We’re postponing the 2020 LION Summit to help our members now

Dear LION Publishers members,

We’re postponing the 2020 LION Summit for at least a year, and canceling a June meetup we had planned in Austin.

This is, to some degree, an acknowledgement of the obvious: There’s no feasible way to host these events, months before a vaccine would be available for the virus that has already disrupted so much of our lives. Your newsrooms — no stranger to distributed work — are stretched thinner than ever, even as your businesses are roiled by a disruption unseen in all our lifetimes.

If you’ve already bought a ticket, we’ll refund it. Sponsors and vendors: If you’ve already committed support, we’ll be reaching out shortly. Our goal is still to put on an event in Seattle, but sometime in fall 2021 or spring 2022, depending on the venue and its availability.

So instead of organizing speakers, booking venues, wooing sponsors and seeking volunteers — what we’d normally be doing from now until the Summit; things that seem incredibly tone-deaf at best, and irresponsible at worst — we’re pivoting as an association. We’re providing more immediate and ongoing programming for our members, and those we don’t yet call members, all of which are seeking to build sustainable local digital publishing businesses.

Here’s a brief look at our in-progress plans for the year, and how you can help us decide what to prioritize moving forward:

Creating more opportunities for LIONs to support each other
One of LION’s greatest strengths is and always has been our community. Unsurprisingly, our members have been generous in their advice and support of one another.

In March, we canceled a planned gathering in Boston and switched gears — the same group of LIONs that were planning to gather in person in New England instead started gathering on a weekly Mutual Aid call. They’ve kept it up since then, sharing the latest with their news businesses, coverage ideas and tips for navigating grants and other opportunities. It has been a tremendous success, so we will be opening up the opportunity for members to organize similar calls. More details soon.

Our members have also been sharing advice and tips in our LIONs Den Facebook group and #coveringcoronavirus Slack channel (Request to join our Slack group here.)

Finally, while we briefly paused our LION Lessons in April, we’ll resume those in May so that our members can dig deep into one big success that another member has recently had. More coming soon.

Connecting LIONs to resources, experts to run their businesses
This week we officially launched our new pilot program the LION Expert Network with nearly 30 consultants available to help dozens of our members workshop challenges related to revenue, operations and product. (We still have room for members to participate from now through June, so apply by the end of this month!)

Earlier this month we hosted a timely webinar with media consultants Tim Griggs and Ryan Tuck on how to manage your local news business in the face of a pandemic that more than 150 members and non-members attended. (If you missed that, you can download the webinar and resources here). One of our big goals over the next few months is to create similar programming focused on a particular skill set that our members need to run a financially sustainable local news publication. We plan to create that curriculum with our Project Oasis partners and other smart folks in the industry.

Recognizing our LION members’ hard work
Our Summit may be postponed, but we still plan to host our second annual LION Awards competition *and* ceremony. Yes, we plan to put on bow ties and gowns and plop ourselves in front of Zoom so we can celebrate the incredible work you all have done this year. We’ll share more soon about how to apply for this year’s awards and invite all of your creative ideas about how to hold a virtual party to honor the recipients later this year.

That’s an overview of what we’re planning to work on –– we’re cooking up more member benefits, programming and support for you. But we also want to make sure we’re working on the right things. Tell us your biggest needs right now and how we can help you. We listen to *all* our members’ ideas and use it to inform how we serve you.

Obviously, we’re disappointed that we won’t be seeing you at this year’s conference and other in-person meetups. But your health and well-being, of course, come first. We’ll spend the extra time building an even better Summit for 2021, and be of as much assistance to all of you as possible in the interim.

Until next time,

The LION Publishers staff