Meet the 20 U.S. Newsrooms Participating in the Facebook Sustainability Accelerator

By: 10/20/2020

We are thrilled to announce the participants in the Facebook Sustainability Accelerator program. These 20 organizations are owned and led by people of color from across the United States, as part of the Facebook Journalism Project’s recent investment in publishers from and serving historically marginalized communities. 

The group was selected by Facebook staff, International Center for Journalists staff and Accelerator coaches from more than 300 applications from around the United States based on their demonstrated impact on their community, their commitment to the program’s requirements and their readiness to pursue their biggest business opportunities.

“We are honored to partner with this impressive group of publishers, whose newsrooms make a difference in their communities and serve as models for our industry,” said Joyce Barnathan, the president of ICFJ, an organization with global experience helping news media become stronger financially. “Without question, the work they do is critical, and an investment in their long term success is an investment in stronger communities.”

Half of the group is composed of Black-owned, Black-led publishers, including some of the nation’s oldest Black newspapers as well as digitally native organizations. 

"I am excited about the amazing media organizations that will be joining this inaugural Sustainability Accelerator," said Sara Lomax-Reese, President of WURD Radio in Philadelphia and program lead for this Accelerator program. "We are in a moment when Black- and Brown-owned and led media is absolutely essential to the future of this nation. This is an opportunity to provide skills and resources to help these organizations continue to grow, innovate and lead."

As a group, 80 percent of the publishers focus on local news.

Two thirds of the participants are from the US Midwest and South, areas that have historically received less investment than their colleagues on the coasts.

"The sustainability of the participant organizations, and the sustainability of all media serving marginalized people, is paramount. The legacy of Black-led media in the South is unmatched, with Black news organizations having played a pivotal role in Southern-born freedom movements from abolition to civil rights,” said Cierra Hinton, Executive Director at Scalawag Magazine and a coach in the program. “The Facebook Journalism Project's support of South-based participants enables the continuation of that legacy at a pivotal moment, as Black people in this country boldly lead the fight for justice yet again."

Just over half of the group are for-profit organizations. 

The publishers participating in the Accelerator are as follows:

  • Black Voice News, a nearly fifty-year old newspaper based in Riverside, California that has made great strides in its digital transformation and is owned by the second generation of the founding family.
  • Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, a watchdog group of veteran investigative reporters based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the only entity of its kind in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The organization recently earned the support of the American Journalism Project to support its growth.
  • Community Voice of Wichita is Kansas’ only Black newspaper, growing from the Wichita community to a statewide entity over the last 20 years.
  • El Mundo Boston, a nearly 50-year old news organization making the transition to a digitally-focused news operation for the Latinx community of the greater Boston area.
  • Flint Beat, a digitally native publisher from Flint, Michigan, notable for its tenacity, solutions journalism work and its collaborative efforts with the publisher’s readership. 
  • Hola Carolina, the sole major Spanish-language news outlet for the Western North Carolina region, has extensively covered the COVID-19 pandemic in the region and has played a key role in organizing distribution of PPE to the community.
  • Indian Country Today, a nationally-followed news organization with a base in Arizona, airs a weekday newscast through the FNX network and Arizona PBS, the only major broadcast focused on news for indigenous Americans.
  • La Raza Chicago, the city’s largest Spanish-language paper, has been serving its community for over 50 years and is working to pivot its business model to more fully capture its digital potential.
  • Lakota Times of South Dakota has built a reputation of incredible journalism covering the Lakota community in South Dakota and across the country over its fifteen years.
  • NextShark, one of the largest online destinations for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, reaching an audience of up to 15 million people per week on social media. 
  • Outlier Media fills critical information aps for low-income Detroiters and provides a model for how local newsrooms can reliably and efficiently serve the needs of these news consumers. The Outlier approach has inspired several similar efforts in other cities across the country.
  • PRISM, a national digitally native outlet whose staff is entirely composed of people of color, PRISM provides community members with concrete entry points for where they can better understand and participate in efforts toward necessary social change.
  • PushBlack reaches more than 9 million Black Americans across a variety of digital efforts including news, history and finance content delivered on Facebook messenger and its Black History Year podcast.
  • Rafu Shimpo, founded by Japanese students in 1903, has a storied history of providing Japanese-Americans in the Los Angeles area with quality local news.
  • Sahan Journal’s reporting centers on the immigrant and refugee experience in Minnesota from its base in Minneapolis, helping young journalists of color and people of immigrant backgrounds to develop as storytellers and authors.
  • St. Louis American, closing in on its 100th birthday, is a community institution in its region with extensive partnerships that will help it transition its already successful business into its next chapter.
  • The Atlanta Voice is transitioning from the Atlanta area’s most significant Black newspaper into a truly multimedia news organization, from revamping its digital business model to investing in new production facilities that will allow it to deliver news and information Black Atlantans and others have come to rely on over the last 55 years. 
  • The Charlotte Post has kept Black residents in Charlotte informed for over 100 years and is focused on revamping its businesses to make further staff and technological investments.
  • The Miami Times, the South’s largest black newspaper, is a nearly 100-year old family-owned operation that recently transferred to its next generation of leadership.
  • The Tennessee Tribune has brought the diverse, multi-faceted Black community of Nashville to life each week for the last 30 years. The newspaper is ready to improve its digital presence and develop a more comprehensive video strategy. 

