LION Summit: Local indie online news publishers roaring back to Chicago

On track: Startup to sustainability

Register now — LION's conference in Chicago, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, will feature dozens of informative sessions with concrete tips for success in the local news biz. Be a part of LION's largest-ever gathering! 

Check out the complete schedule of session for the 2016 LION Summit — more than 3 dozen presentations and conversations over 3 days, with even more speakers and discussion leaders being added soon.

LION Publishers is pleased to invite all who care about the future of local journalism to a conference devoted to the journalistic excellence and economic well-being of local independent online news sites.

The annual LION Summit will return to Chicago on Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2016, at the downtown campus of Columbia College Chicago. It will feature two full days packed with an array of speakers, panel discussions and networking opportunities devoted to revenue ideas and best practices, community engagement and sustainability. Plus, we'll open with an afternoon networking and informational session, and hold nightly receptions where we can all share what we've learned. Last year, more than 100 publishers and editors, academics, foundation representatives, industry experts and vendors attended our Chicago conference. In 2016, you won't want to miss the vigorous exchange of ideas.

LION Publishers has nearly 135 members in 37 states and Washington, D.C., representing both for-profit and nonprofit business models — all independently owned and operated and devoted to local journalism.

The organization’s gathering in Chicago will feature opportunities for members to discuss common issues and problems, share success stories and encourage the founding of new local news sites. Each event will feature an informative slate of speakers, workshops and panels on topics relating to local publishing, covering real-world strategies for revenue, hands-on technology demonstrations, effective reporting tips, and experts speaking on business and legal issues.


  • Check the schedule page for detailed updates »

  • Thursday, Sept. 29, registration will open at 4 p.m., with an evening reception and networking event.
  • Friday, Sept. 30, sessions will run all day, roughly 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., with an evening gathering, including light food and drinks.
  • Saturday, Oct. 1, sessions will again run all day, roughly 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., with "out on the town" socializing to follow.

In addition to three days of networking and sessions led by industry experts, your registration includes light breakfast and a catered lunch on Friday and Saturday, coffee and snacks, and appetizers/light dinner and drinks at the Thursday and Friday evening receptions.

Previous LION gatherings have been an excellent source of information and networking for journalists who have recently launched their own local news sites or are considering it. With a wide diversity of membership, and some publishers who have been in operation for over a decade, LION brings together the best business and reporting minds in local online news.


In addition to valuable member panels offering practical advice and blueprints for revenue and journalism ideas that have worked elsewhere, LION has lined up an impressive roster of speakers. They will include advertising sales expert Eleanor Cippel, who has keynoted past LION conferences, as well as:

  • Tracie Powell of All Digitocracy speaking on how publishers who don't have "Amazon" behind their names can duplicate some of the things the Washington Post is doing
  • Jan Schaffer of J-Lab, discussing her recent surveys of media entrepreneurs
  • Mike Reilley of Google News Lab, conducting training on Google Trends, MyMaps and Fusion Tables, Google Earth, Street View and more
  • John Bracken, vice president of the Media Innovation Program of the Knight Foundation
  • Josh Stearns, associate director of the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund
  • Jennifer Choi, program officer for journalism initiatives in the McCormick Foundation's Democracy Program
  • Teresa Schmedding of the American Copy Editors Society, with tips on how to verify stories and turn out clean copy
  • David Cuillier, the director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism and a past president of the Society of Professional Journalists, will break down effective techniques for pressing public records requests
  • Field Walsh of TXK Today, a LION member, on his success with producing video for news, event coverage and native advertising
  • Travis Smith of HOP Studios on the latest in the intersection between technology and online news
  • Steve Beatty of The Lens, a member of LION's Board of Directors, on partnering with national organizations to monetize content and find a bigger audience for it
  • Christopher Ali of the University of Virgina, discussing his research project, "Local News in a Digital World: Small Market Newspapers in an Age of Digital Disruption."
  • More sessions on advertising sales, management, community engagement and other need-to-know topics 

Other topics will include dozens of new advertising and alternative revenue ideas, native advertising, reaching minority and under-served communities, solutions journalism, mobile solutions and more. Stay tuned for more info on speakers and sessions!

Register for the 2016 LION Summit

Sign up now for the nation's only conference for local indie publishers, by local indie publishers!


The 2016 LION Summit is sponsored in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Broadstreet Ads, Walsh Creative, Hearken, Bizyhood, BIGR Media,, the Pointer Institute, the Center for Cooperative Media and hosted by Columbia College Chicago. Questions about becoming a sponsor of the LION Summit or about programming or registration can be directed to interim executive director Matt DeRienzo at


LION Publishers has arranged a block of rooms for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at the Best Western Grant Park Hotel in Chicago, just a block from the site of the summit, at a special discounted rate of $174 for single rooms and $184 for double/double rooms. Call the hotel directly at (312) 922-2900 and mention "LION" to reserve a room. The deadline for obtaining that rate is Aug. 26, but the block of rooms could be filled up by then, so act soon. The group rate will be honored up to three days before and after the conference, for those who wish to spend some extra time in Chicago. Also, you can check out other nearby hotels listed on our Map page.

Need a roommate? Use our list to help find someone to split hotel costs.

Travel stipends

The Board of Directors of LION Publishers is pleased to offer a limited number of stipends to help fund travel and hotel arrangements for the 2016 Summit. We'll help defray travel and hotel costs to ensure that even more publishers are able to attend. Stipends will be available to Full Publisher Members and Provisional Publisher Members of LION whose dues are current through Oct. 1. Sorry, the application deadline was Aug. 22. More info and application »