Research project seeks ‘replicable models’ for public media newsroom mergers

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Public Media Venture Group is partnering with the Google News Initiative to study the viability and challenges of mergers that combine public media newsrooms and digital news outlets.

The Public Media Merger Project will develop case studies of previous mergers and collaborations between public media and digital news outlets to “determine replicable models going forward,” said Marc Hand, who leads PMVG.

Researcher Elizabeth Hansen will produce the case studies over the next nine months. Her research and data collection will examine mergers completed since 2013 and take a deeper look at those initiated within the past two years, according to PMVG’s news release. Hansen has conducted research for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School and the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Participating organizations will include WNET’s NJ Spotlight and NJTV; Colorado Public Radio and Denverite; WHYY in Philadelphia and Billy Penn; Rocky Mountain Public Media; and KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., and LAist. PMVG is working to confirm participation by other organizations, according to Hansen.

“We think these case studies provide a good history and data on what has worked and where expectations have fallen short that then can be used for other local markets where public stations and other news services could merge or develop partnerships/collaborations,” Hand said.

The project will also bring together participating organizations “to share what is working and to workshop common challenges,” Hand said. Foundations and other entities involved in strengthening local journalism will also participate in these events, according the PMVG.  

“We know that technical integration, workflow, culture, governance and finances can each present challenges in bringing two news organizations together, so the convening is a chance for people to talk face to face, share what they are learning, and help each other,” Hansen said.

Google News Initiative is Google’s $300 million, three-year project to support independent journalism.

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