Meet the finalists for the 2022 LION Local Journalism Awards

Winners will be announced at next month's Independent News Sustainability Summit.

September 15, 2022 by LION Publishers

Meet the Finalists for the LION Awards

LION Publishers is thrilled to announce the finalists of the 2022 LION Local Journalism Awards, whose work is yet another reminder that the digital transformation of news is full of opportunities, innovations and, above all else, hope for a more sustainable and equitable local news industry. 

Our group of finalists this year includes 45 independent news organizations, and the winners will be announced at the Independent News Sustainability Summit in Austin this October 27-29.

It’s the first time in three years that we’ll get to celebrate the LION Local Journalism Awards in person – and that’s not the only new change you’ll notice this year.

In 2022, we updated our award categories to reflect LION’s belief that successful independent news publishers not only produce impactful journalism but also run strong small businesses that care for their people and have a revenue model that’s built to last. For example, our Publisher of the Year categories were reframed to LION Business of the Year categories.

The new categories this year include:

  • General Excellence: Financial Health
  • Revenue Campaign of the Year 
  • Product of the Year
  • Outstanding Coverage Award

If you’re interested in attending the LION Awards Ceremony and Dinner on October 28, you’ll need to purchase an add-on ticket from the Independent News Sustainability Summit registration page. 

This awards dinner ceremony is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors:

Platinum Sponsor 
The Google News Initiative 

Gold Sponsor
Democracy Fund 

Silver Sponsors
Ezoic
Indiegraf 
News Catalyst
Reynolds Journalism Institute
Smart News
Spot-On Political Ads & Analytics

Bronze Sponsor
BlueLena

If you’re interested in sponsoring the awards ceremony, please email [email protected] for more details about the packages and sponsor benefits. 

Now here are the finalists:  

Finalists were selected by an independent panel of judges. Finalist descriptions were self-reported and slightly edited by LION staff for length and clarity. Finalists are listed in alphabetical order.

LION Business of the Year (cash prize) 

Recognizes general excellence in working to achieve sustainability for their news business through operational resilience, financial health and journalistic impact.

Small Revenue Tier 

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Enlace Latino NC

Enlace Latino NC is North Carolina’s first nonprofit, Spanish-language digital news organization, with a mission to empower the diverse community of Latinx immigrants in North Carolina to become more involved in the political and social changes that affect them. Its commitment to hyperlocal Spanish news has made it possible for Enlace Lantino NC to grow exponentially in the last year despite being a small team with limited resources.

Santa Cruz Local

What sets Santa Cruz Local apart is its focus on building systems to achieve sustainability. This year, the newsroom worked to boost diversity and inclusion by retooling its recruitment, hiring and onboarding of staff; used an “objective and key results” framework to run experiments with its membership program; and improved its system to analyze feedback from hundreds of surveys and interviews to understand residents’ priorities and inform deeply-reported projects on local elections and on homelessness.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Montana Free Press

Montana Free Press has spent the past five years building its reporting and business teams, refining its editorial products, and establishing trust with its audience – and 71% of its audience says that if Montana Free Press ceased to exist, they would lose a source of news they couldn’t find anywhere else. The team has done this by focusing on sustainable financial practices and by supporting its talented staff through new benefits such as an unlimited paid time off policy, paid parental leave, sabbatical leave, and mandatory extended holidays.

Sahan Journal

Sahan Journal launched in 2019 as a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to serving communities of color, and it has covered some of the most difficult events in recent memory, from police killings to the devastation of the pandemic. Its early business successes include the launch of a sustaining member program that has secured 1,100 monthly donors, as well as an advertising program that brought in more than $240,000 K in 2021. In 2022, Sahan Journal also launched a 401(k) plan with 4% employer match, plus improved benefits and salaries.

Shawnee Mission Post & Blue Valley Post

Building on the initial success of a subscription model the company launched in 2017, the Shawnee Mission Post and the Blue Valley Post have grown subscriptions to account for two-thirds of its annual revenue, allowing the company to expand its coverage area and hire more reporters. Its “Reader First” approach to local news seeks to center average residents — not political parties, powerbrokers or other journalists — and give them a product they truly value.

