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Sept. 16, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
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$20 million is heading toward local news from the Lenfest Institute and Knight Foundation

“It’s not just an initiative — it’s an opportunity for others to join to address these challenges for local news, around the country and in Philadelphia.”

Boom, baby: After initially joining forces to boost Table Stakes — their project to boost the nation’s metro newspapers — the Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute are each putting $10 million into a joint fund targeted at local news. (Yes, $20 million total, with opportunity for more to come.)

Table Stakes was launched in 2015 by Knight and Temple University, bringing leaders from four metropolitan newspapers in the U.S. together to gameplan for their digital transition. Lenfest was founded in 2016 and began supporting the newly rebranded Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative in February 2017, expanding to 12 newsrooms.

Now, the new collaboration will center around three pillars, explained Lenfest executive director Jim Friedlich and Knight’s vice president of journalism Jennifer Preston:

The joint fund welcomes both additional funders and active participants.

“It’s not just an initiative — it’s an opportunity for others to join to address these challenges for local news, around the country and in Philadelphia,” Preston said. (Disclosure: Knight has provided funding to Nieman Lab in the past.) She pointed to the work of NewsMatch, which brings together major journalism boosters like Democracy Fund, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Facebook Journalism Project to, well, match donations to nonprofit news organizations at the end of each year.

Individuals who start salivating at the dollar amount in this article’s headline can wait in line. But seriously, the fund is a five-year commitment, with at least four organizations (not necessarily limited to newspapers, Friedlich said) joining Table Stakes through 2024. (The initiative periodically calls for applications to the next round.) Friedlich said the team will start putting out feelers for the second pillar of the tech resource hub, and open grant calls are forthcoming for the third pillar of Philly-specific investment.

“It’s not Philly for Philly’s sake, but it’s important to us that if we invest in a project like [the independent collaboration hub] Resolve Philly, what does it take to succeed and then scale that to other markets,” Friedlich said.

Knight and Lenfest have repeatedly focused on local news before, but the organizations see this fund as the next level in concentrating on and addressing the crisis, Preston and Friedlich agreed. Earlier this year, Lenfest and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center convened dozens of industry leaders from various organizations to prioritize potential solutions for local news sustainability. If you need a refresher on why local news deserves this prioritization, here’s how we phrased it then:

Local news has borne the brunt of the crashing journalism ecosystem, with still high levels of trust from readers but little trickle-down of subscription dollars while the ad revenue still whirls over to Facebook and Google. Poachers — a.k.a. some of the corporate leaders taking advantage of what income does remain, *cough* Tronc, Digital First Media, *cough* — don’t exactly help. And there aren’t plentiful resources for each local organization to experiment in the same way that national organizations can, though there are some efforts being made to strengthen ties across the local news industry.

POSTED     Sept. 16, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
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