What happens when 100 local news leaders, academics, technologists, founders and funders come together to collaborate on the future of the news business for two days?
In the case of the first-ever “Accelerate: Local News Summit” in Denver this week, the answer was: surprising signs of optimism from across the country — and promising case studies that can be replicated.
Some of those case studies are here, at www.acceleratesummit.org. Among the news leaders you’ll see:
- Darryl Holliday, News Lab director at Chicago’s City Bureau, who shared how their Documenters program recruits, trains and pays local residents to attend city and state government meetings, contributing their notes to a communal pool of knowledge that helps hold government officials accountable;
- Rebekah Monson, co-founder and chief operating officer of startup WhereBy.Us, who demonstrated how email newsletters can be an exceptionally potent delivery method to serve the “news will find me” generation;
- Neil Chase, chief executive officer of CALmatters, who described the best approaches to enlisting journalists as key drivers to keep members and digital subscribers reading;
- Sandra Clark, vice president for news and civic dialogue at Philadelphia’s WHYY, who talked about why journalists need to abandon “audience engagement” in favor of focusing on community engagement and making news with and for people;
- Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at Arizona State University, who urged newsroom leaders to listen and create pathways for the next generation of journalists — who are ready to take on today’s digital realities and challenges. (One key component, Hill said: stop asking younger journalists to be just like you!);
- Bklyner publisher Liena Zagare and her husband, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, who in their first-ever joint interview said they mostly agree on local news business models when they talk about them at the dinner table.
Along with our partners at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Online News Association, we convened Accelerate to help this diverse group to share and collaborate with one another on their biggest challenges, bringing together potential partners, mentors and kindred spirits to help build a stronger news ecosystem. As you’ll see from the videos, the participants did not disappoint. [In order to let the participants speak freely about their business challenges, the hands-on sessions were held under “Chatham House Rule” — people are allowed to summarize what they heard and describe their own participation, but not quote others without permission. We want the findings and discussions to be public, but we also wanted to respect the participants and allow them to discuss new ideas candidly, with the confidence that they’ll be asked for an OK before anyone takes their words into another context.]
Of course there is still an enormous task in front of all of us as we work together on solutions for local news. We have to do this work in partnership with each other, sharing what’s working and what isn’t, and knowing there’s unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all answer across the industry.