LION Publishers Sustainability Awards

Awards graphic 2023 (3)

The LION Publishers Sustainability Awards recognize excellence by local independent online news businesses in award categories focused on LION's pillars of sustainability — journalistic impact, financial health, and operational resilience.

We'll host our sixth annual LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner in conjunction with our Summit conference on September 5, 2024, in Chicago. Applications to the 2024 LION Awards are now closed. Stay tuned for our finalist announcement in July!

2024 LION Awards

This isn't your typical journalism awards program.

Over the last five years of running the LION Publishers Local Journalism Awards, we’ve made some changes along the way as our focus within the media ecosystem has become clearer.

Our mission is to help independent news entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses. The annual awards program aims to celebrate our members' transformational achievements as they progress toward becoming sustainable news organizations for their communities. 

That’s why, for our sixth annual LION Awards, we’re rebranding as the LION Publishers Sustainability Awards. 

At the LION Awards, we don’t just celebrate great journalism. We celebrate sustainable journalism that is built to last longer than one story or impactful series. We want our focus to be on the work our members are doing to design replicable processes and community-centered workflows. 

Along with journalistic impact, we celebrate our members’ progress in strengthening their organizations’ financial health and operational resilience, because we know that sustainability happens at the intersection of these three pillars.

Here’s what we mean by each of those terms:

  • Journalistic impact: A track record of producing meaningful and demonstrable impact in your communities through your journalism in a way that is defined, tracked, and measured.
  • Financial health: Earning enough revenue to comfortably cover your news business’ expenses and strategically build for the future, which includes the ability to earn money, manage a budget, and monitor revenue and expenses using efficient tools and reliable financial data.
  • Operational resilience: The systems, processes, policies, and company culture that support staff, manage growth, and prevent inefficient/ineffective work, burnout, and turnover.

The 2024 Awards will feature:

  • Cash prizes for award winners (in 2023, we gave out more than $55,000 to LION Award winners)
  • The LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner, which will be hosted in person on September 5, 2024, during LION’s Independent News Sustainability Summit in Chicago
  • Eight independently-judged award categories
  • Two recognition awards nominated by LION staff and board members
  • The opportunity for independent publishers to be evaluated against peer news organizations with a similar annual revenue
  • A sliding scale for entry fees based on annual revenue
  • One complimentary ticket to the LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner for finalist organizations

Evaluated Award Categories and Judging Criteria

Here are our 2024 categories that are being evaluated by a panel of independent judges:

Recognition Award Categories

And here are the 2024 recognition awards that will be nominated by LION staff and board members:

Eligibility Requirements and Terms of Agreement

LION members who submitted entries to the 2024 awards were asked to review our eligibility requirements and terms of agreement:

Changes to the 2024 LION Awards

Here’s how we’ve iterated the LION Awards for 2024 and the reasoning behind any changes: