It's conference season for journalists, and the impressive string of industry gatherings taking place right now has made me reflect on some of the things that make the annual LION Publishers gathering so special.
I just got back from the Online News Association conference in Denver. Other LIONs recently attended the ASNE-APME conference. SPJ/RTDNA/NAJA's Excellence in Journalism conference is taking place right now. NABJ/NAHJ and AAJA held conferences in August. Earlier this year, I attended the IRE conference and the co-located INN Day (both are among my favorite gatherings of reporters).
Those are all important efforts. But the industry gathering that's the most meaningful for me and, I hope, among the most fruitful and effective for our attendees, is LION's annual meeting of the minds.
For many of the same reasons that LION itself is so vital: we are completely focused on the work of indie publishers, and the special challenges and creative opportunities we face in rebuilding local news.
- How do we find ways to pay more local journalists, and pay them well?
- How do we more effectively report on our communities?
- How do we protect the bottom line, expand revenues, and maintain healthy connections with our readers?
- How do we help expand the number of local independent publishers, particularly for readers who've been abandoned (or always ignored) by legacy chain media?
- How do we better help each other, mindful of our many common experiences and respecting our diversity?
As with our overall organization, the LION Summit is a conversation, aiming to answer those questions and many more. There's always a healthy exchange of ideas, sometimes a debate, and here and there the discussion even gets a bit heated.
That passion for what we do is important. And so is the welcoming spirit — LION members actively seek out first-time attendees, and ask them for their input throughout the conference.
We're set to have our largest-ever conference this year, with more attendees, speakers and sessions than ever. But our focus on a particular industry segment means that, despite the wide variety of publishers represented, there isn't a cast of thousands. You'll have time to get to meet everybody, and get to know many of them well. And you'll set the stage for even deeper relationships after the conference.
Our speakers know that we're a lively bunch, and that, just like reporters at a press conference, our attendees will happily and readily jump into the discussion to clarify a point. Better, they'll add their own ideas to the mix.
The LION Summit isn't just for listening. You need to play a part.
You can't just sit in the back row with a notebook or laptop. The LION Summit is about active discussion rather than passive consumption.
Sessions at a LION conference will never be a succession of monologues (especially after you've had a turkey sandwich for lunch and might be thinking about a nap!) — our speakers are there to guide a conversation with their expertise. They do work hard at bringing us thought-provoking takes on the latest trends in the industry, but each session includes dedicated time for Q&A to ensure that we have a discussion that draws on the diverse experiences of our membership.
To make sure that talk is lively and on-point, we've added more and longer coffee breaks, and another round of focused breakout sessions, where smaller groups can have a deeper discussion about a variety of issues.
And to make sure that we're covering all the bases, we'll be taking suggestions for a round of Saturday-afternoon unconference breakouts. Proposed by attendees and compiled and curated by conference organizers, these sessions will offer the opportunity to convene around an important topic that might not be covered enough in the formal schedule.
And of course, there'll be plenty of time for socializing and digging deeper into our editorial, tech and business concerns over the course of two evening receptions, breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, and several evenings spent hanging out with dear friends and trusted colleagues. Thursday and Friday evenings, we'll have spirited group discussions about the state of the news business ("Beyond buzzwords" and "Message in a bottle"), and both Friday morning and Saturday evening, we'll also have group talks about sharing tips ("40 ideas in 40 minutes" and "Lessons learned"). Just as with show-and-tell in elementary school, not sharing isn't an option — your experience is meaningful, and will be valuable for another LION to learn from.
So, be ready to suggest an unconference session if you'd like to dig more deeply into a topic, and come ready to share your tales of triumph and woe. Learning from each other and supporting each other is at the heart of LION Publishers.
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