🎉 A LION member wins a Pulitzer Prize

Four and a half years ago, Ken Doctor was writing the Newsonomics column for the Nieman Journalism Lab, bemoaning the slow and noisy death of the print newspaper industry and predicting consolidations and closures.

On Monday, the startup newsroom (and LION member organization) he went on to found, Lookout Santa Cruz, won that industry’s highest honor: The Pulitzer Prize for breaking news coverage of the California rains and floods of 2023.

That certainly feels like a tipping point for our corner of the local news ecosystem. Yes, it’s financially challenged — too many LION members struggle to earn revenue, whether their tax status reads for-profit or nonprofit.

But still, look deeper at the finalists for that prize Ken’s operation took home; another finalist was Honolulu Civil Beat, a fellow LION member. LION members The Texas Tribune and Mississippi Today are also listed as finalists in other categories. And the prize for local reporting went to City Bureau and the Invisible Institute, nontraditional news efforts in Chicago — a city with a robust local news ecosystem, one we’ll explore later this year at the Independent News Sustainability Summit (early bird tickets for that are still on sale now).

As Doctor’s alma mater, Nieman Lab, put it in a post yesterday, “An optimist would look at the unprecedented excellence from online news outlets, especially at the local level, and see signs of tremendous hope. A pessimist would see the shrinking pool of finalist-worthy newspapers and rue the continuing spiraling of the newsrooms that are, in most communities, still the single largest producers of journalism. Both would have strong arguments.”

Well, yes, the road is hard. Yes, the challenges are legion. But it’s a great sign that one of our own can hoist journalism’s highest honor on stage with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the other foundational pillars of our industry.

We stand formally in the camp of optimism. And congratulations Lookout Santa Cruz. You have earned it.

– Chris Krewson, LION’s executive director

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Save on your Summit ticket

Take advantage of our Independent News Sustainability Summit early bird pricing by registering by June 28.

Early Bird Summit Ticket (LION members only): $65

Early Bird Summit Ticket (Non-LION members): $115

LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner Ticket: $50

Registering early allows you to sign up for the Summit and the LION Awards Ceremony & Dinner for less than the price of one standard Summit ticket, which will be $120 for members and $165 for non-members after June 28. It’s almost like tacking on the best local journalism ceremony around at no extra cost. Still on the fence? Check out this video from last year’s event. 👏

Vote for LIONs

LION members LOOKOUT Publications, 9 Millones, BenitoLink, RANGE Media, Southwest Contemporary, Verified News Network, CivicLex, and Borderless Magazine NFP are up for the 2024 Next Challenge for Media & Journalism Public Choice Award.

The publication with the most public votes in each division will receive up to $10K. Watch a brief video message from each outlet and submit your votes by 11:59 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 19.

Find a fiscal sponsor for your news business

At LION, we’re increasingly fielding questions about fiscal sponsorship — how it works and who will fiscally sponsor news organizations.

Fiscal sponsors can help news businesses receive tax-deductible donations from foundations and other philanthropic givers even when those news businesses don’t have a 501(c)3 status. If this is something you’d like to explore, here’s a list of options that we have contacted to confirm that they fiscally sponsor news businesses.

8 (more!) resources for independent publishers

1. Apply for Press Forward’s first open call for funding. Grants will provide small, local newsrooms that publish original reporting in underserved communities with $100K in unrestricted funding over two years. (Info sessions: TODAY at 2 p.m. ET and June 3; apply by June 12)

2. Commit to inclusive reporting. Join the National Press Club Journalism Institute for a webinar providing best practices for reporting on transgender and LGBTQ+ issues, featuring LION member Wisconsin Watch’s Phoebe Petrovic. (May 10)

3. Learn the ropes. If you’re considering starting your own nonprofit, independent news outlet, sign up for INN’s upcoming News Startup Session, a one-hour deep dive into what you can expect as a new news entrepreneur. (May 16)

4. Apply for the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding, a six-month program that will teach selected participants how to develop reporting projects that can be funded through philanthropy. (Apply by May 24)

5. Make a media kit. Hosted by LION member redbankgreen.com’s Kenny Katzgrau, register for this webinar and receive examples of media kits from fellow publishers, access to a Google Slides media template, and insight into the “must-haves” in every media kit. (May 29)

6. Advocate for access. This resource guide created by Poynter and CUNY’s Center for Ethics and Leadership provides case studies and recommendations for what to do when you’re “shut out” from accessing important sources. 

7. Try new tools. Inbox Collective has rounded up 41 tools that can help you design, grow, and monetize your newsletter.

8. Strengthen your financial skills. Register for A Bookkeeping Cooperative’s four-part financial foundations workshop, which covers core topics like understanding your organization’s finances, cash flows, and financial reporting while keeping your mission in mind. (Three sessions available)

What we’re reading

Opposite sides. While some major news publishers have opted to partner with AI companies, others, including the New York Times, are suing over copyright infringement. (Axios)

Domino effect. What happens when the work of small local outlets is reshared without credit by larger newsrooms, plus eight best practices publications can follow when using original reporting from other outlets. (Center for Cooperative Media, Medium)

An event success strategy. How LION member The Texas Tribune built a solid, revenue-generating event structure with real-time journalism as its foundation. (Power the Press)

“I want to take another risk, you know?” What comes next for Mukhtar Ibrahim, the visionary founder and outgoing CEO of LION member Sahan Journal, after completing his MBA and conducting a search for his replacement. (University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management)

Big Pulitzer wins. How nonprofit newsroom The Invisible Institute took home the top prize in local and audio reporting. (The New York Times)

LIONs in the news

Launched in 2021 by founder Emma Restrepo, 2PuntosPlatform started as a radio show and has since evolved into a “platform of two chapters” — a podcast, 2PuntosPodcast, and a community newsroom, VozColectiva, which shares information through live streaming, social media, and the occasional print product.

As their 2024 planning period drew nearer, Emma knew the growing organization needed a clear funding strategy.

So she applied for the 2023 LION/GNI Sustainability Lab, and from there, she and her team built the infrastructure needed to conduct their first end-of-year giving campaign. They had never emailed their audience before — and ended up raising $6,640 in less than two months.

Find out how they did it.

2PuntosPlatform created a first-ever fundraising campaign through the LION/GNI Sustainability Lab
The project raised $6,640 in less than two months.
2PuntosPlatform created a first-ever fundraising campaign through the LION/GNI Sustainability Lab
The project raised $6,640 in less than two months.

In other LION member news:

Outlier Media’s Candice Fortman will step down as executive director and join the newsroom’s board of directors this summer.

The Berkeley Scanner won a National Headliner Award for online local news reporting and a “Truth to Power” press freedom award from SPJ NorCal for its coverage of the Alameda County DA’s office.

Dallas Voice is hosting a special celebration on May 11 to honor its 40th anniversary.

The Buckeye Flame has published a 2024 Ohio LGBTQ+ Pride Guide.

The Xylom’s Alex Ip is the Atlanta Press Club’s 2024 Rising Star.

The Maine Monitor is celebrating two accolades: Samantha Hogan is a finalist for the Livingston Award for Local Reporting, while Caitlin Andrews received an honorable mention from the Association of Health Care Journalists for a story co-published with fellow LION member the Bangor Daily News.

How to reach us

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