Lila Mills, Signal Cleveland
Lila Mills, Editor-in-Chief

As we work our way through hiring for the initial roles in the newsroom, we talk a lot about looking for candidates who bring founding energy. What does that mean? All of us in the newsroom are the founders of the roles we have. Each of us is not only performing a job but also taking the initiative to define the role in a way that is consistent with our values.

As we welcomed our first reporters to Signal Cleveland this week, our values have been front and center. I’d like to dive into them here as we move closer to launching our reporting later this fall. These values are what set us apart in a field that can often become an echo chamber for its own ideas. 
Our values – developed over the last two years in our work with Cleveland Documenters and first outlined in this piece by Lawrence Caswell, our managing editor, community – are at the core of what we are working to create with Signal Cleveland. These values help ground us; they guide us back to center when we inevitably make mistakes (and they help us learn from those mistakes); and they keep us accountable to Greater Clevelanders. 
Our values include: 

  • Move at a pace that respects community.
    • We are accountable to community questions and interests and operate first with a respect for community, not an arbitrary deadline.
  • Flip the traditional news/civic information dynamic.
    • Instead of civic information trickling out of the news of the day, we start with providing civic information and tools. Reporting flows from gathering and distributing that information.
  • Hold and nurture accessible, informal community gathering spaces where everyone has a voice and power is shared.
    • In these spaces, people are able to step into civic life in a way that feels safe, fun and productive.

We will be discussing our values in big and small ways throughout our first year, including at a monthly newsroom-wide meeting to discuss how we’ve stayed true to our values and how we’ve implemented them in our daily operations. In these  conversations, we’ll be asking ourselves: “When and why does it matter for us to be first?” We know if there’s a story that is core to who we are, then it will matter for us to be first on that story. Of course, what will matter more is that we report and tell the stories that are consistent with who we are and with our values. It is an ambitious goal, and all of us in the newsroom, as a founding team, are committed to achieving it every day.
Welcome reporters Candice Wilder and Paul Rochford to the Signal Cleveland newsroom! They started this week, and you may have seen them out and about with Mark Naymik, our managing editor, news. They are starting with learning and team building. Candice will be covering health, and Paul will be covering K-12 education. Over the next month, they will be working with our growing newsroom and with community members to define their beats and begin producing stories. 
It is by launching Cleveland Documenters — a community of Greater Clevelanders trained and paid $16 an hour to take notes or live tweet local public meetings — that a small team of us first outlined what have become Signal Cleveland’s values.

Ever since launching in 2020, we have been continually inspired by the work and energy of Cleveland Documenters. This week Documenter Kellie Morris was at Cleveland City Council handing out flyers about Documenters and inviting those in the audience to sign up. Almost 600 Greater Clevelanders already have. There is a Documenter living in every residential ZIP code in Cleveland and almost every ZIP code in Cuyahoga County. 

Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to this newsletter and invite others to follow us @signalcleveland so we can increase our impact and reach more Greater Clevelanders.

Have a question or want to make suggestions for the newsroom? I’m listening. Email me at You can also call or text 216-220-9398.

Signal Cleveland in the community

Signal Cleveland team members will be at several events this month. Find us here:

Editor-in-Chief (she/her)
Lila is the founding editor-in-chief of Signal Cleveland, the Ohio Local News Initiative's Cleveland newsroom. Lila, who has experience in community building and journalism, led the launch of Cleveland Documenters in 2020. Formerly associate director at Neighborhood Connections, a Cleveland-based organization that has done groundbreaking work building community networks, Lila has been a newspaper reporter, a student-journalism advisor and a freelance news producer. Born and raised on the southeast side of Cleveland, Lila is a first-generation college graduate with degrees from Columbia University.