New LION Business of the Year (cash prize)

Recognizes a business — founded after January 1, 2021 — that exhibits, even in its very early stages, a clearly-defined commitment to working toward achieving sustainability through operational resilience, financial health and journalistic impact.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

Bucks County Beacon

The Bucks County Beacon aims to fill a gap in news reporting in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, by covering local government and politics. In less than a year since its first article was published, the Bucks County Beacon has become a trusted news source locally and been cited by national news publications like whowhatwhere.org and whyy.org, and its team has grown to include more than 40 contributors. 

The Food Section

The Food Section is a twice-weekly newsletter covering food and drink across the American South, providing readers with the news and analyses they need to better understand and appreciate their dining experiences and the region responsible for it. The Food Section’s award entry cited its unwavering commitment to journalistic excellence and its strong financial position, achieved through smart business decisions and ongoing reader engagement. 

The Red Hook Daily Catch

The Daily Catch launched in June 2021, and has focused on LION’s core values and pillars of sustainability. To grow its revenue pipeline, for example, The Daily Catch split the editor and publisher roles this spring and recruited an experienced marketing executive to head up sponsorships, membership campaigns and events. The Daily Catch also leans on data to drive new initiatives, from adding classified ads and a Community Bulletin Board to its website to shifting resources to cover the topics its readers care about most.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Cardinal News

Cardinal News launched in the summer of 2021 as legacy newspapers throughout Southwest and Southside Virginia experienced devastating staff reductions enacted by an out-of-state corporate owner. At launch, Cardinal News had 100 newsletter subscribers and a dozen donors. Today, it has 6,000 subscribers and 1,500 donors, and it’s providing important local coverage of issues such as deteriorating schools, the growing solar farm industry, the impacts of a local nursing shortage, and more.

Gig Harbor Now

Gig Harbor Now was founded in early 2021 by a group of passionate local citizens concerned with the lack of local news coverage in their small town. In the first year of operations, Gig Harbor Now raised approximately $100,000, largely from private donations, and it used that seed money to hire a full-time editor with more than 25 years of experience and hire six freelance journalists with many years of experience and deep roots in the community. From the beginning, Gig Harbor Now also developed a strategic plan aligned around its mission and vision with clear goals for how to achieve them.

The Palm Springs Post

The Palm Springs Post has quickly become the leading news source and connective tissue in the community of Palm Springs, Calif. It found fast success by actively engaging with residents at the neighborhood level and delivering a high-quality daily newsletter that focuses on news and issues our neighbors care about. Roughly 10 percent of all subscribers support the operation financially.

Shasta Scout

Shasta Scout launched in the spring of 2021 —, and with only one full-time staff member, it has published almost a hundred stories, many of them centered around the experiences and perspectives of under-represented community members. As its stories attracted local and regional attention, Shasta Scout saw strong early revenue growth, moving from initial seed funding of $3,500 to a first fiscal-year income of approximately $100,000. Its main revenue streams are grants, audience donations and business sponsorships, and as revenue has grown, Shasta Scout has begun to develop internal systems and processes that will support new content staff, products, and collaborations.

Large Revenue Tier

More than $1.1 million in annual revenue (There were not any finalists in the Medium Revenue Tier category)

Fort Worth Report

Fort Worth Report is a free, fair, and local source of news for 2 million people in Tarrant County, Texas. Its coverage asks government officials the hard questions, provides depth and context to complex issues, and amplifies solutions, not just problems. Launched in April 2021 with a staff of six and a newsletter list of under 600, Fort Worth Report’s community has propelled its rapid growth into an organization with a staff of 20 and a newsletter list of 13,000, and its collaboration with KERA of Dallas is helping it gain journalistic and financial sustainability while building a model that can be replicated to strengthen local journalism across the nation.

General Excellence: Financial Health (cash prize)

Recognizes a LION member that has excelled at developing a plan for earning money, managing a budget, and monitoring revenue and expenses to extend their financial runway with the tools and data needed to acquire more funding or to right-size operations.

