LION Awards

LION’s Local Journalism Awards recognize excellence in journalism and business at local independent online news publishers. The awards are open to LION members only. Independent judges put a special emphasis on entries that rise above the ordinary, show an entrepreneurial spirit and provide a blueprint for other publishers in the field.

Applications are closed for the 2021 LION Awards. Thank you to all who submitted! We recieved a whopping 40 percent more applications this year. This is a testament to the strong work members are producing every day. We’ve decided to take the hard but necessary step to postpone this year’s LION Awards to Tuesday, Nov. 16 to make sure all the entries are thoughtfully and intentionally evaluated. Winners will be announced at the third annual LION Awards Show virtually on Tuesday, Nov. 16 where we’ll be celebrating the best of independent online media across the U.S. and Canada, from solopreneurs to large newsrooms. Click here to register by November 14 to attend LION's third annual Local Journalism Awards, presented by the Google News Initiative, and learn more about our lightning talks pre-show event taking place earlier on November 16  starting at 1:30pm Eastern Time

The LION Awards are open to LION Publishers members, including all employees or freelancers who work for member publications. Interested in joining LION Publishers? Check out our membership criteria and application.

LION held the first LION Awards during the LION Summit in Nashville in October 2019.

The second awards were celebrated virtually in October 2020, sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The evening included a keynote panel sponsored by Google News Initiative, and composed of S. Mitra Kalita, SVP of News, Opinion and Programming at CNN Digital; Mazin Sidahmed, co-executive director of Documented; and Kate B. Maxwell, publisher and co-founder of The Mendocino Voice. You can watch a recording of the ceremony here. You can check out the winners of the 2020 awards here.

LION Awards 2021 Information

Unless otherwise noted, the winners for each award will be selected by an independent team of expert judges, and this year we’re adding six new or revamped categories:

  • Best Coverage of Protest and Movements for publications that effectively covered protests and activism in their community.
  • Best (Local) Election/Voting Coverage for publications that have served their communities with excellent election coverage.
  • Best Coronavirus Coverage for journalism about the COVID-19 pandemic, including coverage of coronavirus vaccines, that demonstrates meeting a community’s need; creative reader engagement; and journalistic impact.
  • General Excellence: Operational Resilience will be awarded to a LION member that has taken steps to implement the internal structures, workflows, and policies that enable a news business to run efficiently, inclusively, and sustainably. This could include founder/staff burnout, ability to attract and retain diverse and talented staff, having a plan and process to grow a team over time, and founder succession. We will accept nominations, including self-nominations, and the winner will be selected by a special panel of LION judges. Need more inspiration for your nomination? Read our section on operational resilience in our GNI Startups Playbook. This awards comes with a cash prize.
  • General Excellence: Revenue Growth (previously known as the Business Idea of the Year) will be awarded to a LION member that has successfully implemented revenue generating strategies. We will accept nominations, including self-nominations, and the winner will be selected by a special panel of LION judges. Need more inspiration for your nomination? Past year’s finalists included Detour Detroit for its Keep Detroit Local Initiative, Richland Source for its Source Brand Solutions digital marketing agency, VT Digger for its press release portal, and Taproot Edmonton for its curated newsletter for business. This awards comes with a cash prize.
  • Community Engagement and Service Award for projects that demonstrate sustained engagement with a publication’s audience or community.  

Returning categories include:

  • Best Solutions Project of the Year for projects that excel in solutions, evidence-based journalism.
  • Publisher of the Year (Solo, Small, Medium/Large) for publishers who provide excellent coverage of their community over a prolonged period of time. These awards come with a cash prize.
  • Investigative Report of the Year (Solo, Small, Medium/Large) for investigative stories or series that result in increased awareness and community impact.
  • Breaking News (Solo, Small, Medium/Large) for coverage of unplanned breaking or developing news events, weighing quality of writing and creative use of social platforms under deadline. 
  • Visual Journalism Project for compelling storytelling through photography, videography or infographics/data visualization.
  • Collaboration of the Year for creative collaborations between publications or community partners.
  • Public Service Award for a publication that has served its community with high-impact journalistic work.
  • New Publisher of the Year for an outstanding entrepreneur who launched their publication after July 20, 2020. This award comes with a cash prize and a complimentary LION membership for 2022.
  • Member of the Year: Based on nominations, the LION staff will award a member who has gone above and beyond in supporting their fellow LION members and community.

The fine print: The LION Awards are open to LION Publishers members, including employees or freelancers who work for publications run by LION Publishers members. 

Categories: To ensure we’re comparing LION member publications of roughly the same size and capacity, we’ll ask that you provide your full-time equivalent staff (FTE) as of July 20, 2020, with each awards entry:

Solopreneur: 0-1 full time employees 

Small publication: two to 5 full time employees 

Medium - Large publication: 6 or more full time employees

Questions? Contact Cassie Balfour at [email protected].

Thank you to this year's LION Awards Sponsors!

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