Two members of LION Publishers Board of Directors, AustinTalks.org publisher Suzanne McBride and BIGR Media COO Kelly Gilfillan, have been re-elected and will continue leading the nation's foremost group of local independent news publishers.
The pair were unanimously voted by the Board to three-year terms, filling out the leadership of Local Independent Online News Publishers. Their renewed terms were ratified by the membership at the annual meeting held at the 2016 LION Summit in Chicago.
The two have brought to LION's leadership a diverse set of experiences that reflects the breadth of the national organization's membership. LION Publisher's nearly 140 members include the publishers of both for- and nonprofit news sites across the United States, ranging from rural towns and urban neighborhoods to regional news sites.
Gilfillan recently merged her websites, including Brentwood Home Page, with several other suburban Nashville sites, giving BIGR Media a focused set of six sites covering news and sports in central Tennessee. The co-founder of her company, Gilfillan is now the co-owner and executive editor of the local media outlet.
"Following the LION conference, I came home inspired and full of hope for the state of local news," Gilfillan said. "Serving on the board, I look forward to helping our members grow their businesses and keeping local news a viable means of making a living for all LIONs."
"The collaboration happening among LION members continues to be the biggest force in what makes our organization great," she said.
In addition to her academic work with Columbia College Chicago, McBride is a co-founder of ChicagoTalks.org and the founder and publisher of AustinTalks.org, which covers Chicago's West Side. Since launching in spring 2010, AustinTalks has published hundreds of stories, won two Chicago Headline Club awards and connected thousands of West Siders, including some of its youngest residents, with each other.
"It's been a privilege to serve on LION's board the last three years, and I look forward to the future," McBride said. "Working with local independent online news publishers across the country has strengthened AustinTalks, and convinced me that we must do all we can to support those producing local, independent news."
"Readers from big cities to small towns are demanding information about their communities, and the 140-some members of LION are filling a critical need," McBride said. "My goal is to do all I can to nurture and support still more local news operators, especially in news deserts – those areas with little or no coverage."
Gilfillan said that "LION members are really broadening their focus to work on the business and not just in the business. Sustainability in the news means a strong revenue flow — the conversation has shifted to how to do that whether you're a one-man shop or have dozens of staffers."
"I expect this will be the biggest year of growth for LION," Gilfillan said. "More journalists are seeing success within the LION ranks and are inspired to pick up the torch for their own community. Local indie publishers are the new players in the fourth estate and many communities would not have a watchdog if we weren't there. The foundering giants are not going to be able to bring local news to communities; LIONs will have to take on that work."
McBride worked for more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before she began teaching at Columbia in 2005, including stints at the The Indianapolis Star and the now-defunct Indianapolis News, the Terre Haute Tribune-Star and The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Suzanne also worked for the NBC affiliate (Channel 13) in Indianapolis and as a legislative aide in Washington, D.C., for an Ohio congressman. In 2012, she worked on a project in Dublin, Ireland, seeks to remove the "media desert" surrounding the city's disadvantaged Liberties neighborhood.
Gilfillan's resume includes managing and marketing a start-up occupational health center; working as a hospital assistant marketing director; seven years of freelance medical technical writing for professors, facilities and charities; and various media sales positions.
She graduated from Belmont University with a BBA emphasis in Marketing. She oversees the business, marketing and sales management of BIGR Media's six news websites.
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