Meet the 36 winners of the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards

Each winner received at least $1,300 to further boost their independent news business.

October 3, 2023 by Hayley Milloy

Meet the winners of the 2023 LION Awards

LION Publishers is thrilled to recognize 36 independent news businesses as winners of the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards, presented by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carol Oppenheim & Jerome Lamet Charitable Fund.

The LION Awards recognize excellence and transformational impact in 10 award categories focused on our pillars of sustainability — operational resilience, financial health, and journalistic impact. 

Hosts Candice Fortman, of Outlier Media, and Lisa Heyamoto, of LION Publishers, warmly welcomed more than 175 news leaders and journalism supporters to the fifth annual LION Awards Ceremony on Oct. 3 in Durham, North Carolina. 

There, we celebrated our 99 finalist entries from 74 LION member organizations, announced the 37 winning entries, and awarded $55,800 in cash prizes to 36 unique LION member organizations thanks to generous support from our sponsors. Each winning entry received at least $1,300. 

LION Business of the Year, our marquee award that comes with a $3,000 cash prize, went to Santa Cruz Local (Micro/Small Tier), The Houston Defender (Medium Tier), and Outlier Media (Large Tier). 

All 10 award categories are reviewed by an independent panel of judges every year. Additionally, LION staff selects the winner of our Community Member of the Year Award, which honors an individual who exemplifies LION’s core values. This year’s winner is Hanna Raskin, the editor and founder of The Food Section. Hanna often raises her hand to help support other members and generously shares her successes and lessons learned with them.

Given that we hosted this year’s event in North Carolina, LION also offered special recognition and a $500 newsroom donation to The Daily Tar Heel, the independent student newspaper of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to highlight their outstanding work covering recent gun violence on their campus.

We appreciate everyone who submitted entries, cheered on our winners, shared the love on social media (#LIONAwards23), supported the celebration, and made this year our best LION Awards yet.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards! Read more about each winner’s work below.

  • 🏆 2PuntosPlatform, Winner: Product of the Year Award (Micro Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Appeal, Co-Winner: Community Engagement Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Arizona Luminaria, Winner: New LION Business of the Year Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Assembly, Winner: Accountability Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Block Club Chicago, Co-Winner: Public Service Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Bolts, Winner: New LION Business of the Year Award (Medium/Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Bridge Michigan, Co-Winner: Operational Resilience Award (Medium/Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Broke in Philly, Winner: Collaboration of the Year Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Burlington Buzz, Winner: Community Engagement Award (Micro Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Cardinal News, Winner: Financial Health Award (Medium/Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 ClearHealthCosts, Co-Winner: Public Service Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆🏆 The Coronado News, Winner: Outstanding Coverage Award (Micro Revenue Tier), and Winner: Public Service Award (Micro Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Dallas Free Press, Co-Winner: Operational Resilience Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Discourse, Co-Winner: Community Engagement Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Epicenter-NYC, Co-Winner: Public Service Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Food Section’s Hanna Raskin, Winner: Community Member of the Year Award
  • 🏆 The Green Line, Winner: Product of the Year Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Highlands Current, Winner: Outstanding Coverage Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Houston Defender, Winner: LION Business of the Year Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Jacksonville Today, Winner: Product of the Year Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Kansas City Defender, Winner: Accountability Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 La Noticia, Winner: Collaboration of the Year Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Madison Minutes, Co-Winner: Collaboration of the Year Award (Micro/Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Mississippi Free Press, Winner: Public Service Award (Medium Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Montana Free Press, Winner: Product of the Year Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 New Mexico In Depth, Winner: Outstanding Coverage Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Outlier Media, Winner: LION Business of the Year Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 The Prison Journalism Project, Co-Winner: Operational Resilience Award (Medium/Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Resolve Philly, Winner: Community Engagement Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆🏆 Santa Cruz Local, Winner: LION Business of the Year Award (Micro/Small Revenue Tier), and Co-Winner: Operational Resilience Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Shasta Scout, Winner: Financial Health Award (Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Spinning Forward, Winner: New LION Business of the Year Award (Micro Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Tone Madison, Co-Winner: Collaboration of the Year Award (Micro/Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 Verified News Network (VNN), Co-Winner: Collaboration of the Year Award (Micro/Small Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆 VTDigger, Co-Winner: Public Service Award (Large Revenue Tier)
  • 🏆🏆 Wisconsin Watch, Winner: Accountability Award (Large Revenue Tier), and Winner: Outstanding Coverage (Large Revenue Tier)

