How we recruited our second cohort

Documenting the pre-kick-off phase of our 2022 cohort project

Hannah Wise
Published in
4 min readOct 13, 2022


Image by upklyak on Freepik

It was a busy summer at the lab and it feels like we have already been through several seasons: we wound down our first cohort, had some staffing changes, cleaned up technical debt and prepared for our second cohort. In this post, we’ll share our process around recruitment for and kick-off with this new group of four newsroom partners.


While we had a solid recruitment process in place already, there were a number of changes we made to try and improve both for the lab internally as well as to the diversity of candidates we brought in.

For our first cohort, we opened applications with announcements on various social platforms and Slack communities, in newsletters sent by industry colleagues and directly to newsroom leaders we had previously connected with. We ended up with a cohort of two: The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Texas Tribune.

For our second cohort, we set out to partner with three newsrooms whose mission it is to serve historically marginalized communities and recognized that one-way, digital communication was insufficient in helping us achieve that goal. As the Product and Community Lead, I spearheaded these efforts and started by crafting an application form that our team felt would elicit a more thorough understanding of candidates’ organizations, including the diversity they had across leadership positions, details about their intended audience and their current strategic goals. We also wanted to know that the person applying had the buy-in from the rest of their organization to experiment, especially the person or department managing product development. This more involved application form, while still a low barrier to entry, allowed us to find the best fit and go into our interviews with fewer, more specific questions to advance the process.

Our goals up to this point were:

  • Create a quick and easy application process for candidates who are already incredibly busy, though eager to collaborate and receive support
  • Make as little an imposition on candidates’ time in an interview, while also determining the best strategic, technical and values-based fit for our project
  • Ensure we had as diverse representation among partners (which includes both the make-up and target audience as well as the geographic location of the publications)

In order to improve upon my first cohort recruitment efforts, I reached out to colleagues within journalism affinity groups including Journalists of Color Slack, The Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA), Asian American Journalists Association, and Local Media Association and their Word in Black collaborative. I also posted in Slacks that focus on technology in journalism (like News Product Alliance and News Nerdery) and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) (like the DEI Coalition for Anti-Racist, Equitable, and Just Newsrooms). I am pleased to report these efforts resulted in partnerships with organizations that are reporting within and for communities that have historically been underserved by the media.

Shortlisting and making decisions

From our full list of applicants, we created a shortlist based on the following criteria:

  • Desire to build capacity
  • Existing technical product expertise
  • Existing content management platform
  • Organizational diversity, in leadership positions and intended audience revenue sources
  • Strategic interests and goals

We looked to these criteria with the goal of seeking a mix in some areas (e.g. with capacity-building and existing technical expertise) and consistency in others (e.g. high degree of diversity). We thought hard about the potential mix of partners and how we all might complement each other. After our interviews, we extended invitations to four newsrooms: Dallas Free Press and Open Vallejo The 19th*, and AfroLA; all of which are aligned strategically and serve a diverse range of audiences across the country.

We kicked off the project in June with our four incredible partners to open up lines of communication, collaboration and surface shared priorities and problems to solve — which will be covered in our next post.

About the Local News Lab

The Brown Institute’s Local News Lab is a team of engineers, designers, and data scientists working to build AI-powered, open-source products to help support local newsrooms and their businesses. The team’s work is collaborative, partnering with small- to medium-sized publishers across the country.

While large national news outlets can have groups of data scientists in-house producing insights and products that optimize audience engagement and drive reader revenue, helping ensure their sustainability and survival; local and community-based newsrooms are often left stretching their limited resources in every direction. We aim to help our partner organizations overcome the barriers to mobilizing the best data science to support their business strategies.

We are grateful to the Charina Endowment and the John S. Knight Foundation for supporting our work.



Hannah Wise

Product + Community Lead at the Local News Lab (@LocalAtBrown) at Brown Institute (@BrownInstitute) | Coach + Consultant | Former @cbcnews