LocalLabs, Formerly Journatic

The Challenge

Protecting a media reputation and business investment after a plagiarism crisis

In an effort to expand its digital offerings and lower the cost of content production, Tribune Media invested in media technology company Journatic (now operating as LocalLabs). The Journatic operating model replaced local news reporters by using contractors and technology to compile, edit, and package extensive data sets. The challenge shifted from one of financial growth opportunity to that of a full-blown reputational crisis when NPR’s “This American Life” broke the story that Journatic was guilty of plagiarism and misidentifying individual reporters identities. The story received national coverage and threatened the Tribune’s esteemed reputation.

The Solution

Executing a proactive external and internal communications campaign, rebranding Journatic, and publicizing organizational changes

Journatic and Tribune executives worked with Hawthorne Strategy Group to quickly develop a tactical execution campaign designed to ensure the viability of Journatic. Hawthorne developed fact sheets, press releases, Q&As, and internal employee messaging, in addition to identifying public speaking opportunities and providing targeted interview requests. The campaign aimed to correct falsehoods, publicize Journatic’s message, and demonstrate how Journatic addressed the legitimate journalistic concerns.

Hawthorne engaged a former journalist to review Journatic policy and ethical reporting standards. The company then implemented meaningful reforms that corrected and prevented further lapses in journalistic integrity. Publicizing these reforms was an essential step in restoring the public’s confidence in Journatic and the Tribune.

The Results

A full restoration of Tribune Media’s business investment and reputation

Hawthorne successfully assisted Journatic in avoiding long-term reputational damage and reframing the media conversation over a three month period. Journatic survived, rebranded as LocalLabs, and emerged as a bellwether of the continuing evolution of American journalism. With Hawthorne’s support, LocalLabs (Journatic) restored its business credibility in the marketplace and turned from a PR mess to financial success. The company continues to produce content for American newspapers and has expanded its corporate offering by providing regulatory, licensing, and legal editing services for non-media clients.