💙 RIP John Heaston, LION-hearted publisher

Maybe you saw the news late last week that John Heaston, a longtime publisher in Omaha, had died from leukemia. Maybe you were lucky enough to know John through his work as the founder and leader of The Reader and El Perico there. Or maybe it was through his leadership at the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, which he had led as president and where he was an active member.

John was also an active LION Publishers member, and I met him via Zoom in the pandemic’s early days through his leadership role at AAN. We had long talks about how to help our respective members. We talked about how best to cajole dollars out of foundations and technology companies because we knew our members couldn’t afford the changes they needed to make to stabilize and strengthen their businesses.

I came away from my first meeting with John — and every subsequent one — impressed by his creativity and inspired to reach further than I’d first imagined. In the many tributes you’ll find to John, you’ll see him described as a “visionary” — I can attest to that firsthand.

In one of the last pieces of news before John died, the publications he founded, The Reader and El Perico — which were slated to closewere acquired by Nebraska Public Media and will continue to serve readers in their communities. I can think of no finer legacy than that for a man who worked so hard to serve his readers and his industry.

Rest in peace, my friend.

– Chris Krewson, LION’s executive director

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New additions to our 2024 Summit lineup

We’ve got another round of Independent News Sustainability Summit programming to share! Here are five more sessions you can look forward to in Chicago:

1. “How to use philanthropic funding as a jumping-off point for diversifying your revenue” with Lizzy Hazeltine, director of the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund, and Christina Shih, associate director of Press Forward

2. “How to sell digital advertising in 30 minutes in 2024: A session for solopreneurs and smaller teams” with Kenny Katzgrau, publisher of Red Bank Green

3. “Successful succession: How to navigate the personal, strategic, and logistical aspects of a significant leadership transition” with Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, CEO of Sahan Journal, Wendi Thomas, editor and publisher of MLK50, and Amanda Zamora, co-founder of The 19th

4. “Growing audiences en español: Why translation isn’t enough” with Paola Jaramillo, co-founder and executive director of Enlace Latino NC, Janine Warner, co-founder and executive director of SembraMedia, and Claudia Yaujar-Amaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Planeta Venus Online

5. “From sporadic to systematic: How to plan, launch, and execute your first reader revenue campaign” with Melanie Jongsma, owner of The Lansing Journal, and Emma Restrepo, founder of 2PuntosPlatform

Don’t miss your chance to learn from these incredible independent news leaders. Save big on your Summit ticket by registering by June 28.

Summit sponsor Q&A: Indiegraf

Here at LION, we’re always on the hunt for programs and benefits that help our members save time and money.

So it’s no surprise that we’re big fans of Independent News Sustainability Summit sponsor Indiegraf, which works with many LION members to do both.

And this week, we chatted with Sam Hoisington, Indiegraf’s publisher partnerships manager and a long-time LION member through his work with Madison Minutes and, most recently, The Bentonville Bulletin. In this featured Q&A, he shares some low-lift tips, why he thinks that “local news founders are more philanthropic than Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates combined,” and an Indiegraf success story featuring LION member The Buckeye Flame.

LION members: Share your thoughts on LION membership

Our new member survey is now open through June 21. If you’re an active LION member, we’d love to hear what’s working for you and what we could do better to support you. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and we’ll use your responses to help inform future offerings.

15 resources for independent publishers

1. Develop projects that attract funding. Local Colorado newsrooms can apply to join the Colorado Media Project and Local Media Association’s Colorado News Philanthropy Lab, a program dedicated to helping these newsrooms develop reporting projects that fulfill community needs and can be funded through philanthropy. (Info session TODAY at noon MT; apply by June 19)

2. Stay safe out there. Join PEN America, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the International Women’s Media Foundation for a free webinar series to empower journalists covering the U.S. general election with strategies and resources to protect themselves and one another. (Next session is on June 11)

3. Don’t miss Press Forward’s first open call for funding. If you plan to apply for a $100K Press Forward grant, submit your application by 11:59 p.m. ET on June 12. You can also sign up for two free consulting sessions to work on your application with a fundraising coach, courtesy of the Lenfest Institute.

4. Spring clean your site’s look. Register for this free webinar from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which will cover how to create attractive and accessible graphics in Canva and streamline your design process.

5. Find a fiscal sponsor. Attend Blue Avocado’s webinar about what nonprofits need to know about fiscal sponsorships. (July 25) Plus, here’s a list of options that we’ve confirmed fiscally sponsor news businesses.