Large Revenue Tier

More than $1.1 million in annual revenue (There were not any finalists in the Medium Revenue Tier category)

Fort Worth Report

In 12 months, Fort Worth Report has gone from a months-old startup with six staff members and a two-year financial runway to a team of 20 with long-term staying power. The CEO and chief development officer concentrated initially on foundation and major donor gifts, including several two-year gifts, which bought them time to develop the revenue streams that take longer to pay off. This strategy also allowed Fort Worth Report to quickly grow its staff and begin producing the impactful local journalism that’s at the heart of its success.

Sahan Journal

Sahan Journal grew its annual budget by $1 million between 2021 and 2022, and it now has a team of 16 full-time staff members. Its budget includes a diverse revenue mix, with advertising and membership each supporting nearly 10 percent of the budget, grant resources at 77 percent, and content sharing and program income at 5 percent. The organization has also taken steps to establish cash reserves equal to three months.

Revenue Campaign of the Year

Recognizes a LION member that developed a successful and creative strategy to grow or diversify their revenue, positively impacting their financial health.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Block Club Chicago

Building on the success of its merchandise campaigns, Block Club Chicago teamed with local artist Steve Shanabruch on a new subscriber campaign during the holiday season. In exchange for subscribing to Block Club for a year, new subscribers could pick a print of their choice, featuring the hyperlocal places that make our neighborhoods great. The Block Club Chicago set an ambitious goal to bring in 400 new subscribers. The campaign was so successful that it brought in 1,800 new subscribers in two months.

Mississippi Free Press

Mississippi Free Press’s “Solutions for Mississippi” spring fundraising campaign was an egalitarian effort that invited Mississippians with varied resources to support nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Our revenue team’s focus this year was on learning to bring in more larger donors and multi-year pledges to shore up our sustainability. That focus and training paid off, with the majority of our 2022 funding to date coming from larger donors.

General Excellence: Operational Resilience (cash prize)

Recognizes a LION member that has excelled at establishing processes, policies and a company culture designed to support staff and manage growth in order to prevent burnout among the very people whose talent and buy-in are critical to their success.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

El Tímpano

In the past year and a half, El Tímpano has invested in the sustainability and resilience of the organization, all while putting its values of equity, collaboration, and community into practice. The organization developed and expanded a model of revenue that is aligned with its mission and is on track to earning half of a million dollars in 2022. It also invested in strengthening operational processes to support the hiring, retention, wellness, and collaboration of a growing team. 

IndigiNews

IndigiNews’s storytelling lodge is a safe space for Indigenous journalists where the organization’s staff practice trauma-informed journalism in a culturally safe manner. IndigiNews builds trust with the communities it writes about by building relationships, and it has built a work culture based on the team’s values as Indigenous people, which honors the whole person. 

Santa Cruz Local

Santa Cruz Local takes a thoughtful, people-centered and thorough approach to running its business. This year, the newsroom worked to boost diversity and inclusion by retooling its recruitment, hiring and onboarding processes, and to promote staff mental health, it created a new “flexible time off” policy plus five weeks of mandated paid time off. The newsroom culture encourages staff to take as much time away from work as needed, and all these changes are informed by listening to, trusting and valuing its staff.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Fort Worth Report

Fort Worth Report credits its rapid growth (from 6 to 17 team members in the past year) in large part to the team it built and the practices it put into place: The newsroom has prioritized diversity; built clear onboarding protocols and staff policies; and created a culture based on transparency, mutual respect and a work-life balance. Through it all, leaders were smart enough not to reinvent the wheel, instead modeling their policies and strategies on the work of experts.

Montana Free Press

Montana Free Press has worked hard to introduce, refine and revamp its operations to meet the needs of a growing newsroom. The organization invested time and resources into structural support for its most important asset—its talented staff—by focusing on job satisfaction and work-life balance. For example, it recently instituted an unlimited paid time off policy, paid parental leave, sabbatical, and mandatory extended holidays.

