🌟 Why independence is the north star of local news


Last week, the Medill Local News Initiative released its State of Local News 2023 report. This is the report you’ll want to absorb and reference when you’re talking with your community or potential funders about how critically your work is needed. While the report identifies 204 counties as news deserts and another 228 at risk of becoming news deserts, it also highlights 17 news organizations as “bright spots.” And we weren’t surprised to see the report characterize them all as “privately held and controlled.” In other words, how we define independent.

As outlined in our strategic plan, we believe that the future of local news will include nonprofits and for-profits, publishers of daily news stories alongside civic efforts that recruit, equip, and train residents to file stories, podcasts that offer thoughtful analysis, and newsletters that make the news easier to understand. But first and foremost, we believe that the future of local news will be independent.

So kudos to our LION members who were included on this list –– BenitoLink, Block Club Chicago, Outlier Media, Richland Source, Shawnee Mission Post, Spotlight PA, and The Texas Tribune –– and we look forward to seeing many more LIONs on there in the future.

We’re heading into the long weekend starting tomorrow and will be back online next Monday. If you’re recognizing American Thanksgiving and/or Native American Heritage Day, we hope you celebrate in whatever ways bring you the most joy, and we’ll be back in your inbox at our regularly scheduled time next week.

– Hayley Milloy, LION’s marketing manager, and the LION team

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7 resources for independent publishers

1. Boost your D.C. beat. Apply for the National Press Foundation’s Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellowship, a networking and learning opportunity that teaches rising D.C. reporters how to cover policy and politics in Washington. (Apply by Dec. 4)

2. Take charge as a freelancer. Join the National Press Club Journalism Institute’s in-person workshop for journalists who want to learn how to manage freelancing as a business. (Dec. 8 in Washington, D.C.)

3. Report on California’s underserved communities. Apply for UC Berkeley’s California Local News Fellowship program, a state-funded initiative to support and strengthen local reporting, focusing on underserved communities. (Apply by Dec. 13)

4. Create a custom GPT. Register for the Center for Cooperative Media’s workshop, “Beginner’s guide: Custom GPTs for local news publishers,” and access their latest ebook on creating a custom GPT for your local news organization. (Dec. 13)

5. Apply for the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Women in Journalism Workshop, an annual program focusing on challenges, accomplishments, and issues specific to women in the journalism industry. (Apply by Dec. 16)

6. Shape your AI strategy. Attend Better Leaders Lab’s Deep Dive: Developing a Smart AI Business Strategy for Your Media Organization, a week-long online course for news leaders looking to create a comprehensive AI strategy. (Jan. 22-26, 2024)

7. Stick to the facts. Here are three tips from the Trans Journalist Association on navigating uncertain gender identity during breaking news.


What we’re reading

The case for Canadian philanthropy. How Canadian foundations can help build an informed and engaged society by funding journalism. (Inspirit Foundation

Local publishers, unite! Why collaboration is a crucial aspect of sustainability in local journalism, according to the Knight Foundation’s Karen Rundlet. (Will Fischer, Medium

Failing forward. Why newsroom funders and founders are afraid to fail, and why we should all be more willing to embrace (and celebrate) failure. (Dick Tofel’s Second Rough Draft)

Platform preferences. Which platforms Americans turn to for news, and who uses each news platform. (Pew Research Center)


LIONs in the news

Congratulations are in order for Knock LA! After a year and a half in the making, they’ve formally launched their Incarceration Reporting Initiative, a collaborative project to uncover the hidden and horrific conditions of California’s prisons.

Reporting from Los Angeles, “the most jailed place on Earth,” Knock LA staff have been researching, building relationships with like-minded organizations, and connecting with incarcerated writers and advocates to pull back the curtain on what’s really happening in California institutions. 

They’ve already released an impressive slate of stories, including a regular column by Mwalimu Shakur (aka Ajamu), an incarcerated writer who spent 14 years in solitary confinement and is still behind bars at Corcoran State Prison. 

Learn more about how Knock LA uplifts these marginalized voices and rallies the community around them.

Knock LA’s Incarceration Reporting Initiative
Independent Journalists Telling the Real Story of LA
Knock LA’s Incarceration Reporting Initiative
Independent Journalists Telling the Real Story of LA

In other LION member news:

  • Baltimore Beat, Charlottesville Tomorrow, City Bureau, Conecta Arizona, Documented NY, El Tímpano, Outlier Media, Resolve Philly, and Scalawag have been selected as grant recipients for Democracy Fund’s $4 million investment for newsrooms that center communities of color. 
  • Billy Penn at WHYY has been selected as a grant recipient for the Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s inaugural Philadelphia Local News Sustainability Initiative, a two-year program to help Philadelphia-based news publications achieve sustainability. 
  • The Cityside Journalism Initiative, the parent organization of Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside, is hiring a director of product and platforms. This role combines product leadership with direct ownership of existing publishing platforms. 
  • San José Spotlight is hiring a politics & government reporter to cover policy, politics, and government in Santa Clara County, focusing on enterprise and accountability reporting.
  • Verified News Network (VNN) hosted an “Exploring Indigenous Allyship” event and unveiled its Native District Benefactor program.
  • Red Bank Green launched a new look, and its publisher shared his tips and takeaways from the experience.

How to reach us

When you reply to this email, we all receive it, and you’ll hear back from one of us. You can also email us directly at [email protected].

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