A note to LION Publishers members covering (and reeling from) coronavirus

This is an email we sent to our members on Tuesday, March 17. We’re sharing here to be transparent with our funders and external stakeholders.

Dear LION members,

The work you’re doing covering issues critical to the health and economies of your communities is inspiring. We at LION Publishers couldn’t be prouder of you, and we want to take a minute today to thank you for those efforts, and let you know what we’re doing as an association to support you.

Membership renewals

We recognize that many of our publications may soon be facing a financial hardship as advertisers pull out and events continue to be cancelled. We’ve decided that anyone whose membership has expired since December 31, 2019 can continue to be a LION member and access LION benefits until May 31, 2020. This also includes any LIONs whose membership is set to expire between now and May 31.

As for new members, we’re now asking in our membership application that if they are experiencing financial hardship due to the effects of coronavirus, to please let us know and we’ll work with them on the membership fee.

This is our small way of ensuring that independent, local news publishers learn from and can stay connected to their peers, and lean on us at LION as they navigate covering coronavirus.

Our in-person gatherings

We had planned for several in-person 2020 meetups for our LION members: Boston in April; Chicago in May; Austin in June; and Seattle in October. Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our members, and so we’ve shifted our Boston meetup to a virtual event (more details coming soon!) As of now, the Local Media Association’s Chicago event has been rescheduled from May 11–12 to August 5–6. For our other two events, we are also closely monitoring local officials and best practices as social distancing protocols become more widespread. No one knows when or how this ends, and we appreciate your patience as we (along with everyone else) work through this. If we do continue to host these in-person events and you have any concerns about attending, we will fully refund your ticket.

LION peer-learning  

One of LION’s greatest strengths is and always has been our community. Unsurprisingly, our members have been generous in their advice and support of one another. In hopes of encouraging members to borrow great ideas from one another, we are keeping an internal Airtable tracker of story/project ideas, revenue strategies, resource pages, video/audio examples and more that our members are producing. We’ve shared this in our LION Slack channel #coveringcoronavirus–– request to join our Slack group here

Our existing programming, new programming ideas

There’s programming we’ve already been working on or planning to announce soon that won’t be greatly impacted by the coronavirus–– but we do want to hear from you on how we can make it most relevant to the current challenges you’re facing.

Our next LION Lesson feels particularly prescient for this moment: getting philanthropic dollars to support the journalism you want to make, whether your tax status reads “for profit” or “nonprofit.” Presented by Chalkbeat’s Maria Archangelo on Tuesday, March 24 from 1–2 p.m. ET, we know this will be an incredibly useful session for our members. RSVP here.

We’ll also be soon announcing a new project we’re piloting called the LION Expert Network. The idea is to help connect local news consultants with our members, and LION will cover a few hours of their consulting time. We imagine many of you will appreciate the opportunity to problem solve challenge related to revenue, operations and product over the next few weeks, and we hope this program is successful enough for us to grow and offer to more members. We’re currently asking for interested consultants to apply by Friday, March 27; soon we’ll be asking for interested members to apply. 

Being your advocate

Finally, we want to ensure that we’re representing the interests of LION members to large journalism funders and other organizations in our ecosystem. What are your biggest concerns right now as it relates to your business? What kind of support would you like to see from others in our industry? So far we’ve heard that it would be helpful to have grant applications and reporting deadline extended and ideas for how to help small local businesses affected by the impact of the coronavirus closings. What asks do you have and how can we help amplify them?

The best place to stay up to date on LION’s work and relevant resources is our weekly LION newsletter (sign up here). If you have any questions, suggestions or just want to vent for a bit about how utterly overwhelming this all is (we hear you!) drop me a note any time.

Sincerely,
Chris Krewson
Executive Director, LION Publishers