LION hires DeRienzo to expand leadership in local publishing

'Indie news sites are among the brightest lights in local journalism'

By Dylan Smith | Feb. 15, 2015

LION Publishers is pleased to announce that industry leader Matt DeRienzo has been hired as the group's interim Executive Director.

DeRienzo will assist the volunteer-led nonprofit group's work to connect the members of Local Independent Online News Publishers, and to foster the growth of professional, sustainable indie news sites across the country.

"We're excited to have Matt come aboard. His broad experience and abilities in both journalism and nonprofit leadership will help LION Publishers evolve as we reach the next level," said Dylan Smith, the Chairman of LION's Board of Directors and the Editor and Publisher of TucsonSentinel.com.

"Just as local indie news sites are hitting new heights and having even greater impact on their communities, our membership group is growing in reach and finding news ways to better serve our publishers," Smith said.

"Independent online news outlets that are owned and operated by people who live in and care about the communities they cover are among the brightest lights in local journalism today," DeRienzo said. "I'm excited to be able to help them exchange ideas and resources and spread the word about this emerging force in news."

DeRienzo will take the place of Beth Lawton, who is leaving her LION role to concentrate on her consulting work with Canoe Media Services.

"Beth was invaluable in helping us increase the frequency of our communication with members," Smith said. "We're grateful for her dedication to quality local news, and wish her every success. We'll continue to follow her lead in creating a space for focused, effective conversations on what really matters to local publishers: how to build a solid business and do the best reporting possible."

DeRienzo has worked in journalism for 21 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate news director. Most recently, he was Editor of the New Haven Register and Digital First Media's other publications in Connecticut. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, oversaw reporting that garnered numerous state and national public service, breaking news and investigative reporting awards, and was recognized with the Robert C. McGruder Award for leadership in newsroom diversity. In 2011, he opened the country's first "newsroom café," an open-to-the-public newsroom that sought to engage the community in local journalism. It was honored with the Associated Press Media Editors' Innovator of the Year Award.

"We look forward to taking advantage of Matt's experience in the newsroom, management, and nonprofit worlds to strengthen LION and expand our range of services to members," said Jesus Sanchez, Publisher of TheEastsiderLA.com in Los Angeles, and a founding member of LION's Board.

"It is a real treat to have someone of Matt's caliber working with LION. The LION Board and members are passionately leading our own startup businesses and it will be wonderful to have Matt equally focused on the business of the LION organization," said Charlotte-Anne Lucas, LION's Secretary and the Managing Director of NOWCastSA.com in San Antonio.

In a series of interviews with LION's Board of Directors, DeRienzo expressed his enthusiasm for taking on projects to increase the organization's effectiveness, both in facilitating information-sharing among members, but also in establishing resources for aspiring indie publishers on the LION website, launching a series of focused webinars, and greater outreach efforts.

"Matt is a welcome addition to our team. He impressed us right away with ideas and advice on how LION can continue to improve and further become a leader in our industry," said Kelly Gilfillan, CEO of BrentwoodHomePage.com and four other local sites in suburban Nashville, and a LION Director.

"Our volunteer Board of independent publishers works diligently to keep our organization moving forward and meeting our goals in growth and creative support of our membership. Having Matt work with the Board will help us move forward at a faster pace, keep us on track and focused on serving our members," Gilfillan said.

"Matt is a very strategic hire as LION reaches a point of growth," she said. "His experience and creativity will launch our ongoing efforts to a faster pace. We want to support our membership with educational opportunities on many different levels, and Matt has some very constructive ideas on how to reach those goals."

"Matt's earned a lot of both personal and professional respect from me, and across the news business," said Doug Hardy, LION's Treasurer and business manager of CTNewsJunkie.com. "While the news industry as a whole is beset with uncertainty, the local indie sector is growing larger and healthier every day. With Matt pitching in to help our established members and publishers who are just launching, along with the generous participation of all of our publishers, LION is set to help local news entrepreneurs with the resources they need to succeed."

Matt DeRienzo can be reached at mattderienzo@lionpublishers.com. Dylan Smith can be reached at dylansmith@lionpublishers.com.

About Local Independent Online News Publishers

LION Publishers is the only nationwide group representing the publishers and editors of local independent online news websites, who are successfully creating the future of reporting: locally owned and operated news outlets that directly serve their communities.

LION Publishers are online news leaders who are innovating in business, technology, communication and storytelling while honoring the rich heritage of local journalism.

The 120 full members of LION include the publishers of both for- and nonprofit news sites across the United States, ranging from rural towns and urban neighborhoods to regional news sites.

LION offers members platforms for peer-to-peer networking, preferred rates from insurance brokers and other vendors, access to benefits such as participation in CloudFlare's Project Galileo, mentoring by leaders in the field, and online clinics on techniques for business and editorial success. LION is planning a repeat of its successful national conference focused on local online news innovation and excellence, and other in-person gatherings to advance the local indie sector of the industry.

LION is partly funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with startup assistance from The Patterson Foundation and sustaining support from member dues.