LION Awards

The fourth-annual LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards will recognize excellence achieved by local independent online news businesses in 12 award categories focused on LION’s pillars of sustainability — journalistic impact, financial health and operational resilience.  

The 2022 LION Awards will be celebrated at the Independent News Sustainability Summit in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022.

Click here to apply for the 2022 LION Awards

The Awards will feature 12 award categories with the potential to award multiple winners per category based on LION’s membership tiers, which are reflective of an organization’s reported annual revenue. This year we’ve added a new tier called “Micro” to have the opportunity to recognize more award winners. The four tiers are below:

  • Micro: Less than $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Small: Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue
  • Medium: Between $500,000 and $1.1 million in annual revenue
  • Large: More than $1.1 million in annual revenue

Award winners and finalists will be determined by independent judges based on specific criteria focused on how our members’ work is helping their news business achieve sustainability, and how their work reflects LION’s organizational values.

We’re looking for volunteer judges for the fourth-annual LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards! Please fill out this form if you are interested. The time commitment is approximately three hours over a three-week period.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • LION’s Local Journalism Awards are exclusively open to current LION members that have both paid annual membership dues and completed the annual membership application. If your organization is NOT on this list, that means you have not yet completed the annual membership application and must do so before you can be determined a LION Awards winner or finalist.
  • The 2022 LION Awards are open to journalism published or work achieved between July 20, 2021 and June 30, 2022.
  • Applicants must meet the submission deadline of Friday, July 22, 2022 at 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET to be considered for a LION Award.
  • The cost to submit each award entry is $25.

Here are the 2022 LION Awards Categories:

More cash prizes may become available

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Community Member of the Year (cash prize): Recognizes an individual who exemplifies LION’s core values. They routinely go above and beyond to help ensure their community of news entrepreneurs feels supported, acknowledged and celebrated. They are dedicated to building a sustainable news business, and helping their fellow LIONs do the same. LION staff will select a winner based on nominations from staff, board and the LION community.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.

How to submit entries for the LION Awards:

  • Complete this submission form and pay the $25 application fee for each LION Award category that you want to be considered for.
  • Deadline: Friday, July 22, 2022 at 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET 

Entrants to the Awards agree to the following terms:

  • Any submission to the LION Awards remains the intellectual property of you and your organization.
  • By submitting the application for an award, you grant LION Publishers the right to publish what you submit on our various websites. We do this to showcase the work of the winners and to promote our awards in the future.
  • By submitting an entry, you represent and warrant that the entry is original work, that you have the right to submit the work as an entry to the LION Awards and that you have the right to grant LION Publishers the rights granted above.
  • Award recognition, determination of entry validity, judging criteria, choice of judges, selection and announcement of winners, and interpretation of any and all contest rules and regulations shall be at the sole discretion of LION Publishers.

FAQ

How did the award categories change from last year?

We slightly edited or reframed many of the 2021 LION Awards categories to bring more clarity to our awards criteria. Our new award categories in 2022 include: Revenue Campaign of the Year, Outstanding Coverage Award and Product of the Year.

2022 Award Category 2021 Award Category
LION Business of the Year Publisher of the Year
New LION Business of the Year New Publisher of the Year
Community Member of the Year Member of the Year
Collaboration of the Year Collaboration of the Year
General Excellence: Financial Health General Excellence: Revenue Growth
General Excellence: Operational Resilience General Excellence: Operational Resilience
Accountability Award Investigative Report of the Year
Public Service Award Public Service Award
Community Engagement Award Community Engagement and Service Award

How many winners will be determined?

We will award up to three winners (based on annual revenue) for the following award categories: LION Business of the Year, Collaboration of the Year, General Excellence: Financial Health, Revenue Campaign of the Year, General Excellence: Operational Resilience, Accountability Award, Public Service Award, Outstanding Coverage Award, Community Engagement Award, and Product of the Year.

For example, for one award category, we may have a winner in the “Micro” tier, another winner in the “Small” tier, and another winner in the “Medium” tier, depending on how many entries are received for each award.

We will select one winner for the following award categories: New LION Business of the Year and Community Member of the Year.

How many cash prizes will be provided?

LION will award up to three cash prizes to up to three winners for the following award categories: LION Business of the Year, General Excellence: Financial Health, and General Excellence: Operational Resilience.

LION will award one cash prize to one winner for the following award categories: New LION Business of the Year and Community Member of the Year.

It is possible that additional cash prizes could be awarded.

How much does it cost to submit a LION Awards entry?

It costs $25 per entry. For example, if you submit an entry for two awards, the total cost will be $50. Refunds will not be issued.

When and where will the LION Awards Ceremony take place?

The 2022 LION Awards Ceremony and Dinner will take place the evening of Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Austin, Texas during the Independent News Sustainability Summit at the Austin Marriott Downtown (304 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX) — not to be confused with the JW Marriott a few doors down.

RSVP for our Summit and the Awards dinner here.

Who will attend the LION Awards?

The 2022 LION Awards Ceremony and Dinner is open to all attendees of the Independent News Sustainability Summit. You do not need to be a LION member to attend!

Can I still be recognized as a LION Awards finalist or winner even if I can’t attend the in-person LION Awards Ceremony?

Of course!

Can I volunteer to be a LION Awards judge?

Yes! Please fill out this form to indicate your interest in volunteering as a LION Awards judge.

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.

We saw a whopping 40 percent increase in submissions in 2021 — a testament to the impactful work our members are producing every day. We announced the 2021 winners virtually at the third annual LION Awards Show where we celebrated the best of independent online media across the U.S. and Canada, from solopreneurs to large newsrooms. Click here to read about the winners and finalists from the 2022 LION Local Journalism Awards, presented by the Google News Initiative.

LION Awards 2021 Information

Unless otherwise noted, the winners for each award was selected by an independent team of expert judges, and this year we added six new or revamped categories. See below for all the 2021 LION Award categories as well as the rules for entry:

  • 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 the 2021 LION Awards Sponsors!

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