13 indie publishers join LION as sites launch across U.S.

By Matt DeRienzo | May. 31, 2015

More than a dozen new members have joined the ranks of Local Independent Online News Publishers over the past month — each a journalism entrepreneur who has launched his or her own independent local news site.

The organization now represents more than 125 local independent online news publishers in 31 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Their sites include both for-profit and nonprofit business models, and range from coverage of community news in a single town or city neighborhood to statewide investigative news organizations.

The newest LION members include Andrew Birden of Fiddlehead Focus in northern Maine; Bill Cleary of Gloucester City News in New Jersey; Matt Conti of North End Waterfront in Boston; Tamara Duncan of 70 West Sentinel and Mike Martin of the Columbia Heartbeat in Missouri; Shawn Hogendorf of the Stillwater Current and Mike Schoemer of North Wright County Today in Minnesota; Gary Kopycinski of eNews Park Forest in Illinois; Denise Lockwood of the Racine County Eye in Wisconsin; Joshua Long of Xenia’s Word on the Street in Ohio; Sharon Swanepoel of Monroe Local News in Georgia; Barb Warden of Golden.com in Colorado; and Josh Popichak of Saucon Source in Pennsylvania.

"We're very proud to add another 13 publishers to the LION fold," said Dylan Smith, chairman of LION's Board of Directors. "It's tremendous to see local independent news flourishing all over the country. The variety of publications run by our newest members speaks well to the ability of truly local publishers to nimbly and capably report the news that's important to their communities."

As the U.S. newspaper industry has consolidated in the past few years under the control of a handful of large corporate chains, print advertising and circulation have rapidly declined, and newsroom layoffs continue, local independent online news sites have emerged to fill the gaps.

LION provides the publishers of these sites a networking forum to discuss issues they’re facing — from business plans and revenue ideas to journalism tools and technology. Many are former legacy media journalists learning how to run their own businesses. Others are well-established pioneers with years of experience in local independent news.

"The other members of LION have enthusiastically welcomed our new members to the pride," said Smith, who is the editor and publishers of TucsonSentinel.com. "We're all looking forward to sharing hard-won tips, and hearing what creative ways these publishers are building the future of local news."

"It's heartening that our newest members continue to reflect the diverse landscape of local indie news," said Charlotte-Anne Lucas, the managing director of San Antonio nonprofit NOWCastSA.org, who is LION's Board Secretary and chairs the Membership Committee.

"Local news entrepreneurs are far more likely to be women than than our remaining colleagues in legacy media," Lucas said. "About half of LION's membership is female, and we're pleased that our publishers are quite diverse in geography, culture and ethnicity, and serve different sorts of audiences — as well as being appropriately responsive in meeting the local news needs of their communities. We all learn so much from each others' approaches to business and reporting."

Members of LION are gathering this weekend in Philadelphia for a two-day conference tackling various issues facing local independent online news publishers. They’ll hear lessons from several Philadelphia local news startups — including Jim Brady’s Billy Penn, Technical.ly Philly and Gun Crisis News. Other speakers will include Jan Schaffer of J-Lab talking about legal issues facing online news sites, Jesse Holcomb of Pew Research talking about that organization’s study of local media markets, and Keith Hammonds of Solutions Journalism Network. A number of LION members will share insights from how they started their sites and successful revenue programs they’ve launched, among other topics.

The Independents' Meeting is funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with additional support from Temple University's Center for Public Interest Journalism and Broadstreet Ads.

Program details and registration for the June 6-7 conference are at http://www.lionpublishers.com/conference/philly/

Prospective members can learn more at http://www.lionpublishers.com/members/benefits

LION's member list is available at http://www.lionpublishers.com/members/list