The power of local news



We are excited to invite news publishers to participate in Table Stakes Europe. The vision is to build in Europe on the the proven model of Table Stakes plus performance-driven change methodologies and programmes that have helped dozens of local news groups in the US transform themselves to dramatically improve their audience and digital capabilities and results.

The Table Stakes Europe programme for local and regional newspaper enterprises is created through a collaboration of WAN-IFRA and Table Stakes architect Doug Smith in partnership with the Google News Initiative.


Why it Matters.

We find ourselves in the midst of a global proliferation of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and hate speech, spreading rapidly across global platforms adapted to scale and not the nuances of local culture and community. People cannot lose the news and information they need to make good choices for their families, to participate in their communities. Our belief is that trust, democracy and civic engagement are built from the ground up. Local news plays a critical role in this process and high quality and financially sustainable local journalism are indispensable for people to have a shared understanding and connectivity on which geographically-bound communities depend to govern themselves effectively.

This requires local and regional newspapers to be more intentional about choosing the local audiences they serve, the jobs they do for those audiences and how local and regional newspapers can build needed skills, work and work flows, technology and tools to serve those audiences well – and monetize their efforts effectively.

Essentially, local and regional newspapers must find new, more robust ways to build valued and valuable local audiences.


Beginning in 2015, Douglas Smith co-founded, designed and led an expanding effort to help US local news enterprises find audience-first high-quality journalistic pathways toward sustainability built on digital transformation. These efforts are popularly known as “table stakes”. This framework asks, “What are the table stakes – the minimum – that are needed to even have a seat at the table?”

In the United States, “Table Stakes” is a project of the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative. Participating local news enterprises have successfully used a challenge-centric, performance-and-accountability change methodology to identify and then close shortfalls against the seven core table stakes – and, in doing so, have significantly improved their financial sustainability while, critically, also building the capabilities required to identify and serve local audiences both digitally and otherwise. The online resource for the U.S. Table Stakes project is Better News.

WAN-IFRA and GNI now bring both the table stakes and challenge-centric approach to small and medium local and regional legacy news enterprises in Europe. The purpose and objectives of the Programme are to help the selected participants transform their enterprises by closing shortfalls against the seven core table stakes, increasing consumer-based revenue, and building audience-first and digital capabilities.


“Local news helps support an informed and politically active local citizenry”


The Knight Foundation - Lenfest Institute legacy.

In 2015, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation asked Doug Smith to establish a challenge-centric approach to helping big city legacy newspaper organisations find their way to both journalistic and financial sustainability. They designed the programme, named it “Table Stakes”, and agreed to oversee a pilot that would work with the Philadelphia Media Group (Inquirer, Daily News,, Dallas Morning News, Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, and Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Table stakes” comes from a framework of strategy that uses a poker analogy to ask, for any industry/business, what are the table stakes – what’s the ante or minimum needed to even have a seat at the table: that is, to even be in the game. (The framework also asks for ‘differentiators’: that is, how one wins the game.)

In November 2015, Knight Foundation gathered more than sixty executives from these news enterprises, including both newsroom and business side. The American Press Institute to joined in this effort. The programme team shared with them a list of specific roles/skills (e.g. copy editor), work/workflows (e.g. editorial meetings) and technology/tools (e.g. CMS) that would be key to successfully transforming their news rooms and news enterprises.

All participants have been asked to describe what is required to be at ‘table stakes’ versus ‘not table stakes’ for a list of scores of specific roles/skills, work/workflows and technology/tools. The level of detail they provided proved the hypothesis that they did know what was needed. And, when they were asked how their enterprises compared to what they themselves identified as required, they confirmed our second point: they were not doing the needed table stakes.

At that point, the programme shifted into the challenge-centric methodology to use specific performance challenges that could help them close the gaps between being in the new game versus not. Each of the enterprises identified three performance challenges in early 2016 – and they took advantage of the challenge-centric methodology and tools, coaching, peer group gatherings, and other resources to focus on achieving success. By September/October 2016, there had been enough progress – results, capabilities, closing table stakes gaps – that Knight Foundation along with the new Lenfest Institute chose to expand the Table Stakes programme, now officially called the Knight Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, in 2017.

Since then, close to eighty news organisations (newspapers, TV, and radio) have successfully completed the Programme.


Ready to join?

Table Stakes Europe is a WAN-IFRA Programme in partnership with Google News Initiative

Table Stakes Europe is a WAN-IFRA Programme in partnership with Google News Initiative