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 5-7, 2024, in Chicago. Applications to the LION Awards are open from March 4 to April 22, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT.

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 (if you’d like to volunteer as a judge, fill out this form!)
  • 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

Submit your entries between March 4 and April 22, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT.

The 2024 LION Awards will recognize work achieved between April 15, 2023, and April 15, 2024. Note: The New Business of the Year Award will recognize work achieved between January 1, 2023, and April 15, 2024.


As you prepare to submit your application, use this application template to gather your thoughts and materials. 

Here are our 2024 categories that will be evaluated by a panel of independent judges (You can read the detailed category descriptions and criteria below):

  • Business of the Year
  • New LION Business of the Year 
  • Operational Resilience Award
  • Financial Health Award
  • Journalistic Impact Award
  • Community Engagement Award
  • Collaboration of the Year
  • Product of the Year

And here are the 2024 recognition awards that will be nominated by LION staff and board members (You can read the detailed category descriptions and criteria below):

  • Community Member of the Year
  • Transformational Impact Award

Eligibility Requirements:

  • The LION Awards are exclusively open to current LION members, listed here. If your organization is not on the current member list, please email [email protected] to become an active member no later than April 22, 2024, to participate in the 2024 LION Awards.
  • Collaborative entries between more than one LION member must be submitted in the Collaboration of the Year category.
  • The 2024 LION Awards recognize work achieved between April 15, 2023, and April 15, 2024. Note: the New Business of the Year Award will recognize work achieved between January 1, 2023, and April 15, 2024.
  • Applicants must meet the submission deadline of Monday, April 22, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. PT to be considered for a LION Award.
  • LION members may apply for consideration in as many award categories as they wish. Members must complete an entry application and pay the entry fee for each award category.

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

Evaluated Award Categories and Judging Criteria:

Recognition Award Categories:

Those submitting entries 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 finalists and winners, and interpretation of any and all contest rules and regulations shall be at the sole discretion of LION Publishers.

If you have any questions, please reach out to [email protected]