Making news deserts bloom again

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McClatchy’s Compass Experiment is one approach to starting new local ventures that serve “news deserts,” communities undercovered and underserved by existing news media. A locally owned, locally focused digital newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, has another great story to tell. Local news startups of all kinds — for-profit and nonprofit, independent and investor-owned, brand-new or extensions of existing products, mom-and-pop scale up to dozens of employees — have emerged to fill these vacuums. What lessons can be learned from these ventures?

Eric Barnes, CEO of The Daily Memphian in Memphis, Tennessee, and Mandy Jenkins, general manager of The Compass Experiment, McClatchy, will share lessons learned from these type of ventures during next month's Mega-Conference.

"In response to our legacy newspaper going through multiple owners and massive reductions in the number of journalists," Barnes said, " a group of concerned people in Memphis came together to launch a locally owned, locally focused digital newspaper that now employs 35 journalists, has 11,500 paid subscribers, and a growing advertising base. It’s a reminder that newspaper journalism didn’t fail — the business model that supported it did."

Jenkins said she and Barnes will discuss the "challenges and opportunities in starting a local news site, including market selection and determining coverage priorities, community engagement, staffing and revenue lines. This will be based on the Compass Experiment’s experiences in starting Mahoning Matters in Youngstown, Ohio, in the wake of the closure of the local newspaper."

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