Frequently asked questions about the Local Independent Online News Publishers annual conference

September 10, 2017 by Dylan Smith


When & where is the 2018 LION Summit being held?

October 11-13, Thursday morning through Saturday evening, on the downtown urban campus of Colubmia College Chicago. Sessions on Thursday and Friday will be held in the Film Row Cinema and classrooms on the 8th floor of 1104 S. Wabash, just off South Michigan Avenue in the Loop. Friday night's reception will be held on the third floor of that building. Sessions on Saturday will be on the second and ninth floors of 618 S. Michigan Ave., just a few blocks north, with the closing reception on the second floor.

See the conference Map page for more.

Where should I stay?

Check out updates on hotel rooms in this blog post.

LION Publishers has arranged a block of rooms for Oct. 11-13 at the Best Western Grant Park Hotel in Chicago, just a block from the site of the summit, at a special discounted rate of $199 for single and double rooms. Register online here or call the hotel at (312) 922-2900 and mention "LION" to reserve a room. The deadline for obtaining that rate is Sept. 11, but the block of rooms will be filled up by then, so act soon. The group rate will be honored up to three days before and after the conference, for those who wish to spend some extra time in Chicago.

Because of a quirk in the online reservation system, it's difficult to book rooms online for a stretch that includes Wednesday-Saturday nights. It's possible to book Weds/Thurs/Fri and a separate booking for Saturday night, or Weds and Thurs/Fri/Sat. We've asked Best Western to figure out what might be happening, but that's a work-around for the moment.

Another block of rooms is available at the Congress Plaza Hotel, four blocks up Michigan Avenue from the Best Western. Rooms there are $179 per night (possibly cheaper via your favorite online booking outlet), but Saturday night is sold out. Reserve online or call 312-427-3800 x 5025 or 800-635-1666.

Also, you can check out other nearby hotels listed on our Map page. A Travelodge is just a few blocks up Wabash from the conferences site, but rooms are limited on Saturday night. If you're looking for a fancier hotel than the Best Western, the Loop is filled with them. The Hilton's a couple blocks away, and there are even snazzier ones. Columbia College also maintains a list of recommended hotels, and for those on a very tight budget, there's a hostel within walking distance that can be as low as $40 per night (that's cheaper than a cab ride from the airport). Need a roommate? Use our Roomate Roster list to help find someone to split hotel costs.

How can I get downtown from the airport?

CTA's L train is available between downtown Chicago and both O'Hare  ($5 from airport, $2.25 return) and Midway ($2.25 each way) airports. Metro stops are indicated on the map with an "M." Trains from O'Hare take about 45 minutes to travel downtown, while Midway trains take about 30 minutes. A taxi or Uber ($40-60) will take about the same amount of time, or be considerably longer in traffic.

What does my registration fee cover?

Three days of excellent networking and learning from each other and industry experts, focused squarely on local independent news: revenue, management, tech, editorial and more. Plus, we provide food and drink throughout the conference: Thursday morning coffee and a light lunch, a Thursday evening welcome reception with light dinner and hosted bar; continental breakfast and a lunch buffet on Friday, a Friday night reception with a buffet meal and hosted bar; and breakfast, lunch and a few evening drinks to wind things up on Saturday. 

Do I have to be an indie publisher to attend?

We welcome everyone who's interested in sharing concrete ways we can rebuild local journalism. Non-members are certainly welcome — each year we have attendees from across the country and around the world who are thinking of founding independent news organizations, or just want to be part of the discussions about what is coming next.

What if I'm a student?

Then you should definitely attend: you're the future of journalism. We offer special low-cost student registration, because we want to hear your fresh ideas as well as let you learn grizzled veterans.

What about my dietary restrictions?

Leading up to the conference, we'll send out a survey that will include a section of diet preferences. As always, we'll strive to honor requests for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and other food options for each meal we provide.

Where can I get the conference app?

Download our iOS and Android apps, with a complete sesson guide, personalized schedules and other information. We'll update any changes both on the LION website and the app.

How do I get on wifi at the conference?

Network name: LION

Password: tutasWE4 (capital W, capital E)

What's the hashtag?


Does LION Publishers have a Code of Conduct?

Yes. We recognize the important values of respect and courtesy that have long been the foundation of our members' interactions: LION is committed to maintaining a safe, respectful, productive, inclusive, welcoming and harassment-free experience for everyone. Check out of complete Code of Conduct.

Is the conference on the record?

Yes. A number of activities of LION Publishers are designated as strictly off the record, but the conference is a public event. We'll be videotaping nearly every session, and livestreaming many of them. We believe it's important to spread the word that local news can work if it's independent and invested in local communities, and want to encourage the founding of more outlets for great local journalism by new publishers.

I just found out I can't make the trip. Can I get a refund?

That depends, but we'll miss you either way. All refunds must be requested by Sept. 30, 2018. No refunds will be given after that date. We must charge a $50 administrative fee for refund requests made after Sep. 15, 2018 (There is no fee for student refunds.) The fee will be deducted from your refund amount. Refunds will be credited back to the original form of payment, or a refund check will be mailed after the conference. Refund requests must be made via email to [email protected]. Not attending the conference without requesting a refund does not constitute a cancellation of your registration.

Why Chicago?

Columbia College Chicago, a private liberal arts school, has graciously hosted each year of the national conference of LION Publishers. Their support has helped us offer very affordable registration rates, and the central location of Chicago makes it one of the most convenient destinations for our widespread membership. Plus, it's a fun city no matter what your interests: art, music, history, food. Every night of the conference, you'll find LIONs venturing out on safari to explore a bit of the city.

Will it be cold yet?

It'll be a bit chilly, especially for those from places that don't get much snow. Bring layers of clothing, and remember that the wind off Lake Michigan — just a few blocks away — can be cold at night. Temperatures might be in the 60s on a sunny day, and near freezing at night with the breeze. Check forecasts when you're packing your bag; it looks like there might be some rain in store heading into the weekend of the conference.

What about the temperature in the conference rooms?

A light sweater or sport coat may help you deal with any temperature fluctuations during the conference days. 

Why can't I sit in the back row of the auditorium?

While we like to encourage attendees to sit near the front because the LION conference is as much about participation as it is about learning, we keep the back row clear mainly to facilitate organizers being able to move around — making sure that audience commenters have microphones, checking video cameras, checking on speakers, etc., mean many miles of walking every day. Having a path across the back of the house keeps us from wearing out our shoes.

I'm a speaker. What can I expect?

An crowd that is attentive, eager to learn and ready to ask challengine questions — you're talking to folks in the news business, after all. Every session at the LION Summit, whether it's a presentation in the main auditorium or a breakout roundtable discussion, includes elements of discussion. We're all attending to learn from each other — industry experts, publisher speakers and moderators, and audience alike.

The plenary session space, the Film Row Cinema, seats 260 and features a full-size projection screen. The smaller breakout classrooms are also equipped with screens. 

LION records video of nearly all sessions, and livestreams some of them.


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