The Compass Experiment’s Mandy Jenkins: Local news consumers don’t know it needs saving

Mandy Jenkins is the general manager of The Compass Experiment, a partnership between Google and McClatchy to explore sustainable business models for local news. Over the next three years, she will be leading the launch of three digital-only news operations in U.S. communities that have limited sources of local, independent journalism. She’ll be talking on Saturday, Oct. 26 at our LION Summit in Nashville (buy your tickets here!) about what’s coming next for this ambitious project. Here are some questions she answered for us:

What’s one media publishing resource or tool you’re obsessed with and would recommend to others?

I religiously read the American Press Institute’s daily Need to Know email newsletter and have for years. It’s hard for me to be on Twitter all of the time to see who is doing what, so I feel like API sort of does the job for me. Every day I learn something new that’s going on in the industry, be it new research that’s just been published, a trend happening in newsrooms, cool new projects being launched or news organizations being built. I always get good ideas for things we could be trying at The Compass Experiment.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned from the past year that you think others can learn from?

In the last year, I was diagnosed with cancer, which taught me a life-changing lesson about taking the time to care for myself. I was fortunate to have realized my symptoms when I was studying as a John S. Knight journalism fellow at Stanford University. There, I was able to take the time to go to the doctor right away. I think every day what it could have been like had I still been working full-time. Like many others in our industry, I worked long hours and often put off my personal life, including things like going to the doctor. It could have been months before I would have gotten myself checked out, and then it might have been too late. Journalists are mission-driven and it’s easy for us to put the work first, but I urge everyone to remember they only have one life.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about the local media industry tomorrow, what would it be and why?

I wish we could really help our local communities better understand that their financial support is key to keeping local journalism going. When The Vindicator announced it was closing its doors after 150 years of publishing in Youngstown, Ohio earlier this year – the local community was shocked. They had no idea the newspaper or the industry was struggling – and many of those lamenting the community’s loss of its only daily paper were not subscribers. They could have saved it, but they didn’t know it needed saving.

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Mandy will talk more about The Compass Experiment and her work at 10:50 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 26 at our Summit conference in Nashville. Tickets are still available here.