Presenting Sponsors

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Carol Oppenheim & Jerome Lamet Charitable Fund

Platinum Sponsor 

Google News Initiative

Gold Sponsor


Bronze Sponsor

News Revenue Hub

Special thanks to this year’s volunteer judges, without whom the 2023 LION Awards would not be possible: Chris Amico, Andy Bechtel, Alex Ben Block, Christopher Brennan, Idalmy Carrera-Colucci, Felicitas Carrique, Maria Catalina Colmenares-Wiss, Neil Chase, Bene Cipolla, Elise Czajkowski, John Davidow, Tom Davidson, Natalya Dreszer, David Grant, Sam Gross, Lori Henson, Rocio Hernandez, Yaoshiang Ho, Erika L Hobbs, Natalie Van Hoozer, Dan Hu, Kevin Thomas Hulten, Philip John, Maple Walker Lloyd, Andrew Losowsky, Nicole Mastrangelo, Elizabeth McNamara, Cassie Miller, Ana AX Mina, Jen Mizgata, Amalie Nash, Mike Orren, Mark Potts, Max Resnik, Kelly Roche, Wendy Rosenfield, Adam Schweigert, Dylan Smith, Kimberly Spencer, Louise Story, Hanaa’ Tameez, Kakie Urch, Mandy Van Deven, Andrew Vogel, Graham Watson-Ringo, Monica Williams, and Yan Wu.

Within each category, we have tiers reflecting the annual revenue of each recognized organization:

  • Micro Tier: Less than $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Small Tier: Between $50,000 and $500,000 in annual revenue
  • Medium Tier: Between $500,000 and $1.1 million in annual revenue
  • Large Tier: More than $1.1 million in annual revenue

In some categories, we have combined Micro and Small tiers or Medium and Large tiers. Each tier isn’t always reflected for each award category, and we made these decisions based on the number of applications we received.

Winner descriptions were self-reported, and the comments were provided by our judges; both have been slightly edited by LION staff for length and clarity. You can select each category below to scroll to that specific section.

  1. LION Business of the Year
  2. New LION Business of the Year
  3. Operational Resilience Award
  4. Financial Health Award
  5. Collaboration of the Year
  6. Product of the Year
  7. Accountability Award 
  8. Community Engagement Award
  9. Outstanding Coverage Award
  10. Public Service Award
  11. Community Member of the Year Award

LION Business of the Year Award

Recognizes a LION member who has achieved transformational impact for their news business by working to achieve sustainability through operational resilience, financial health, and journalistic impact.

Winner, Micro/Small Revenue Tier: Santa Cruz Local

Santa Cruz Local produces deep, community-oriented journalism. In 2022, they created a fundraising-focused board and raised $72,000 to launch a Spanish news initiative for Pajaro Valley. They conducted extensive interviews with 170 Spanish-speaking residents to understand what news they want and how they want it delivered. 

From the judges: “Santa Cruz Local has truly excelled in its mission to bring attention to often-overlooked issues in a region characterized by affluence. By offering essential news coverage to underserved communities within the area, the organization has made an exceptional impact.” 

Finalist: The Food Section

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: The Houston Defender 

In the past year, The Houston Defender underwent a digital transformation that expanded its reach and introduced its brand to new audiences. They revamped their website to focus on three specific groups: Black Women, Under 40, and Community, and generated over $500,000 in new revenue. 

From the judges: “The growth exhibited by The Houston Defender in the past year is remarkable and serves as a potential blueprint for other legacy print organizations seeking to transition into the digital realm. This 90-plus-year-old news organization has undertaken a vigorous shift towards a modern digital business model, successfully generating substantial new revenue streams and expanding its audience base.” 

Finalists: Cardinal News and El Tímpano

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Outlier Media 

In the last year, Outlier Media created a fully operational nonprofit entity with a governing board, nearly doubled its budget, expanded its news coverage, and managed a news collaborative of nine outlets across its region. Outlier also developed the Detroit Documenters program, in which they recruited and trained nearly 500 residents to cover public meetings in Detroit.

