Membership criteria

Membership in Local Independent Online News Publishers

LION Publishers are innovative news leaders in business, technology, communication and storytelling who are creating the future of local journalism. LION Publishers encompass a rich diversity of business models, editorial approaches and community interest.

Full Membership is open to any person who fits the criteria laid out in our name: They must be the Publisher, Executive Director, Principal or CEO of a Local Independent Online News website.  

Local Independent Online News Publishers are:

Local: A LION organization provides local news content and works in any variety of digital mediums of platforms. “Local” covers the spectrum of communities: neighborhoods, hyperlocals, towns, metro areas, regions and states. LION organizations could also serve niche or topical audiences, university-based communities, ethnic communities and audiences, or be local public-media organizations. While LION organizations may report on national/international news—whether directly or by aggregation/curation—the LION organization should be focused on serving a local audience.

Independent: A LION organization must have an actively involved Publisher who oversees daily editorial and business operations. The organization should not be a subsidiary of a legacy publication or part of a conglomerate. While LION Publishers may hold an ownership or leadership position in more than one news organization, he or she must have oversight of each site within the organization.

Online: A LION organization’s editorial and business operations must be digitally focused. While work in print, radio, TV, other media may be undertaken, a LION organization must distribute news via digital platforms or express desire for guidance to transition to such platforms.

News: A LION organization must produce topical content in the general public interest while upholding high professional standards, including transparency, integrity, fairness, accuracy, completeness, and accountability. A LION organization posts news with a primary editorial focus, such as local breaking, investigative and public service reporting, data and information, arts, cultural and community events. News coverage must conform to standard, accepted journalistic practices with a preponderance of original reporting.

Publishers: Whether for-profit or nonprofit in organization, LION sites must be operated as a business. They should provide at least the Publisher/CEO/ED with a meaningful income, or be operated with the intent of doing so. LION sites should have diverse sources of revenue; organizations primarily funded by one individual, group or institution may edge toward not being independent.

In addition to the above criteria, LION Publishers is seeking to strengthen the organization with greater diversity and inclusion by including members who are:

  • legacy independent ethnic media now embracing digital distribution;
  • university-based and other student-run publications that provide coverage of their communities beyond campus;
  • niche topical publishers; or,
  • public media organizations seeking to report on local news.

While LION focuses its educational and networking efforts on the United States, we welcome members from around the world as Associate and Supporter members.

All applications for membership are subject to approval by the LION Board of Directors.

Full Members are voting members of the organization, and are eligible to serve on the Board of Directors and as board officers.

Full Members who have a business partner may grant access to LION discussions without incurring additional dues.

Other membership categories

Full Publisher Members who have a business partner may grant access to LION discussions without incurring additional dues.

Associate Members: Non-voting Associate membership is open to staffers who work for LION-eligible organizations.

Supporting Members: Non-voting members who support the organization’s mission, including vendors, academic faculty, staff, students, and researchers from colleges, universities and other institutions or groups.

Honorary Members: The Board of Directors may designate, at their discretion, individuals as honorary members, using such criteria as the board may develop.

If you have any questions about these categories and criteria before submitting an application, email us at

Annual dues

We are currently offering one-year memberships at the following rate:

  • Full Member: $150/year
  • Association/Supporting Member: $75/year