The Knight Foundation, together with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, also supports API involvement in the Knight-Lenfest News Initiative.

About the American Press Institute

The American Press Institute advances an innovative and sustainable news industry by helping publishers understand and engage audiences, grow revenue, improve public-service journalism, and succeed at organizational change. It is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization affiliated with the News Media Alliance. Its funding comes from several sources, including philanthropic organizations.

About the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

The News Integrity Initiative is a global coalition of partners, from newsrooms and nonprofits, to technologists and academics, with a vision for journalism that serves as a force for building trust, empathy and solutions in communities. To achieve this vision, NII develops diverse partnerships and makes grants centered around three specific areas of focus: building enduring trust between newsrooms and the public; nurturing inclusive civic dialogue; and combating media manipulation. NII is a project of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.