LION will offer investigative local news reporting grants

$25,000 Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation Grant will tie impact to fundraising

By Matt DeRienzo | Feb. 23, 2018

LION Publishers will offer mini-grants to members to support local investigative reporting projects with the support of the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

LION will receive a $25,000 grant from the foundation to assist members with building capacity for accountability journalism, it was announced Friday.

LION will use the funding from EEJF, along with other funding raised by the organization, to offer mini-grants and expertise to members, which include more than 200 publishers of both nonprofit and for-profit local independent online news organizations in 45 states. LION will assist each grantee in using the results of their reporting to show communities the impact of their watchdog journalism and spur local fundraising through reader donations and subscriptions.

“For a small news organization, a relatively small amount of money can mean getting to that extra or more ambitious reporting project that otherwise seems unattainable,” said LION Executive Director Matt DeRienzo. “These funds could be used for freelancers, to free up staff time for an important story, or to cover fees or expenses associated with Freedom of Information Act requests.”

LION will help members tie their reporting projects to best practices in fundraising around the impact of local accountability journalism. A similar message recently resonated with readers across the country as more than $4.8 million was raised for nonprofit local news organizations in the last few months of 2017 as part of the News Match program funded by the Democracy Fund, Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, EEJF and others. Increasingly, for-profit local independent online news organizations have also turned to reader subscriptions and voluntary memberships and donations for support. LION’s investigative reporting fund will be open to both nonprofit and for-profit members of the organization.

Steve Beatty, who led award-winning investigative journalism efforts as founding publisher of The Lens in New Orleans, will help administer the program for LION.

“We’re excited about what this fund will do to kickstart investigative reporting in small local news organizations,” Beatty said. “By tying the results of that reporting to fundraising efforts, we hope that it becomes a part of their business models, as that resulting support from readers raises money to fund even more investigative work, which produces more results and more support from readers.”

The program is the second major initiative LION has announced this year around helping publishers raise money from readers. It is also co-hosting a day-long Reader Revenue Summit with the Center for Cooperative Media on April 6 at Montclair State University in New Jersey, which will include speakers and discussions on membership programs, paywall subscriptions and more.

LION is also running a pilot program this year helping local independent online news publishers launch and/or grow local advertising sales programs. The Revenue from Advertising Mentorship Program -- or RAMP -- was made possible through a grant from the Democracy Fund. Ten LION members will receive funding, advice and assistance over the course of the year. The program will also share best practices with a wider group of local independent online news publishers.

LION is a national nonprofit organization that supports the publishers of local independent online news organizations.

Founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord, the Oklahoma City-based Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation’s mission is to “invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information.”