From the judges: “Outlier has made significant strides toward sustainability by adapting both its business structure and content while steadfastly maintaining its commitment to community collaboration. Outlier’s journey from grassroots beginnings to its current state of expansion and collaboration for the betterment of underserved communities is truly commendable.”

Finalists: Grist and El Paso Matters

New LION Business of the Year Award

Recognizes a business — founded after January 1, 2022 — that exhibits, even in its very early stages, a clearly defined commitment to working toward achieving sustainability through operational resilience, financial health, and journalistic impact.

Winner, Micro Revenue Tier: Spinning Forward

Spinning Forward helps aspiring BIPOC creators between the ages of 16 and 34 thrive in the Toronto region. By prioritizing empathy-based storytelling and a community-focused approach, Spinning Forward creates events for young people, holds brands accountable for their portrayals of BIPOC communities, and investigates Toronto’s online racial pay gap.

From the judges: “Creatives in Toronto are lucky to have Spinning Forward on their side. This organization has an energetic vision for the impact it can make among creators in its target audience and a diversified way of growing its business, from mastermind groups to data journalism.” 

Finalists: The Berkeley Scanner, Planeta Venus, and Twice As Good Media

Winner, Small Revenue Tier: Arizona Luminaria

Arizona Luminaria provides equitable access to information about local civic issues, empowering all Arizonans to participate in civic life and elections. In their first year, they published over 100 stories in English and Spanish, grew their individual donors to 350, and brought in 16 grant funders.

From the judges: “Arizona Luminaria is an industry-leading example that empathetic audience listening is the foundation of great journalism and a strong business. Their belief in the people of Arizona and their excellent execution on the needs of their neighbors makes it easy to believe that they will be a light to local news for a very long time.”

There were no other finalists in this tier.

Winner, Medium/Large Revenue Tier: Bolts

Launched in early 2022, Bolts covers power and political change, emphasizing criminal justice and voting rights. They’ve published 155 articles, raised $1.1 million in funding, and inspired segments on “Good Morning America” and MSNBC.

From the judges: “Niche doesn’t mean small at Bolts, whose “multi-local” focus on criminal justice and voting rights coverage rooted in communities across the country has inspired other publishers to build upon its journalism and laid the foundation for a rapidly expanding business with several revenue drivers.” 

Finalist: Springfield Daily Citizen

Operational Resilience Award

Recognizes a LION member who has achieved transformational impact for their organization’s operational resilience by establishing processes, policies, and a company culture designed to support staff and manage growth in order to prevent burnout among the very people whose talent and buy-in are critical to their success.

Co-Winner, Small Revenue Tier: Dallas Free Press 

As their staff more than doubled, Dallas Free Press hired an operations and programming director and created a comprehensive playbook of operational processes that provide a foundation for their work.

From the judges: “Dallas Free Press is constantly listening, iterating, and honing their systems, which put people first with an eye toward journalistic impact and financial sustainability. They have done stellar work developing a people-centered organization, with a view toward equity, inclusion, and a healthy working culture.”

Co-Winner, Small Revenue Tier: Santa Cruz Local

Santa Cruz Local nearly doubled its staff in 2022 so it could launch a Spanish news initiative to serve Pajaro Valley residents. To recession-proof their budget, they raised $72,000 this year to fund the new positions through June 2024.

From the judges: “Santa Cruz Local has developed strong hiring processes, which start well before job openings are announced. Their thoughtfulness in aligning required competencies, designing inclusive job descriptions, and evaluating candidates using a structured rubric is best-in-class. They have also deeply invested in their work to serve the Spanish-speaking community.”

Finalists: The Appeal and Taproot Edmonton

Co-Winner, Medium/Large Revenue Tier: Bridge Michigan 

Bridge Michigan executed sweeping organizational succession when its founding CEO transitioned to a new role. They also brought on a new chair to their board of directors and three new appointees, and surpassed $1 million in their annual membership revenue three years ahead of schedule.

From the judges: “Bridge Michigan planned and executed a truly exceptional change management plan under their new CEO. Bridge has implemented new processes and operations that demonstrate the organization’s leadership acumen and commitment to iterative development in response to staff and community needs.” 

