Top Five Takeaways from #LION16

By: Rosalie Chan, Associate Board director

Editor’s Note: Our Associate Board director, Rosalie Chan, attended the LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers 2016 Summit, which took place at Columbia College Chicago from Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.

Here are her five key takeaways from the sessions she attended.

Photo courtesy of LION Publishers.

Photo courtesy of LION Publishers.

Local news outlets can better engage with communities through storytelling.
How so? Find the issues that matter in the community. Instead of just reporting them, also write about the solutions. Activist journalism, soft-advocacy and solutions journalism are all great ways to be a positive impact in the community and engage with your readers.

According to Jan Schaffer, founder of the J-Lab, there are examples you can look to for these types of journalism. Catalyst Chicago is a great example of soft-advocacy journalism because it exists to improve the Chicago school system. Reveal’s recent piece on trafficking in the marijuana industry is an example of activist journalism. And the SF Homeless Project is a great example of solutions journalism.

Use data to engage with audiences.
Track how many people are viewing your publication. But don’t just count the numbers. Track how people are engaging with the stories. According to Tracie Powell of allDigitocracy, you can use this data to improve your content and learn more about your audience.

Fact check, fact check, fact check!
According to Laura M. Browning, managing editor at The A.V. Club, mistakes can happen when you fact-check in a hurry, and issues happen when you think you’re too good of a writer. Make sure to check coincidences, internal inconsistencies, repetition, foreign languages, numbers and more. “Read the material as though you were a reader,” Browning said.

There’s optimism about small market newspapers.
Seriously. Christopher Ali, assistant professor at the University of Virginia, has conducted research on small market newspapers, and they are “often the only news voice in a community.” They can bring people together through events, open editorial meetings and solutions journalism.

Use online storytelling tools.
The Google News Lab has some great tools, according to Mike Reilley of The Journalist’s Toolbox. Data journalism is a powerful way to tell stories, and Google Research is a great source for data. If geographic locations are important in your story, learn how to use Google Maps to present your story. Google Fusion Tables also allow you to handle large volumes of data to create charts and maps. Don’t forget to make online stories responsive and mobile-friendly. Embed Responsively is a helpful tool when you’re embedding maps and charts.