Collaboration of the Year

Recognizes general excellence among a partnership between a LION member and at least one other organization. The Collaboration of the Year awards either a short-term or long-term commitment between two or more organizations that positively impacted a LION member’s operational resilience, financial health or journalistic impact.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Enlace Latino NC and Southerly Magazine

Enlace Latino NC and Southerly Magazine have been collaborating since June 2021 to cover the intersection of economic mobility and environmental issues in rural Latinx and immigrant communities in North Carolina. The solutions journalism stories that come out of this collaboration are published in English and Spanish. 

Dallas Free Press

Dallas’ original Black schools are situated in its original Freedman’s communities, most of them decimated over the years and their schools shuttered with their stories left untold. The “Dallas Forgot” project intends to resurrect the schools that anchored these communities, connecting present-day Dallas to its past in ways that allow the city’s residents to better understand and grapple with its history.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Columbia Missourian

As farming became more efficient and consolidation began hollowing out legacy family farms, rural communities began to feel the change more acutely. A group of 10 journalists spent four months visiting rural communities and reporting on the impact these changes have had over decades. The “2,500 Below” project is a series of stories and images looking at the challenges and successes that are changing Missouri’s small rural towns. 

Fort Worth Report and KERA

Fort Worth Report is building a formal collaboration with KERA public broadcasting. Public radio, in general, has been struggling to grow and monetize a digital audience, meanwhile, Fort Worth Report benefits from the financial stability and overall credibility of a trusted, 50-year-old public media institution. But the true winner is the public, which now has increased, free access to valuable, reliable local journalism.

Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio launched the Open and Shut podcast, a project inspired by reporting spanning 20 years focused on the power of prosecutors and how the misuse of that power can reap tragic consequences. The podcast took more than 25 people from multiple organizations to create, and became one of the most popular podcasts in Apple’s Government section the week it was launched.

Accountability Award 

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that led to the accountability of those in positions of power and a demonstrable positive outcome for the affected community.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

Asheville Watchdog

For years, vulnerable homeowners in Asheville, North Carolina – many elderly and/or African American – had lost their homes and the equity they’d built over decades and, sometimes, generations to a local attorney/investor and his associates. Asheville Watchdog published Equity Erased, a seven-part investigative series that generated an immediate impact: a central figure was arrested on 41 felony charges, and her lawyer was charged with six felony counts. Through legal settlements, homeowners got their properties or substantial portions of their equity returned. 

The Red Hook Daily Catch

By shining a spotlight on little-known facts about the operation of school buildings and their impact on global warming, as well as surfacing the knowledge and views of a local volunteer and climate activist, The Red Hook Daily Catch turned what would have been a routine election and bond issue vote into a topic of urgent concern in the community.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

The Maine Monitor

The “Eavesdropping in Maine Jails” series exposed how in at least four county jails, officials are eavesdropping on calls between incarcerated defendants and their defense attorneys. These jails recorded nearly 1,000 attorney-client calls in a single year and shared recordings with police and prosecutors before trial. While lawmakers entertained a bill to penalize those who “knowingly eavesdrop” on these conversations, lawmakers settled on the formation of a study group to review policies for attorney-client contact and recommend possible changes.

Streetsblog NYC

This investigation, including a database of nearly one million car crashes, revealed the sheer danger that cars pose to children outside schools in New York City, and the failure of the city to address the problem. The governor cited this investigation when signing a bill to expand a school-zone speed camera program; the mayor and transportation commissioner said the city must do more on the issue; and the commissioner announced new safety upgrades on school streets.

Wausau Pilot & Review

As Wausau planned for a new drinking water facility upgrade, city leaders already knew that the water contained toxic chemicals at levels higher than those recommended by government officials. City leaders kept the threat of harm from the public, and failed to include technology in the new, taxpayer-funded facility that would remove the chemicals from the water in the future.

Large Revenue Tier

More than $1.1 million in annual revenue (There were not any finalists in the Medium Revenue Tier category)

Berkeleyside

After a lawsuit surfaced from a former Berkeley High student alleging she’d been sexually assaulted and harassed by a teacher two decades ago and that the school district had covered it up, Berkeleyside spent four months battling the school district to release the teacher’s disciplinary record and other documents. The files describe how the school district’s inaction allowed the teacher’s behavior to go unchecked and that the superintendent signed a gag order allowing the teacher to resign quietly.

