About LION Publishers
LION Publishers strengthens the local news industry by helping independent news publishers build more sustainable businesses.
We focus primarily on the business side of news entrepreneurship, as many other support organizations exist to help publishers level up their journalism skills.
Our role at LION is to help our 475+ members in the U.S. and Canada build and run better businesses. Businesses that can pay a living wage. Businesses that can recruit and retain talent. Businesses that can grow their reach, revenue, and impact. Businesses that are here to stay.
A world where thriving, independent news organizations provide equitable access to inclusive and impactful news and information.
LION provides teaching, resources, and community to independent news entrepreneurs as they build and develop sustainable businesses.
Our Signature Programs
We offer programs to serve our members, who are aspiring news entrepreneurs and existing independent news publishers:
LION Sustainability Audits
Our Sustainability Audits give publishers a detailed analysis of their business's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities – along with practical recommendations and funding to take their next steps. We launched the program in 2021 and have completed more than 200 Audits since then. In 2023, we partnered with the Google News Initiative and the Knight Foundation to provide Audits and up to $20,000 grants to 100 LION members. Applications for this program will re-open in 2024.
GNI Startups Program
This partnership with the Google News Initiative includes the GNI Startups Lab, a six-month program to help a cohort of publishers get on the path to sustainability; the GNI Startups Boot Camp, an eight-week program to help aspiring founders launch a news business; the GNI Startups Playbook, an in-depth guide to launching a news publication; and Project Oasis, ongoing research about the growing independent journalism field.
LION-Meta Revenue Growth Fellowship
LION members receive exclusive benefits, including opportunities for coaching and funding, discounted media liability insurance, eligibility for the LION Local Journalism Awards, access to peer learning and support, and ongoing professional development training. Learn more about LION membership and how to apply.
These values guide the way LION’s board and staff should work for its membership; the way LION as an organization should work for its board and staff; and the way LION members should work for their communities. Learn more about how to hold us accountable to our values.
We believe in being:
Data-informed: We can’t make an impact without defining how to measure our impact. We strive for excellence in our work by gathering data, consistently articulating what success looks like, measuring our progress, and making time to celebrate our learnings, regardless of whether we achieve our intended outcome.
Equitable and inclusive: We stand against racist and discriminatory business and editorial practices that oppress historically marginalized communities. We believe the most impactful journalism effectively reflects a community’s diverse perspectives while prioritizing the stories of those who have been historically overlooked or marginalized. While legacy newsrooms often haven’t been welcoming or supportive to people from marginalized or underrepresented backgrounds, we believe it’s our job to ensure the independent news industry is creating space for these leaders and voices to thrive.
People-centered: Good design requires being responsive to people’s needs, which includes practicing empathy, holding ourselves and others accountable to shared standards, and always prioritizing people’s personal well-being over work.
Systems thinkers: A rising tide lifts all boats, so we always consider how individual pieces of our work fit into a larger vision. We solve complex challenges by thinking about the systems in which they function rather than discrete problems. We balance the need to scale our work with acknowledging that not all solutions are one-size-fits-all, and we support unique needs as we are able to.
Transparent: Open information and candid communication are at the heart of building trust. This includes acknowledging mistakes, learning out loud about what is and isn’t working, and sharing the thought process behind major decisions.
Iterative: We believe there is always room for improvement. We commit to using the iterative “build-measure-learn” loop to design experiments, measure outcomes, and gain new insights as we support sustainable models for local, independent news businesses.
Collaborative: We seek to build strong relationships with colleagues and external stakeholders to learn and grow from their expertise, ensure we aren’t duplicating efforts, and share capacity and resources toward achieving a common goal.
In 2010, a group of independent news publishers met at the first-ever Block by Block Community News Summit. The conference, sparked by research into local independent news sites led by Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow Michele McLellan, was focused on publishers from across the U.S. answering questions like, “How do I best serve my community? How do I build a business that will sustain my mission as a news and information provider?” and learning from one another, according to The Patterson Foundation.
A couple of years later, in 2012, LION Publishers was founded as a professional association for local independent news publishers. In 2019, LION received its 501(c)3 status and received a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation that allowed it to hire three senior staff members for the first time. Since then, we have nearly tripled our staff, launched signature programs, and expanded our membership benefits.
The LION Publishers is committed to providing our members, our board of directors, and the public with transparent disclosures on the companies and businesses we’ve worked, or currently work with, in the course of our careers. Here are our staff, board, and vendor disclosure statements.