On the eve of the 15th annual Knight Media Forum, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announces an investment of more than $4 million over three years to help local publishers of color become more financially sustainable. The investment, which builds on Knight’s long-time support for diverse communities, aligns with Knight’s strategy to help journalists, publishers and newsrooms increase trust, reach diverse audiences and generate sustainable revenue models. 

Knight’s investments include:

  • The Knight x LMA BloomLab, a program that’s expanding to invest $1.3 million in 26 Black-owned local news outlets. 
  • Startup networks Capital B and URL Media, as well as the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program to increase newsroom leadership diversity.

“These investments show just how important continued support for publishers of color remains in the industry,” said Jim Brady, Knight’s vice president of Journalism. “Many legacy Black newspapers remain trusted voices in their communities, but have struggled as more Americans get their news from digital sources. Supporting legacy newsrooms and nurturing startup networks run by innovative leaders shows our commitment to publishers of color, helping Knight better serve the information needs of these communities.”

The projects that Knight has partnered with include:

  • Knight x LMA BLOOM Lab at the Local Media Association ($3.2 million) to expand its successful Lab for Black-owned media outlets to include 26 publishers over the next three years. The Lab is a digital transformation program that helped its first five participating newspapers more than triple digital revenues with assessment, training and coaching. Each news outlet will receive $50,000 to support their work. The Knight investment enabled the Lab, led by LMA Chief Content & Collaboration Officer, Andrew Ramsammy, and LMA Chief Operating Officer Jay Small, to hire three full-time employees to support the Lab, including: Robert Walker-Smith, digital revenue director; Apryl Pilolli, technology director; and a soon-to-be-named program director/coach. They will provide expert advice on smart technical and digital business strategies, and then directly provide funds to support the continued transformations of these publications.
  • Capital B ($500,000) to launch a new Black-led nonprofit news outlet serving local Black communities. The Knight investment will help Capital B- which has already raised $9 million-  hire a new audience director and membership director. The startup launched its first bureau in Atlanta, with plans to launch future bureaus in other cities with large Black communities. According to a 2021 study by CUNY’s Center for Community Media, Black publishers are six times more likely than non- Black publishers to write about subjects of importance to Black communities, such as health disparities, voting access, policing policies and racial justice.
  • URL Media ($250,000) to support an expanding network of 10 Black, Indigenous and People Of Color (BIPOC)-owned news organizations, unlocking access to national revenue streams and audience growth. The Knight investment will help them hire more staff to scale operations, pilot a new advertising network, and increase audiences. URL Media plans to identify the most pressing business challenges facing BIPOC news outlets and provide solutions to improve reach, revenue, and sustainability.
  • International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) ($200,000) to increase newsroom leadership diversity through fellowships for 20 women and non-binary journalists, primarily Black and Hispanic, through its Gwen Ifill Mentorship Program. The Program aims to increase diverse representation at the leadership levels by providing early-career mentorship opportunities, laying the groundwork and building networks for future news leaders to accelerate their careers. 

“Thanks to the LMA Lab we were able to significantly grow our digital revenue and audience, especially around newsletters and promotions,” said Elinor Tatum, publisher and owner, New York Amsterdam News. “The Knight x LMA Bloom Lab will help take our transformation to a whole new level. We’re especially excited about the technology stipends and dedicated resources to help us execute.” 

“Since establishing sustainability for publishers of color as one of our four core pillars in 2018, the LMA has helped nearly 100 BIPOC organizations with business transformation, monetization and audience-building strategies,” said Nancy Lane, LMA’s chief executive officer. “The Knight x LMA BloomLab will take these efforts to a whole new level as we will be able to provide unprecedented resources, specifically focused on technology, to a group of 26 Black-owned-and-operated media organizations. We’re thrilled to partner with the Knight Foundation on this groundbreaking industry initiative.”

These grants complement Knight’s $300 million, five-year commitment to invest in new, scalable initiatives with the potential to underpin a fresh future for local news and strengthen journalism.  

For more on Knight’s strategy to support local news, visit: https://knightfoundation.org/features/localnews/

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