Better Together: Merging Newsrooms for a New Public Media

This session will bring participants “under the hood” of the recent wave of mergers between digital news organizations and local public broadcasters to understand what’s working, what’s challenging, and how they made it happen.

The marriage of digital news outlets and public broadcasters would seem to be a perfect match in an environment of shrinking local news coverage. A local digital news outlet can bring editorial strength and technical expertise to a public broadcaster’s wide audience and strong member-driven business model. There has been a wave of such mergers over the last few years, and this session takes a look under the hood at how a few of those unions are going and what digital news reporters and public media professionals are learning in the process. What does it take to successfully merge the cultures and practices of two different types of media organizations? What are the challenges of aligning brands, business and product strategies, and editorial priorities? What have been the benefits to local audiences and what else is there to be explored?

This session will bring together representatives from two organizations that have hosted mergers over the last few years: NJTV and NJSpotlight; and KPCC and the LAist. This session is ideal for founders/leaders of small digital local newsrooms and public media news leaders who are interested in exploring acquisition/merger options in their communities; and journalism policy makers and funders who want to learn more about the model and reflect on whether it makes sense for their context.

Suggested Speaker(s)

  • Elizabeth Hansen
    News Sustainability Lead, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • John Mooney & Kristen Muller
    NJSpotlight and KPCC