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Leaders from this newspaper’s publishing company are participating in a yearlong program at the University of North Carolina designed to help news outlets improve their products and remain profitable in a shifting media landscape.
Restoration NewsMedia has been selected for the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative’s third cohort, which began with a strategic planning session last week at the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media in Chapel Hill.
Restoration is a joint venture of The Wilson Times and The Daily Record of Dunn. In addition to its flagship daily newspapers, the company publishes the twice-weekly Courier-Times in Roxboro and five weekly titles: The Wake Weekly in Wake Forest, the Johnstonian News in Kenly, The Butner-Creedmoor News in Creedmoor, The Enterprise in Spring Hope and The Mount Olive Tribune.
Keven Zepezauer, president and publisher; Tracy McLamb, general manager; Corey Friedman, executive editor; and Shana Hoover, director of sales and marketing for Restoration NewsMedia’s Wilson group, will represent the company in the Table Stakes strategic planning process.
“We’re proud to be part of an initiative that will help us serve our audience and make sure our online and print products are financially sustainable so we can maintain the local news coverage our readers rely on for decades to come,” Zepezauer said. “The newspaper industry is changing, and we’ll continue to adapt. Our commitment to readers and advertisers in each of our markets is one thing that will never change.”
Newspapers large and small have seen declines in print circulation and advertising revenue as more readers seek local news online. The “digital disruption” has forced nearly 1,800 papers to shutter since 2004, according to research by Penelope Muse Abernathy, a UNC journalism and media economics professor.
Economic challenges have also resulted in consolidation, with large corporate chains now operating most U.S. dailies. In April, The Daily Record and The Wilson Times — North Carolina’s only remaining independent daily newspapers — formed Restoration NewsMedia to bring their publications under one umbrella in order to share resources and streamline design and production operations.
Restoration NewsMedia is one of 13 participating media organizations. Others include the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Asheville Citizen-Times, The Charlotte Post, The Sumter Item, UNC-TV and the North Carolina Press Association.
Coaches include Tim Griggs, a media consultant who’s helped The New York Times and Texas Tribune develop digital business strategies, and Charlie Baum, founder of consulting firm Starting Point. Academics from UNC’s journalism school will also participate.
“We believe in the future of community journalism, and we’re excited to work with colleagues in the news industry to find ways to preserve and restore local newspapers,” Zepezauer said. “We’ll apply what we learn to roll out some exciting changes for our readers and advertisers.”
The UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Newsroom Initiative’s third cohort will meet regularly through August 2020.