6. Attend OpenNews’ SRCCON 2024. This peer-led conference in Minneapolis, MN, is designed for those who want to change journalism by creating more intentional processes, better relationships with the communities they serve, and new ways to engage and inform people. (Aug. 15-16)

7. Improve your investigative skills. Investigative Reporters and Editors is seeking applications for its Chauncey Bailey Journalist of Color Investigative Reporting Fellowship. This year-long program will support a journalist of color as they complete an investigative reporting project that benefits their community. (Apply by Sept. 21)

8. Catch up on collaboration trends. If you missed this year’s Collaborative Journalism Summit from the Center for Cooperative Media, here’s a roundup of recorded sessions.

9. Read this Revenue Roadmap. Report for the World and the International Press Institute have published a guidebook on revenue generation and diversification for independent media.

10. Plan (and talk) it out. The American Press Institute is assembling a series of conversation guides to help newsrooms navigate tough internal conversations during election season.

11. Pursue philanthropic funding in the North. Inspirit Foundation’s latest guide provides practical guidance and tools for Canadian media interested in exploring philanthropy as a revenue source.

12. Stay current. The Associated Press has published the 57th Edition of the AP Stylebook, which features new chapters on AI and criminal justice.

13. Equitably engage freelancers. Check out LION member The Appeal’s guide to centering freelancers in contracts and the editorial process.

14. Nominate a local news outlet. The Medill Local News Initiative seeks another batch of “Bright Spots” to highlight in its 2024 report; its State of Local News 2023 report shared the success stories of 17 media outlets nationwide.

15. Find your people. We’ve created a growing list of fellow journalism support organizations and what they offer in terms of funding, training, resources, and connection opportunities.

What we’re reading

An anti-capitalist approach. The case for centering solidarity in journalism — and four strategies to get you started. (JSK Fellows, Medium)

“Everyone loves a bee.” How community listening led to the creation of Signal Cleveland’s annual spelling bee, and why this event is a natural extension of its mission. (Nieman Lab)

State support. Illinois has joined New York in the fight to preserve and protect local news, passing tax incentives totaling $25M over the next five years for local journalism organizations. (Medill Local News Initiative)

Name game. How Hoodline’s use of AI personas with human-sounding names, which tend to vary depending on where its local news sites are based, contributes to the false perception that the news business is more diverse than it actually is. (Nieman Lab)

‘Origins and Futures.’ The Asian Media Initiative at CUNY’s Newmark J-School’s Center for Community Media has released a first-of-its-kind report on the news media ecosystem for and by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. (CUNY)

LIONs in the news

When The Lansing Journal’s Melanie Jongsma participated in a 2021 LION program, something her coach said particularly stuck with her. He said that a healthy news business should be converting about 10 percent of its subscribers into monthly supporters.

And in late 2023, after completing LION’s Sustainability Audit and Sustainability Lab programs, she had the tools and resources to launch an innovative matching campaign to try to achieve this goal.

Discover how The Journal secured 48 new monthly subscribers and $14,000 in projected revenue in just four weeks — and why this project was worth the wait.

P.S. You can learn more about this project and 2PuntoPlatform’s at the 2024 Summit.

How The Lansing Journal grew recurring reader revenue by 20%
They secured 48 new monthly subscribers and $14,000 in projected revenue in four weeks.
How The Lansing Journal grew recurring reader revenue by 20%
They secured 48 new monthly subscribers and $14,000 in projected revenue in four weeks.

In other LION member news:

⭐ The Assembly’s story about Charlotte the Stingray “deserves an immaculate reception.” Plus, kudos to them on the gradual transition of ownership of CityView!

⭐ Mississippi Today, Cardinal News, The Texas Tribune, and Shasta Scout contributed to INN’s Rural News Network’s collaborative series about critical workforce development issues within rural communities.

⭐ Philomath News’ Brad Fuqua won the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association’s Media Award.

⭐ Dallas Voice created a special video message to help promote its 40th anniversary.

⭐ Sahan Journal’s success is celebrated in this Editor & Publisher article.

⭐ The Beacon has launched a new, mobile-first website that provides access to all four newsrooms on a consolidated platform.

⭐ El Tímpano is up for the Gabo Foundation’s 2024 Gabo Prize.

⭐ Outlier Media’s Detroit Documenters visited the Michigan State Capitol to learn more about the government’s inner workings.

⭐ Borderless Magazine won the 2024 Next Challenge for Media & Journalism’s Future of Local Journalism Award, and LOOKOUT Publications won the Public Choice Award.

Congrats to Ashley Woods Branch, who has joined BlueLena as the vice president of growth and publisher success.

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