3 lessons from the LION Local Journalism Awards

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3 lessons (and lots of photos) from the LION Awards

Photos by Sarah Bork Photography

“I’ve been to a lot of journalism awards ceremonies in my lifetime. But I can’t remember one where you could feel the passion in the room as much as the LION Local Journalism Awards.”

That’s what Jim Brady from Knight Foundation shared about his experience at last month’s LION Awards gala, and judging by the survey responses we’ve received, he wasn’t alone. 

LION members told us it “felt like the Oscars” and that it was “so fun to connect with my heroes in person” – and the photos, well, they speak for themselves. 

Here’s the full scoop on the 2022 LION Local Journalism Awards Dinner & Ceremony, including the list of winners. 

Want a piece of the limelight next year? Here are a few tips based on what we saw from this year’s winners and finalists.

Track your journalism’s impact. LION members produce rigorous, smart, groundbreaking journalism every day, and there’s no harder job for judges than trying to decide whose coverage is the most outstanding or whose reporting delivered the most accountability.  

The tiebreaker often comes down to publishers’ ability to communicate the impact of their work, and that’s easiest to do if you have a system in place for tracking the big and small ways your work is making a difference in your community. Here’s some great advice on how to set up impact tracking for your organization.

Document your revenue experiments. What makes the LION Awards unique is its holistic view of success – one that includes doing great journalism but also considers everything else that goes into running a sustainable news business, including generating revenue.

The biggest winners at this year’s LION Awards were publishers that entered their best journalism and nominated themselves in the business-side categories, including Revenue Campaign of the Year and General Excellence: Operational Resilience. 

In 2023, we hope even more LION members will share the ways they’re making progress in these essential parts of their business. 

Learn from what the judges found most impressive. Our team of volunteer judges did incredible work reviewing and evaluating all the applications, and they shared a few thoughts about each winner’s nomination and what made it successful. We look forward to reading about your work next year.

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Meet our sponsor: SmartNews

Finding new readers is one of the biggest challenges for independent news publishers — but a new program from SmartNews makes it a little easier.

SmartNews is a news aggregation app with millions of users in the U.S., and through its partner program, LION members can reach new audiences and earn additional revenue by distributing their content natively on the platform. 

Apply to become a SmartNews partner publisher — or read this Q&A to learn more about the partner program and how it works for LION members.

LION offers sponsorships to software and service providers, educational institutions and other businesses that aim to serve independent news publishers like LION’s members. Learn more about our sponsorships policy and sponsorship opportunities at lionpublishers.com/sponsorship.

9 opportunities for independent news publishers

1. Level up your digital news site. TownNews equips local media organizations with the digital services and guidance to transform their business models and flourish in the digital age. Learn more» (Sponsored)

2. Grow your audience and earn reader revenue. More than 175 organizations have chosen BlueLena’s audience management and strategic marketing to accelerate their digital transformation and build long-term sustainable reader revenue models. Learn more» (Sponsored)

3. Switch to a CMS trusted by LION members. Newspack is an all-in-one publishing platform used by nearly 200 independent news publishers to grow audience and generate revenue. Request a demo» (Sponsored)

4. Get funding to support reporting on health equity in California. Apply for the California Health Equity Impact Fund. (Deadline: TOMORROW) 

5. Connect with leading women in journalism. The Reynolds Journalism Institute is now accepting applications for its 2023 Women in Journalism Workshop. (Deadline: TOMORROW) 

6. Apply for the inaugural Journalists of Color Fellowship with the Solutions Journalism Network. (Deadline: November 22)

7. Give input on the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s strategic plan. Complete this six-question survey and you’ll be entered to win a prize. (Deadline: November 27)

8. Apply for seed funding through Indiegraf’s new $3.5 million News Startup Fund. (Deadline: Rolling) 

9. Prepare your news business for a recession. Watch the recording from this Pivot Fund webinar led by news entrepreneurs and LION members Glenn Burkins, Anita Li, and Justin Rushing.

What we’re reading

Growth hacks. What five media entrepreneurs say is the most important thing they did to grow their audience and revenue. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter)

Bounce back. How to make sure your email newsletters are actually reaching your readers. (Inbox Collective)

Money mapping. How a UK-based newsletter business added 1,500 paying members and started breaking even within two years. (Journalism.co.uk)

Green means go. How Signal Cleveland is building a nonprofit newsroom with $7.5 million in initial funding. (Axios)

Pivot point. What Meta’s latest layoffs mean for the publishers and programs that the company once funded. (Nieman Lab)

LIONs in the news

The Google News Initiative announced more than 450 recipients of News Equity Fund grants this week, and there are so many LION members on the list.

Congratulations to all the grant recipients!

In other LION member news…

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].
Interested in sponsoring this newsletter? Visit our sponsorships page or email [email protected].

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