Co-Winner, Medium/Large Revenue Tier: The Prison Journalism Project 

The Prison Journalism Project implemented policies to bolster sustainability and resilience, including healthcare coverage, increased PTO, onboarding and offboarding processes, an annual staff retreat, and structured performance reviews. 

From the judges: “The Prison Journalism Project has done exceptional work under exceptional circumstances, developing a duty of care and set of processes and principles that show they embody their values and mission while supporting the development of essential journalism. As they’ve expanded, they have moved with care to support their staff, the communities they serve, and those who write for them.”

Finalist: Richland Source 

Financial Health Award

Recognizes a LION member who has achieved transformational impact for their organization’s financial health by making progress toward developing a plan for earning money, managing a budget, and/or monitoring revenue and expenses to extend their financial runway.

Winner, Small Revenue Tier: Shasta Scout

Shasta Scout launched in the spring of 2021 and saw solid early revenue growth. Over their second year of operations, they developed strong financial policies and processes and instated a data-driven financial plan to sustain and grow the newsroom.

From the judges: “Shasta Scout provides a compelling example of the growth journey for a small media outlet that prioritizes diversity, inclusion, and high-quality journalism. Their dedication, combined with strategic approaches to revenue diversification, compensation, and investment in revenue generation efforts, is poised to yield positive results.” 

Finalists: The Buckeye Flame and The Hoser 

Winner, Medium/Large Revenue Tier: Cardinal News 

In one year, Cardinal News went from $300,000 in seed funding to more than quadrupling its annual budget. They attribute their success to gaining support from local foundations and corporations, building an audience, and actively converting readers to donors.

From the judges: “What truly stands out about Cardinal News is its dedication to quality journalism, underpinned by an ambitious growth strategy centered on diversifying its revenue sources. Their data-informed approach involves meticulously implementing revenue-generating efforts bolstered by a dedicated team, clear performance metrics, and appropriate technology infrastructure. This places them at the forefront of the sustainability game.”

Finalists: Charlottesville Tomorrow and Richland Source

Collaboration of the Year Award

Recognizes a LION member that has successfully formed a short-term or long-term collaboration with at least one other organization to positively affect their journalistic impact, financial health and/or operational resilience.

Co-Winners, Micro/Small Revenue Tier: Tone Madison and Madison Minutes

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Tone Madison and Madison Minutes conducted a survey on family planning and abortion. They used the responses to report a series of six in-depth stories that balance the complex human impact of the ruling with broader political and medical context.

From the judges: “This collaboration embodies the spirit of people-driven, data-informed, and local-issue solutions journalism, and highlights the reproductive healthcare concerns and needs of a diverse set of people, all of whom are impacted in different ways by the SCOTUS decision.” 

Co-Winner, Micro/Small Revenue Tier: Verified News Network (VNN)

Verified News Network (VNN) Oklahoma and the Lucinda Hickory Research Institute created the series “Stealing Tvlse,” which investigated Tulsa’s Allotment Era history when the government stole oil-rich land from the Mvskoke Creek people. 

From the judges: “This is a groundbreaking, eye-opening report with many angles of accessibility for exceptional storytelling and reporting. The series details the struggles amongst groups of indigenous people whose concerns and lives have a long history of being marginalized.” 

Finalists: Boulder Reporting Lab and Racine County Eye

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: La Noticia 

La Noticia partnered with local public radio stations WFAE and WFDD to produce stories focused on immigrant voices, both in English and in Spanish. This joint effort created awareness about immigrant issues through compelling journalism, extensive community engagement, and data-driven insights.

From the judges: “This collaboration is at an exciting starting point. These three entities in East Charlotte, North Carolina, are focused on the area’s largely Latino immigrant community and are producing category-leading coverage based on data and solutions.”

Finalist: Springfield Daily Citizen

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Broke in Philly 

Led by Resolve Philly, Broke in Philly was a five-year collaborative reporting project on economic mobility and solutions reporting on poverty. The project included 29 newsrooms working in six languages. They published more than 3,000 articles and drove real impact in Philadelphia. 