“This is such a fantastic group of organizations -- a blend of nonprofits and for-profits, long-established brands and relative newcomers, focusing on communities of all sizes -- all critical to the health of journalism and democracy,” said Tim Griggs, the Accelerator’s executive director. “Even better is that our virtual 'room' will be filled with lots of really terrific leaders ready to roll up their sleeves and do the work to help their news organizations survive and thrive for the long haul. I could not be more thrilled to get started."

This program will be led by a dynamic team of media professionals from a diverse array of backgrounds and leadership roles. Among them: 

  • Program lead Lomax-Reese of WURD Radio in Philadelphia has a 30-year career focused on Black media entrepreneurship. She is a coach in the Major Metro Table Stakes program and a former board member of the Lenfest Institute. Sara and WURD Radio participated in the Facebook Membership Accelerator in 2020.
  • Fran Scarlett is the Chief Knowledge Officer at the Institute for Nonprofit News, a coach in the UNC-Knight Table Stakes initiative, and a graduate and a coach in the Media Transformation Challenge.
  • Scalawag’s Hinton is also the head of strategy at Press On, and a coach in the UNC-Knight Table Stakes initiative. Cierra and Scalawag participated in the Facebook Membership Accelerator in 2020.
  • Anita Li is an audience and engagement instructor at the Newmark Graduate School at CUNY, a board member for the Online News Association and a fellow in the 2016 Poynter-NABJ Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media. Anita, as a member of The Discourse, participated in the Canada Audience Development Accelerator in 2019.
  • Alberto B. Mendoza is the Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists with over 25 years of experience in the non-profit sector, 18 of those as an Executive Director. His specialities include fundraising, relationships building, short and long term strategy and new project development.
  • Ryan Tuck is a coach and consultant, and has held just about every job for both for-profit and nonprofit news orgs. In particular, he's worked as a reporter/editor, community engagement specialist, product lead, and consumer insights analyst. Ryan has been a coach in three other Accelerators.
  • Accelerator executive director Griggs, an independent consultant/advisor, is a former executive at The New York Times and the Texas Tribune.

The Accelerator will run from mid-October through early 2021, followed by a six-month period to execute on specific grant-funded initiatives (grants are distributed by ICFJ). As organizations go through the program, Facebook and ICFJ will share case studies about their projects so that other newsrooms can learn from their experiences. 

This story was first published on the Facebook Journalism Project's website.

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