Block Club Chicago 

Block Club’s pop-up testing stories revealed how at least four Chicago-area COVID testing companies took advantage of the pandemic and everyday people, billing the federal government more than $582 million for testing that often gave inaccurate — or completely fake — results. While regular folks struggled to get tested and make safe choices, company executives raked in millions and bragged about buying $1 million cars and mansions with “COVID money.” The companies are now under federal and state investigations, and some have been sued and shut down.

Documented

After 17 people, including eight children, died in a fire in a high-rise Bronx building that had become a hub for Gambian immigrants, Documented’s reporters found that the Mayor’s office had distributed just $265,500 of the $4.4 million fund it raised for the 150 affected families. In the meantime, impacted community members were left living in precarious housing conditions. After Documented’s investigation, the Mayor’s office announced it would distribute an additional $3 million to affected families.

Community Engagement Award

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that demonstrates a systematized community listening strategy to consistently tell stories for, with and by the people that a LION member is working to serve. The Community Engagement Award celebrates a LION member’s longstanding commitment to partner with their community by actively listening to — and acting on — their feedback, questions, successes and challenges.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

Bucks County Beacon

The Bucks County Beacon aims to fill a gap in news reporting in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, by covering local government and politics by enlisting members of the community to be writers for their news organization. They have grown a virtual newsroom from two to over 40, and  have grown their all-time users from zero to over 50,000.

The Kansas City Defender

The Kansas City Defender produced a news outlet that is centered around engaging Black youth both in digital spaces, as well as in real life community events like poetry slams and basketball park takeovers. Their viral breaking stories on racism in Missouri and Kansas schools have sparked national coverage and conversations, while locally resulting in over five Black Student Unions forming, and at least three direct action protests taking place.

SpokaneFāVS

Coffee Talks are in-person community forums hosted by SpokaneFāVS that invite their audience to engage with columnists and journalists in an informal, discussion setting. For 10 years, members of the Spokane community have gathered to discuss a timely topic that they care about. 

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Borderless Magazine

Borderless Magazine hires field canvassers to reach Spanish-speaking Chicagoans disconnected from the news to better meet the community’s needs and to grow their reader revenue stream. They have become the only local news outlet in the United States to publish stories in Dari for Afghans after hiring an Afghan asylum seeker to produce stories for, by and with Afghans.

Epicenter-NYC

Creating a body of work focused on the undocumented, Epicenter-NYC highlighted their struggles and also success during the fallout from COVID-19, for those who were able to obtain money from the Excluded Workers Fund.

Planet Detroit

Planet Detroit’s Climate Guides are all about arming their readers and community with the best local information available to help navigate a variety of issues amid the uncertainty of the climate crisis. Planet Detroit creates these guides by first talking to their readers and community to understand what information they need to navigate complex issues. Then Planet Detroit researches and reports the answers to their questions in a way that meets their mission — holding power accountable, uncovering solutions, and reflecting and serving the community. Finally, they connect with their community to present the information alongside experts and uncover additional reporting avenues and information gaps for future guides.

Prison Journalism Project 

Prison Journalism Project (PJP) is an independent, national initiative that trains incarcerated writers to be journalists and publishes their stories, so the nearly two million people in the U.S. under correctional control can shift the narrative and help shape criminal justice policy by shedding light on news, stories and lived experiences from inside the incarcerated community. 

Santa Cruz Local 

Santa Cruz Local interviewed hundreds of residents in English and Spanish this year about their local priorities and what they wanted reporters to dig into, seeking residents most affected by decisions in local government. The team went to homeless camps, food distribution sites, and community gathering places, and widely shared an online survey. 

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Mississippi Free Press

The ongoing “Black Women, Systemic Barriers and COVID-19” project is MFP’s “Mapping Mississippi” systemic-reporting prototype of identifying challenges, then using data, solution circles and shoe-leather reporting in select counties to root out causes of inequities, then produce solutions reporting. 

Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

In a joint effort with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, Wisconsin Watch created News414, a project filling information and accountability gaps to meet the needs of traditionally underserved Milwaukee residents in Black-and brown-majority neighborhoods. News414 covers topics including housing, food access, public health, substance use and voting. 