From the judges: “Broke in Philly sets the bar for a collaboration that excels at addressing an issue that affects people and considers many perspectives. It uses data to tell the full story in a masterful way that informs people and inspires change.”

Finalists: Chalkbeat and The Colorado Sun, Dallas Voice, and Wisconsin Watch

Product of the Year Award

Recognizes a LION member who developed a successful and creative short-term or long-term product to strengthen their journalistic impact, financial health, and/or operational resilience.

Winner, Micro Revenue Tier: 2PuntosPlatform

Launched in August 2022, 2PuntosPlatform’s VozColectiva is a community newsroom of five Latina women in Philadelphia. Their first reporting topic was domestic violence, and they won the 2023 Advocacy Champion Award from Women Against Abuse.

From the judges: “Voz Colectiva excels in its ability to focus on a specific audience and devise effective strategies for its benefit. Their innovative approach lies in seamlessly integrating various formats to create a unique and engaging experience.” 

Finalists: Austin Vida and Conecta Arizona 

Winner, Small Revenue Tier: The Green Line 

The Green Line fills gaps in news coverage by delivering hyper-local journalism to Gen Z and Millennial Torontonians and other underserved communities. They encourage readers to take action via their Action Journey model.

From the judges: “The Green Line has pioneered a new product that blends elements of explanation, feature reporting, in-person events, and follow-up coverage. This reflects a thoughtful analysis of its target audience, the most effective means of engagement, and the necessary steps to bring the project to fruition.” 

Finalist: RANGE Media 

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: Jacksonville Today 

Jacksonville Today at WJCT Public Media’s free newsletter reaches about 19,000 people and focuses on populations in Jacksonville that have historically suffered from a lack of local coverage.

From the judges: “Jacksonville Today’s newsletter is a winning model for growing an audience and driving new reader revenue, supported by a highly adaptive and metrics-driven approach.” 

Finalists: Cardinal News and La Noticia

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Montana Free Press

Montana Free Press recognized that finding publicly available information on the 2023 Legislative Session was a challenge for most Montanans, so they created the “Capitol Tracker” to provide a single resource for anyone following the session.

From the judges: “Montana Free Press’s Capitol Tracker is a data-rich resource hub, meeting readers where they are and delivering actionable information for driving civic engagement.” 

Finalists: Grist and Spotlight PA

Accountability Award

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that led to the accountability of those in positions of power and a demonstrable positive outcome for the affected community.

Winner, Small Revenue Tier: The Kansas City Defender 

The Kansas City Defenders coverage of Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black teen shot by a known racist white man, epitomizes their commitment to rigorous and equitable reporting. Yarl’s case was overlooked and misreported by local legacy outlets, and the Kansas City Defender’s investigation exposed a severe racial injustice that would have otherwise remained hidden. 

From the judges: “This powerful piece of journalism is thorough and hits all the marks. The Kansas City Defender provided context and a deep understanding of racial and socioeconomic issues at play and used data to support the lived experiences of those quoted in the story, clearly demonstrating a strong understanding of their work and the audience they serve.” 

Finalists: The Mendocino Voice, Open Vallejo, and Streetsblog

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: The Assembly 

The Assembly hired two veteran reporters to cover courts and criminal justice, focusing on those most affected by the system: Black and brown, often low-income, North Carolinians. Their reporting uncovered the case of Charles McNeair, who was 16 when a white woman accused him of rape and remains in prison 43 years later –– despite his claims of innocence. 

From the judges: “The case of the 16-year-old convicted of a life sentence for rape was deeply reported and well told. The depth and diligence of the reporting shines a spotlight on the human cost of a flawed justice system.”

Finalist: Mississippi Free Press

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Wisconsin Watch 

In a three-part series, Wisconsin Watch explored the roots of racial and gender-related bullying that gripped schools in the small town of Kiel, Wisconsin. After two stories were published, parents rallied to prevent the ousting of a popular superintendent, and two far-right school board members resigned, restoring the board to a more moderate majority.

From the judges: “The judges unanimously agreed that this is one of the most outstanding pieces of journalism they have read in a long time. Huge lessons for the whole country in this well-told saga of a small town swept up in standing up to hate, intolerance, and bigotry. Bravo! This is why local news matters.” 

