In January, Oklahoma native and media veteran Rob Collins joined Local Media Association, charged with leading the Oklahoma Media Center, a journalism collaborative of 20 state newsrooms.
Local Media Associaton launched the Oklahoma Media Center in May 2020 with initial funding from Inasmuch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. In August, Inasmuch Foundation committed additional support to sustain the collaborative through 2021. Oklahoma Media Center participants have received training to support business transformation, including collaboration, a refined newsletter strategy, and more. The OMC’s first effort — coverage of the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s K-12 educational system — has resulted in 34 stories published across Oklahoma.
We wanted to learn more from Collins on his outlook for the Oklahoma Media Center and how collaboratives fit into the future of media.
Rob, we are excited to welcome you to LMA. Tell us a bit about your professional and journalism background.
I interned in radio and got a journalism degree in multimedia production. I started working at newspapers in college, learning the nuts and bolts of reporting and editing, and later taught media writing as an adjunct instructor. Since the pandemic, I was editing two daily publications full-time, serving as regional editor, state Capitol bureau editor, and overseeing a magazine.
What are some of your goals for the Oklahoma Media Center this year?
The Oklahoma Media Center is setting annual goals for the collaborative this month. Personally, I am eager to learn more about collaborative storytelling, fundraising, filing for nonprofit status and helping facilitate innovative ways for new journalism revenue in my native state.
How do you view the role of collaboration in the future of journalism?
An overarching goal of the Oklahoma Media Center is to help sustain and shape the future of Oklahoma’s media ecosystem. While the concept of collaboratives may be abstract to those outside of the industry, I believe they are crucial to our future and make us stronger.
What excites you most about leading the Oklahoma Media Center?
After working for decades in for-profit publishing, this is a new way of helping fortify an industry I love. Professional journalists are like an endangered species, and I hope to provide leadership to build trust and find common ground for future collaborative journalism efforts.
Heading into what is sure to be another historic year for news, what keeps you up at night? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
If we don’t have a baseline of indisputable facts, the future of our republic is doomed. In my hometown newspaper in Oklahoma, we had a four-decade subscriber cancel last election because we reported the Associated Press election results. And editing letters to the editor is harder than ever. We need to rely on verified, documented information. Unfortunately, that line in the sand is shifting for some and falling out of the hourglass for others.
I’m eager to focus my efforts solely on the Oklahoma Media Center. With the shifting media landscape, we must adapt and forge new partnerships in our evolving world.