Outstanding Coverage Award

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that builds increased awareness or influences public conversation about a specific issue that reverberates throughout a community. The intent of this award is not to be prescriptive of a specific topic, community or area of coverage, but rather to allow LION members to demonstrate the impact of their journalism based on their community’s information needs.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

Oviedo Community News

OCN published a series of articles detailing the progression of the city’s major changes to its comprehensive plan, which decides where expected population growth should occur in the city. The articles broke down the information into easy-to-understand pieces with visual aids, such as maps and charts. The work included opportunities for community involvement, such as contact information for elected officials, recordings of the meetings and future meeting dates.

The Red Hook Daily Catch

Coverage of plans to tightly regulate short-term rentals (STRs) in a town of under 10,000 people brought more than 150 citizens into the conversation and out to public hearings in what became an intense public debate the likes of which the tiny town of Red Hook, N.Y. has not seen in recent memory. The paper’s coverage drew dozens of people to testify; it incited the Town Supervisor to hold hearings on Zoom, rather than by letter, as he’d planned; and it slowed the process down to allow for more voices. The proposed law went through three iterations before becoming law.

The Vallejo Sun

After hearing rumors of people who died in the Project RoomKey program, The Vallejo Sun launched an investigation into conditions in the program, turning up squalid conditions, mismanagement and that people who died in the program were not found for days. 

Watershed Voice

On Mothers’ Day 2022, a group of 30 demonstrators stationed themselves outside of Riverside Church in Three Rivers to protest the church’s leadership amid recent allegations of sexual and spiritual abuse. In addition to coverage of the protest, Watershed Voice published the church’s response to the allegations, and sat down with survivor Linda Shank and her mother Joni to tell her story. 

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

The Maine Monitor

An investigation by The Maine Monitor and Investigative Reporting Workshop found contracted hours for certified nursing assistants in nursing homes across Maine nearly doubled since 2017. A month after publication, five nursing homes closed and the work went on to chronicle how the closure of a facility left a tiny rural community worrying about the loss of jobs, emergency services and community engagement. 

The Palm Springs Post

Identifying homelessness as a top issue in their community, The Palm Springs Post set out to report on the crisis using data to produce a map showing a landscape saturated by short-term vacation rentals that contributed to a lack of affordable housing in the city. Additional document discovery showed that the lone homeless services provider in the community had subpar transparency and accounting, leading to the end of its agreement with the city.

Santa Cruz Local

After hundreds of Santa Cruz County residents told the newsroom that homelessness was their top issue, Santa Cruz Local led a fundraising drive in summer 2021 that raised more than $20,000 from more than 100 readers that resulted in a reporting series around the issue. 

Shasta Scout

In September 2021, Shasta Scout broke a story revealing that the Redding City Council planned to discuss a proposal to buy prime public riverfront land during a closed session of Council. Public outcry ensued and over the next eight months, Shasta Scout’s ongoing coverage of riverfront land appeared to drive the community conversation around how the public was being engaged, the transparency and ethics of local government, Indigenous inclusion in decision making, and the future of the land should it be sold. 

Wausau Pilot & Review

Amid a long and difficult fight for equality faced by some residents of Wausau and Marathon County as they sought for policies that ensured fairness and justice for all residents regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, local reporters gave readers a much more in-depth look at the divisive rhetoric that divided both residents and city and county leaders. The reporting led to serious repercussions including death threats, lawsuits and an ongoing battle between dueling ideologies that continues to this day.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Block Club Chicago 

Block Club’s pop-up testing stories revealed how at least four Chicago-area COVID testing companies took advantage of the pandemic and everyday people, billing the federal government more than $582 million for testing that often gave inaccurate — or completely fake — results. While regular folks struggled to get tested and make safe choices, executives at these companies raked in millions and bragged about buying $1 million cars and mansions with “COVID money.”

Columbia Missourian

Over a period of nine months, Missourian journalists looked closely at the issue of homelessness in Columbia through the Show Me Shelter reporting series that looked deeper into the unhoused community, the people and organizations working with the homeless in the community and the policymakers involved in decision-making around services provided and distribution of funds. As the reporting rolled out, more conversations about the homeless community were started leading to the city council allocating money for planning a homeless center and opening a warming center. 