Finalists: EdSource, El Paso Matters, and Grist

Community Engagement Award

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that demonstrates a systematized community listening strategy to consistently tell stories for, with, and by the people that a LION member is working to serve.

Winner, Micro Revenue Tier: Burlington Buzz

Burlington Buzz serves Burlington, Massachusetts, and covers local issues that affect its citizens, resulting in more community members championing important initiatives, raising visibility, and demanding accountability from their elected leaders.

From the judges: “The Burlington Buzz designed itself to enable the community to actively shape its initiatives, which has formed a positive feedback loop that is essential to increasing civic engagement.” 

Finalists: 2PuntosPlatform and

Co-Winner, Small Revenue Tier: The Appeal

The Appeal highlights voices missing from traditional criminal justice coverage by directly partnering with incarcerated writers to tell their own stories. In 2022, 14% of its writers were previously or currently incarcerated.

From the judges: “The team at The Appeal demonstrates a deep and unwavering understanding of the identities and needs of their audience. Their deliberate efforts to amplify the voices of incarcerated journalists and writers showcase a genuine commitment to authentic representation. They also create a nurturing environment where marginalized voices can thrive, contributing to a more equitable and inclusive media landscape.”

Co-Winner, Small Revenue Tier: The Discourse

The Discourse embarked on deep community collaboration to surface solutions for drought-struck local watersheds. The resulting series has built community and shared Indigenous knowledge, especially about innovative solutions and ways for everyday people to get involved. 

From the judges: “The Discourse’s approach is superb with a strong foundation in community engagement. This initiative emerged from the community itself, generating resources and reporting that produced and shared insights to serve the community’s needs. The Discourse stands as a shining example, leading the way in community-driven journalism and innovative storytelling.” 

Finalists: Santa Cruz Local and Shasta Scout

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Resolve Philly

Resolve Philly’s Community Engagement Team aims to change how historically mis- or underrepresented communities interact with, and are reflected in, local news. Their Sound Offs provide a signature space for Philly residents to discuss important issues.

From the judges: “The focused strategy, clarity of purpose, and rigorous approach that is displayed in Resolve Philly’s work serves as an exemplary model for others to emulate in their own endeavors.” 

Finalist: Block Club Chicago

Public Service Award

Recognizes general excellence in journalistic impact that successfully connects people with the information and services they need to navigate their lives and help make their communities more inclusive and equitable.

Winner, Micro Revenue Tier: The Coronado News

In a five-part series, Coronado News brought new attention to a serious sewage problem that has existed since the Great Depression. Their reporting has already gotten the attention of local and federal officials, including U.S. Senator Alex Padilla, who traveled to the international wastewater treatment plant in June 2023 to address the trans-border water pollution taking place.

From the judges: “The Coronado News’ impressive effort in identifying a problem within their community and actively instigating change not only provided a voice to underrepresented individuals but has also highlighted the significant personal health toll. Their comprehensive and multi-faceted perspective on the personal effects had a tangible impact by prompting lawmakers to advocate for improvements in the situation.”

Finalists: State Affairs and Watershed Voice

Co-Winners, Small Revenue Tier: ClearHealthCosts and Epicenter NYC

ClearHealthCosts, Epicenter-NYC, and TBN24 collaborated on an 18-month project to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to an under-vaccinated neighborhood in New York City. The project vaccinated thousands of people, tested tens of thousands, and passed out hundreds of thousands of at-home tests and pieces of literature.

From the judges: “Journalism, at its core, is a form of community service, and this trio went above and beyond by not only highlighting disparities but also providing services that had a transformative and potentially life-saving impact on people’s lives.” 

Finalists: The Buckeye Flame and California Health Report

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: Mississippi Free Press

Since 2020, Mississippi Free Press has documented polling-place changes that go unreported by local and state election officials, leaving many voters with inaccurate information. This work was noticed by key voting-rights organizations in 2022 and used to urge the Mississippi Secretary of State to make changes.

From the judges: “The detailed and time-consuming reporting carried out by the Mississippi Free Press team is a testament to the importance of investigative journalism in safeguarding the democratic principles that underpin our society.” 

