🏆 Meet the 74 finalists of the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards

LION Publishers is delighted to announce that 99 entries have been recognized as finalists of the 2023 LION Local Journalism Awards. The LION Awards recognize excellence by local independent online news businesses in award categories focused on our pillars of sustainability — journalistic impact, financial health, and operational resilience.

Our members deliver news that their communities need while paving the way for a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable local news ecosystem. And here at LION, we know that’s something worth celebrating. We received nearly 300 award submissions this year, and this record-breaking uptick is further proof that the independent news industry is flourishing. 

The fifth annual LION Awards Ceremony will recognize the outstanding work of 74 independent news organizations (many of which are up for multiple awards) across 10 award categories. Thanks to our generous sponsors, LION will be distributing at least $55,000 in cash prizes to award winners. Each winning entry will receive at least $1,000. 

Winners will be announced live, in-person at the LION Awards Ceremony and Dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 3 in Durham, North Carolina, during LION’s Southeast News Sustainability Meetup Oct. 3-4, 2023.

Check out our (long!) list of finalists and their award-worthy accomplishments here –– and plan to join us this fall in Durham for the celebration!

— Samantha Matsumoto, LION’s community engagement manager, and Hayley Milloy, LION’s marketing manager

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More reasons not to miss the Durham event

We’ve extended early-bird event pricing until Aug. 23! Save 35% by buying your tickets now and stay tuned for more exciting updates. Here’s a sneak peek at some of our amazing speakers and their sessions:

  • Maritza Félix, founder and director of Conecta Arizona, on “Making the case: Strategies for communicating your mission and values when your news business intentionally doesn’t fit the mold.”
  • Yukari Kane, founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Prison Journalism Project, on “From scrappy to structured: Managing the operational and cultural aspects of organizational change.”
  • Wendi Thomas, founder, editor, and publisher of MLK50, on “Stepping away from the journalism: Navigating the tactical, practical, and emotional process of shifting from doing the journalism to running the business.”

For folks attending the Southeast News Sustainability Meetup and fifth annual LION Awards, we have secured a set of rooms at the Springhill Suites Durham City View. The deadline for the hotel room-block rate is Sept. 1 and you can book using this unique link to receive the LION discount. We’ve also included a short list of other accommodations under the FAQ section on the event webpage

11 resources for independent publishers

1. Register for a free webinar from the News Product Alliance on pitching your professional development ideas to your employer. (Aug. 11)

2. Register for a free online panel discussion from Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center geared toward small business owners. Topic: Access to Capital. (Aug. 16)

3. Become a LION Community Ambassador and help build regional relationships with independent publishers. Ambassadors will receive a $1,000 honorarium upon completion of project deliverables. (Apply by Aug. 20)

4. Develop your data mapping skills. Enroll in “Advanced data journalism: Powerful data reporting and mapping tools,” a four-week online course organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. (Starts on Aug. 21)

5. Apply for USC Annenberg’s Center for Health Journalism’s Impact Fund for Reporting on Health Equity and Health Systems, which supports investigative or explanatory projects on systemic racism in public health, health care policy, and the practice of medicine. (Apply by Aug. 21)

6. Apply for a LION Sustainability Audit. Receive a tailored action plan and $20,000 in direct funding to address your organizational goals. (Apply by Aug. 28)

7. Apply for The New York Times’ Local Investigations Fellowship. Fellows will be paid to spend a year producing signature investigative work focused on their state or region that will be published by The Times. (Apply by Sept. 1)

8. Pitch your proposal. The Fund for Investigative Journalism is accepting proposals for grants of up to $10,000 for investigative journalism stories that break new ground and uncover wrongdoing in the public or private sectors. (Apply by Sept. 5)

9. Apply for CUNY’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism’s Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program, a new online program for independent journalists developing niche news products. (Apply by Sept. 8)

10. Become a Democracy Day partner. Produce at least one story or piece of content about the U.S. democracy crisis, or if you’re not with a newsroom, promote the initiative to your networks. (Sept. 15)

11. Apply for The Lenfest Institute’s Philadelphia Local News Sustainability Initiative. This grant program provides core operating support and capacity-building funding to news organizations in the Philadelphia region. (Apply by Sept. 15)

What we’re reading

Six core principles for startups. How to implement an improvement framework when navigating your first few years as a nonprofit. (Blue Avocado)

Online fame ≠ offline stardom. Why internet platforms have failed to create true stars. (Culture: An Owner’s Manual)

Help wanted. Hire or get hired using the “Better Hiring Practices Playbook,” a comprehensive guide for journalism job seekers and recruiters. (University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute)

The power of project management. Developed with non-project managers in mind, Robin Kwong’s “Project Management for Newsrooms” guide outlines steps for each stage of a successful editorial project. (Poynter)

Black and in business. A Goldman Sachs study analyzes the unique obstacles faced by Black business owners. (Goldman Sachs)

LIONs in the news

Mack Male and Karen Unland founded Taproot Publishing to help communities understand each other better. And they’re living that mission as an organization. When the publication started growing its team and working with a remote staff, they realized they needed more team-building training and support materials to help new (and existing) hires get to know the business better. So they launched an intranet system, which now houses all of their orientation documentation, including a new employee handbook and training videos. The result? They’ve since successfully hired and onboarded a part-time staff person who is still part of their team. Kudos to Taproot for taking these steps to create a more streamlined and communicative company culture!

How journalists in Hawaii are covering (and coping with) the Maui wildfires – Poynter
‘We’re going to be here for the long haul, so we have a huge task in front of us.’ Journalists in Hawaii spoke with Poynter about covering the Maui wildfires.
How journalists in Hawaii are covering (and coping with) the Maui wildfires – Poynter
‘We’re going to be here for the long haul, so we have a huge task in front of us.’ Journalists in Hawaii spoke with Poynter about covering the Maui wildfires.

In other LION member news:

  • The Food Section is on summer break until September but won’t leave readers hungry –– they’ve cooked up an interactive Summer Road Trip Bingo Card featuring food based on stories published this season.
  • Mississippi Free Press is hiring a Development Director to lead its revenue team.
  • Madison Minutes teamed up with Tone Madison to produce a six-part series, “Post-Roe family planning in Madison,” which unpacks the potential long-term impact of the 2022 Roe v. Wade ruling.
  • The Oaklandside welcomed Poynter-Koch fellow and reporter Roselyn Romero. For the next 12 months, she’ll focus on small businesses and their impact on the local economy.

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