📣 LIONs sound off on the future of local news


It’s that special time of year again. 

We’re talking, of course, about Nieman Lab prediction season, when all our hopes and dreams for the industry seem a little closer to becoming reality. 

To close out 2022, here are a couple Nieman Lab predictions of our own, plus other optimistic visions for the future of independent local news from LION members, coaches, audit analysts, and partners:

1. Independent news businesses lead the way on healthy work cultures. “Our industry is going to need more leaders who understand how to operationalize healthy newsroom cultures — whether that’s with brand-new roles or sourcing fractional support to create a strong foundation for leaders to build upon.” –Anika Anand, LION deputy director 

2. The independent news industry gets a roadmap to sustainability. “It’s tempting to think that the growth path for an independent news organization is consistent and linear. But after analyzing nearly 150 organizations over the last two years through LION Publishers’ Sustainability Audit process, we’ve seen this kind of “if/then” thinking doesn’t apply to the relative Wild West that is the independent news landscape.” –Lisa Heyamoto, LION programming director of membership education

3. More philanthropic funding goes to independent publishers. “It’s time for journalism philanthropy to ditch corporate media sellouts and double-down on supporting and expanding the non-commercial journalism sector.” –Simon Galperin, Bloomfield Info Project

4. The future of local news is built from the ground up. “Many of us who work in local news have lost patience with looking backwards and are working instead to envision and help build healthy and resilient local civic information infrastructure.” –Sarah Alvarez, Outlier Media

5. The pioneers of digital news give a leg up to the next generation. “Maybe Boomers like me can leverage our experience to clean up some of the mess our generation created.” –John Davidow, Media Bridge Partners

6. Entrepreneurship sparks a revival of local news. “Instead of large-scale journalism providers based in far-off places with little connection to communities outside of the people they employ, the pivot toward independent news outlets has increased.” –Don Day, BoiseDev 

7. Rural and suburban publishers fill a huge gap, if philanthropy invests in them. “Small communities don’t want pity. Pity is where narcissism goes to vacation. They want — and require — capital.” –Amethyst J. Davis, Harvey World Herald

8. Journalism discovers new ways it can provide value to people. “In 2023, we will become deeply curious about our audience members. We’ll research not just how and why people read and listen to our journalism, but how they spend their days, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what kind of information they are seeking, either knowingly or unknowingly.” –Ariel Zirulnick, KPCC/LAist

9. News leaders get serious about mental health and work-life balance. “In a time when it feels like so much of our world is upside down, the work ahead needs to include supporting the whole person in the workplace and ensuring we have the energy, joy, and spirit to show up fully.” –An Xiao Mina, independent coach and consultant

10. Product managers help make news businesses more sustainable. “Organizations will realize that they need formal product managers — and even full-fledged news product teams — to connect the work they’re doing in the newsroom with the audience, technology, and revenue strategy.” –Felicitas Carrique and Becca Aaronson, News Product Alliance

11. Civic-minded publishers team up to scale their impact. “There’s a growing awareness that our readers are better served when we pool resources and tackle topics of public interest.” –Larry Ryckman, The Colorado Sun

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13 ways to build a more sustainable business

It’s almost time for new year’s resolutions, so here are a few ideas to help you build a more sustainable news business in 2023:

Earn more revenue

  • Reach new readers. The SmartNews partner program can help LION members reach a bigger audience and earn new revenue. Learn more» (Sponsored)

Increase your impact

  • Get help identifying your newsroom’s blind spots at a one-hour webinar with Joy Mayer from Trusting News and Eve Pearlman from Spaceship Media. (January 12)

Improve your business operations 

Check out these grants, awards and fellowships

  • Tackle a problem in journalism as a JSK fellow. The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship is a ten-month program at Stanford that offers individualized coaching, peer support, and a $95,000 stipend. (Deadline: January 25 for U.S. applicants)
  • Take a research sabbatical at Harvard by applying for a Nieman Fellowship. (Deadline: January 31)
  • Get funding to launch a nonprofit newsroom. The American Journalism Project’s Local News Incubator will offer four founders 18 months of support and $400,000 in seed funding. (Deadline: February 15) 

What we’re reading

Newsletter growth. How publishers can use paid marketing to drive more newsletter signups. (Simon Owens’s Media Newsletter)

Spin factories. How political consulting money in the South is shaping local news coverage in favor of powerful interests. (NPR)

Identity psychology. Why it’s unhealthy to let your profession become a central part of your identity. (The Atlantic)

Good news. Why news leaders should feel hopeful about the future of journalism. (News @ Knight)

Pro tips. What publishers can learn from Better News’s ten most popular case studies of 2022. (Better News)


LIONs in the news

Looking for a great new job in the new year? LION members are hiring, and there’s still time to apply for these open positions: 

In other LION member news…

  • Open Vallejo is featured alongside The New York Times and The Washington Post in this Nieman report about using open-source reporting techniques to strengthen your investigative reporting. 

How to reach us

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You can also email us directly at [email protected].
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