Finalists: Cardinal News and San José Spotlight

Co-Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Block Club Chicago 

Ahead of Chicago’s 2023 municipal election, Block Club Chicago created “The Ballot,” a free comprehensive voter guide that brought Chicagoans hyperlocal coverage of the mayoral election and all 50 ward races.

From the judges: “This is an excellent example of what community and local news should aspire to be. It employs multiple formats to reach people where they are, and the project’s experimentation with text messaging opens up opportunities for future stories and projects. The enthusiasm and expertise in the content are palpable, and the quality of writing is top-notch.” 

Co-Winner, Large Revenue Tier: VTDigger 

VTDigger’s “Full Disclosure” series exposed deficiencies in how Vermont legislators file ethics disclosures. The series led to changes by the state to make ethics disclosures more transparent to the public.

From the judges: “The remarkable efforts of VTDigger have undeniably made a substantial difference in the state of Vermont after they located financial disclosures legislators obfuscated — and made them publicly available online. VTDigger’s work is both bold and brave.” 

Finalists: Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside, Bridge Michigan, and Outlier Media

Outstanding Coverage Award

Recognizes a LION member who achieved general excellence in journalistic impact by building increased awareness or influencing public conversation about a specific issue that has reverberated throughout a community.

Winner, Micro Revenue Tier: The Coronado News

The Coronado News’ reporting on a century-old sewage issue and health crisis resulted in the three affected communities (Tijuana, Mexico; Imperial Beach, California and Coronado, California) working together to solicit the White House for support. 

From the judges: “The Coronado News has quickly established itself as a community watchdog and ambitious pursuer of truth. In this series, journalists took an in-depth look at the longstanding problem, why the progress to fix it has been so slow, the systemic failures involved, and who is being harmed. It had an immediate and important impact that should make a difference in finally addressing this crisis.” 

Finalists: Broken Arrow Sentinel, The Food Section, Oviedo Community News, and State Affairs

Winner, Small Revenue Tier: New Mexico in Depth 

New Mexico In Depth’s project, Blind Drunk, tackled the state’s alcohol abuse crisis. Following publication, lawmakers passed the first alcohol tax increase in 30 years. When the governor vetoed it, they launched a website to keep the pressure on.

From the judges: “New Mexico In Depth takes on a common problem — alcohol abuse — and explores it from several perspectives. The team not only gave a voice to individuals battling alcohol issues, but they also interviewed physicians and experts for solutions. They harnessed the power of data and graphics to deliver insights. Their seven-part investigative stories exemplify good journalism.”

Finalists: Asheville Watchdog, Bay City News Foundation, and The Discourse Nanaimo

Winner, Medium Revenue Tier: The Highlands Current 

When many state and national parks started setting visitation records, The Highlands Current’s series, Trails (Too) Well Traveled, explored solutions to preserve these precious landmarks while still promoting participation.

From the judges: “The Highlands Current adopted a multifaceted approach in these articles. The topic of access to public lands is of immense national significance, and the reporting on this specific trail provides a compelling glimpse into the complexities inherent in this issue.” 

Finalists: Cardinal News and Mission Local

Winner, Large Revenue Tier: Wisconsin Watch 

Wisconsin Watch’s series, False Choice, is all about marginalized children. Their reporting revealed that certain school programs are allowed to systematically exclude, discipline, or expel students for immutable traits — and there is little in the law to protect them.
From the judges: “The information provided in this series is incredibly important, and the reporting and investigation conducted are of excellent quality. It serves as valuable solutions journalism material, offering insights that are likely to be quite eye-opening for the majority of readers.”

Finalists: Documented and Spotlight PA

Community Member of the Year Award

Winner: Hanna Raskin, Editor and Founder, The Food Section

Hanna was chosen by LION staff due to her outstanding dedication to supporting other local independent publishers in her region. She’s often raised her hand to help other members and has generously shared her successes and lessons learned with them. This year, she worked with a fellow member, The Objective, on a series about food media, showcasing a spirit of collaboration. She has also done incredible and important journalism this year. The Food Section has published the work of more than a dozen food journalists…who otherwise might not have found a home for their hard-hitting work…and they compensated each one of them fairly. We are thrilled to honor Hanna with the 2023 Community Member of the Year Award!

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