Like many markets that IMG has opened publications in, Memphis’ story has two parts. After Paul Schutt was invited to Germany to speak about what was happening to the state of media in both U.S. and German cities, the team representing Memphis heard about what IMG was doing in Detroit. They wanted in. But Memphis didn’t just have a reputation problem, the region had a little sibling complex - thanks to Nashville eclipsing them with record growth. They were trying to build on the success of headquartering businesses like FedEx and had a loose coalition of city leaders already developing, which IMG was able to solidify. The community foundation, larger hospital systems, higher education institutions, and city leaders joined, to launch the publication High Ground in March, 2014 to better tell community stories of growth and change.
The second stage was how IMG’s On the Ground series became a cornerstone of the publication, embedding journalists in a neighborhood for six months to cover solutions journalism stories (17 neighborhoods were covered by the end of the program). After a year, one of Memphis’ largest foundations was so impressed with the publication’s OTG series and so concerned about the emerging news desert, that they joined as well and in 2017 Emily Trenholm (executive director of a local community development organization) joined to support editorial team through stakeholder outreach, community events, and other engagement strategies. High Ground recently received a contract with state and federal funding to continue OTG in Memphis, and the initiative has become a model for other IMG publications around the country.
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