La Noticia

A series of articles published in February 2022 revealed that 85% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg School’s Latino students fell short of the reading scores considered on track for future success and 87% fell below that mark in math. A few months later, the CMS superintendent was fired. Among the reasons, the School Board cited the lack of attention minority students receive, their poor grades, and the lack of a plan to address their needs.

Public Service Award 

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that successfully connects people with the information and services they need to navigate their lives and help make their communities more inclusive and equitable.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

The Arkadelphian

Veteran reporter Joel Phelps noticed Arkadelphia was changing: a bypass was being built, the main street was being widened and businesses were popping up all over town, but there was no daily account of what was happening, or even why it was happening. The Arkadelphian was born. Since then, the site has been lauded by state-renowned journalists, and the public is now informed of local matters.

Knox Pages

As multigenerational farming becomes less apparent in the area, many farmers are reluctant to talk about succession. Traditionally there has not been a retirement plan for farmers, but local leaders in north central Ohio are working toward creating clearer options — specifically by eliminating barriers for both exit and entry into the profession.

Watershed Voice

The pandemic has been traumatic, particularly for students, who were often stuck in the middle of debates over in-person or remote learning and mask mandates. Our story takes an in-depth look into how a school-linked community adolescent health center is removing accessibility and financial barriers between students and mental health services, and potentially saving lives of those most at-risk.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Enlace Latino NC 

North Carolina’s farm workers’ increased economic and health risks are exacerbated by a lack of access to information in Spanish, so Enlace Latino NC launched El Jornalero newsletter, which provides news, resources, services, and relevant data in Spanish concerning the rights, well-being, and health of agricultural workers. To supplement the newsletter, Enlace Latino NC published a guide for all segments of this population, including H-2A visa holders, undocumented folks, and those in foreign countries planning to come to the U.S.

Epicenter-NYC

Epicenter-NYC did vaccine outreach work demonstrating its unwavering commitment, two plus years into the pandemic, to being community centered, equitable and collaborative. 

The Maine Monitor

The “Journey to Be Me: Voices from Maine’s Transgender Community” series told stories of Maine’s transgender community. Our series showcased nine resources for transgender individuals in Maine and provided definitions to possibly unfamiliar phrases. One reader heralded the information as “great timing and excellent” as they learned of a new resource and how gender affirming care works. Another wrote, “As a trans person who feels pretty isolated in rural Maine, reading this collection of stories from fellow trans folks around Maine has really helped ease some of the loneliness.” 

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Chalkbeat

Chalkbeat expanded its school board-SMS program, which allows Chalkbeat reporters to text subscribers about when their local school board meeting is taking place, how to attend, and how to submit a public comment. They also include links to relevant articles to provide context for what will be discussed. Afterwards reporters text updates summarizing important outcomes and their impact. During the meetings, subscribers frequently ask reporters questions and our reporters respond in real-time.

Mississippi Free Press

Mississippi Free Press broke the news that a mayor had allegedly told the local public library that he was withholding $110,000 in funding to the local library unless they agreed to purge LGBTQ+ books from their shelves. The reporting resulted in packed local meetings, and supporters of the library raised over $112,000 in response to the news. Eventually the city agreed to renew payments to the library.

Sahan Journal

When news of the COVID-19 vaccine began to circulate, so did the rise of misinformation about its safety. Sahan Journal was quick to recognize its role in eliminating mistrust and dispelling cultural myths within immigrant populations, which were especially hard hit by the deadly virus. The newsroom produced a series of explainer videos with community figures, medical professionals and experts delivering guidance in their native languages. 

VTDigger

VTDigger’s reporting on the Delta and Omicron Covid-19 waves documented a critical period of the pandemic in Vermont. Officials had wound down key aspects of the state’s Covid response and resisted many experts and wide swaths of the public. VTDigger published a series of reports that scrutinized the state’s strategy of leaving prevention efforts to individuals and analyzed the consequences of the widespread infections that followed.

