Knight Foundation awards $2.85 million to LION Publishers

The renewal provides for hundreds more Sustainability Audits, plus online courses, coaching, peer learning and program-specific funding.

September 19, 2022 by LION Publishers

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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded a $2.85 million, three-year grant to LION Publishers, the foundation announced today.

The commitment will fund (among other things) 200 more of LION’s Sustainability Audits to help independent publishers build stronger small businesses and establish industry benchmarks and milestones that will help other local news entrepreneurs on their journey. 

LION has performed more than 125 Sustainability Audits since 2021, and 98 percent of surveyed respondents reported a positive impact on their business’s sustainability.

Here’s what publishers have said about our Sustainability Audits and the personalized recommendations they received from their audit analyst:

  • “I have already begun acting on some of the recommendations and in quite literally one day attracted more monthly supporters than I have any other day in the existence of our publication. I found this process incredibly helpful as I often don’t have the time or mental space to step back and view my organization strategically and long-term.” — Ryan Sorrell, The Kansas City Defender
  • “Having an outside set of eyes on my company was incredibly valuable and provided some new ideas for me to weigh and implement.” — Tom Lappas, The Henrico Citizen
  • “Our auditor was extremely engaged, and her report, filled with actionable and specific ideas, will drive our work for at least the next 3 years.” — Emily Sachar, The Red Hook Daily Catch

LION Publishers supports more than 425 independent news publishers, for-profit and nonprofit, across the U.S. and Canada, and runs programs that offer online courses, small business coaching, peer learning and direct funding. 

A recent LION survey found that member publishers achieved a median 33% revenue increase in 2021 vs. the previous year. 

“While a lot of people hear about how local news is dying, we hear a different story from our members,” said Chris Krewson, Executive Director of LION Publishers. “We see the field actually growing, with digital, diverse, community-focused local media on the rise. It is the present, not just the future. By serving these small, distributed, locally operated news entrepreneurs, we are helping create a more robust system to address and prevent news deserts.

“This grant sets a foundation to help hundreds more independent news businesses on the road to sustainability, and will help us create resources for hundreds more.”

LION’s mission is to provide teaching, resources and community to independent news entrepreneurs as they build and develop sustainable businesses. 

In addition to expanding access to our Sustainability Audits program in partnership with the Google News Initiative, our accomplishments this year include:

  • Designing and leading three GNI Startups Lab programs in areas of need for our members – managing money and risk, building and managing a team, and planning for revenue growth – in partnership with the Google News Initiative.

This investment from Knight Foundation, part of a $9 million in support for the sector, also supports the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) and the Center for Community Media at CUNY, bolstering local news support networks that are helping grow a cohort of hundreds of publishers as they aim for stronger financial sustainability.

The investment aligns with Knight’s strategy to support informed communities through high-quality local journalism, reaching diverse audiences and generating sustainable revenue models. Plus, it advances Knight’s aim to boost the power of networks in local news and build infrastructure for business success in the long term.

“These are networks of independent local news providers, outlets that are family-owned or run by community-minded journalism entrepreneurs,” said Karen Rundlet, Journalism Director at Knight. “These organizations inform local audiences, Black, immigrant, and rural communities. Knight’s funding will support programs to make their businesses stronger so they have a real shot at longevity.”

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