We’re creating sustainable local news –and we need your help

What’s going on and what’s coming next with The Compass Experiment

Mandy Jenkins
Jun 11, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo: Getty Images

Anyone watching the headlines lately knows that local newsrooms across the country are hurting, and some have disappeared altogether. Many more still are barely operating, publishing news as a shadow of their former selves. Amid these closures and cutbacks, news deserts — areas that have no locally-based media — are blooming.

In losing their local media, these areas are losing some of the vital ways they used to connect as a community. Births, deaths, local sports, city council, and businesses opening or closings are all left to be passed around as rumors on social media.

This is where the Compass Experiment comes in.

We are a local news laboratory founded by McClatchy and Google to explore new sustainable business models for local news. Over the next three years, we will launching three digital-only news operations in small to mid-sized U.S. communities that have limited sources of local, independent journalism. Our goal is not only to support the dissemination of news in these communities, but also to make the local operations financially self-sustaining.

Local news is where I started my career and I feel it is the bedrock of our industry’s connection with the audience. Local news tells their stories, lives in their communities and earns their trust through the kind of accountability that comes when you might run into your area reporter at the grocery store. We cannot ensure local journalism will survive for the long-haul without a focus on sustainability, which is why I sought to be a part of this initiative in the first place.

While we are very early in this project — so early, in fact, that I technically haven’t started yet — but here are a few things I want to share about our plans so far.

1. We aren’t going to be in the business of parachute journalism.

2. All sites won’t be the same.

3. These sites will have to be self-sustaining at some point.

4. We won’t be doing this alone.

5. We won’t be doing this in the dark.


Where we are now

  • Has a population of roughly 60,000 to 300,000
  • Is not part of or close to a major city — we’re looking to cover communities where people work and live
  • Has an engaged citizenry that votes, volunteers and is already focused on making their city a better place
  • Has no or few sources of local news, or recently lost a local news provider

We want to hear your ideas. If you live in a community that is hungry for local news, let me know.

If you want to be a part of what we’re building, drop me a line.

If you’re already working on this problem and want a collaborator, I’m here for you.

I didn’t join The Compass Experiment only to make incremental improvements to the three communities where we’ll be starting new sites. I want to be part of a movement to make local news sustainable everywhere. I hope you’ll join me.

Mandy Jenkins is the incoming General Manager for the Compass Experiment. She can be reached via email at compassexperiment@mcclatchy.com or via Twitter (DMs are open).

The Compass Experiment

The Compass Experiment is a local news laboratory founded…

Mandy Jenkins

Written by

GM at The Compass Experiment/McClatchy. Publisher at Mahoning Matters. Formerly of ambitious news startups and legacy newspapers alike. Survivor.

The Compass Experiment

The Compass Experiment is a local news laboratory founded by McClatchy and Google to explore new sustainable business models for local news.

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