Product of the Year

Recognizes a LION member that developed a successful and creative short-term or long-term product (ex: email newsletter, event, podcast, etc.) to strengthen their journalistic impact, financial health and/or operational resilience.

Micro Revenue Tier

Less than $50,000 in annual revenue

Oviedo Community News

The Early Bird newsletter is Oviedo Community News’ flagship product. Launching in September, the newsletter has nearly quadrupled its audience. It not only delivers important, local news to our readers, it also serves as a communication tool. We encourage readers to respond to the newsletter with comments and questions and sometimes we pose questions to our readers to learn more about them. The newsletter often includes newsroom news (new hires, additions to our community advisory board) so that our readers feel that the newsroom belongs to them, which it does.

Sioux Falls Simplified

The Simplified Welcome Guide is an annual, digital magazine-style product that’s a one-stop resource for all things Sioux Falls. The free guide includes city history, demographic information, local resources, local government information and a “”Sioux Falls-isms”” section with local idioms and inside jokes in both English and Spanish.

Small Revenue Tier

Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue

Dallas Free Press

It’s not enough for Dallas Free Press to simply provide news and information for their audiences; they also have to find ways to get that information directly to readers. And the best way for Dallas Free Press to reach their neighbors is face-to-face and word-of-mouth. DFP is a digital-only newsroom, so they developed a grassroots approach to convert their in-person encounters with South Dallas and West Dallas neighbors into ongoing digital connections—the Dallas Free Press pop-up newsroom, which travels to community events.

KHOL/Jackson Hole Community Radio

“Facets: Voices of the Mountain Life” is a five-episode podcast series created by KHOL/Jackson Hole Community Radio and the Jackson-based outdoor gear brand Stio that explores the passions, tensions and healing people find while living in a mountain town. The series focuses on historically marginalized and undercovered communities, including immigrants, women and youth caught up in Wyoming’s harsh juvenile justice system. In short, it elevates voices “people don’t get to hear,” according to one interviewee.

Prison Journalism Project PJPxInside

Prison Journalism Project trains incarcerated writers to be journalists and publishes their stories, so they can shift the narrative and help shape criminal justice policy by shedding light on news, stories and lived experiences from inside the incarcerated community. Until the fall of 2021, Prison Journalism Project’s stories had only been available online, which made it hard to share them with writers behind walls. PJP responded to their requests to read each other’s stories and learn from each other by creating PJP x Inside, our first print newspaper.

Medium / Large Revenue Tier

More than $500,000 in annual revenue

Montana Free Press

MTFP’s Election Guide ’22 is a one-stop shop for accurate, nonpartisan voter information — a resource that does not otherwise exist in the Montana media market. It includes candidate bios, candidate issue questionnaires, campaign finance data, curated media coverage and an exhaustive voting logistics explainer (in a year that saw multiple new state election laws implemented). 

Votebeat

Votebeat’s newsletter analyzed the major events of the week that impacted elections and voting access. It quickly became indispensable to its readers who consisted of academics, voting rights activists, lawyers and election administrators. This was because of the newsletter’s ability to spotlight major themes across multiple states and connect the dots between proposed legislation and on-the-ground impacts.

Special thanks to this year’s volunteer judges, without whom the 2022 LION Awards would not be possible: Alicia Ramirez, Andrew DeVigal, Andy Bechtel, Annemarie Dooling, Ariam Alula, Charles Stangor, Christine Schmidt, Damon Kiesow, Danya Henninger, David Grant, Doug Weber, Dylan Smith, Eden Fineday, Erica Perel, fahmida y rashid, Hanaa’ Tameez, Izz LaMagdeleine, Jan Schaffer, John Reid, Joshua L. Cornfield, Katherine R. Fritz, Ken Romano, Lillian Ruiz, Mark Potts, Meghan Murphy, Mesq’al Kebra, Michelle Faust Raghavan, Nancy Thomas, Ole Morten Orset, Patricia E. Gaston, Rocio Hernandez, Sarah Stonbely, Stacey Peters, Stefanie Murray, Tom Davidson, and Zack Baddorf. 

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