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LION Publishers Hires First Executive Director as Online News Pioneers Expand

LION Publishers is proud to announce the hiring of an experienced media professional, Beth Lawton, as the nonprofit organization’s executive director.

Beth Lawton
Beth Lawton

Lawton will tackle the group’s efforts to better connect the members of Local Independent Online News Publishers, and to foster the growth of indie news sites across the country.

“We’re very pleased to have Beth Lawton join us,” said Dylan Smith, chairman of LION’s Board of Directors and editor and publisher of “Her energy and experience will be a huge asset as LION grows our organizational capacity.”

Lawton has experience in multimedia reporting and editing as well as media association leadership.

“The advances in mobile journalism and consumer technology, with the increasing focus on local, relevant and useful online information, make this a great time for journalism entrepreneurs,” she said. “I’m excited about expanding LION Publishers’ reach and influence as more people jump into publishing community news.”

Bill Macfadyen, publisher of Noozhawk, a founding member of LION Publishers, said Lawton’s hiring is an important milestone for the 2-year-old organization.

“It’s a sign that we’re maturing,” he said. “Our publishers are beginning to focus on long-range sustainability issues and initiatives, and not mere survival. It’s an exciting validation of how far we’ve come.”

Lawton brings a wide range of expertise to the post. She was the digital media manager for the Newspaper Association of American, the founding online editor of (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel), a reporter and editor for V.I. Source in the U.S. Virgin Islands, an online producer for the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and, and was recently a regional editor for in northern Virginia.

Working with the all-volunteer Board of Directors and LION’s membership, Lawton will create a resource for publishers establishing new news sites, organize a mentorship program for new publishers, and assist in organizing the LION Summit.

“Starting up your own venture takes courage and dedication,” Lawton said. “I wanted to work with LION Publishers because I believe in the mission of providing local news entrepreneurs with the information and resources they need to succeed in serving their communities through journalism.”

“LION continues to grow as the businesses of our individual members grow,” said Howard Owens, LION’s Board Treasurer and the founder of in Batavia, N.Y. “Our ability and need to call on somebody of Beth’s qualifications is a strong indication that we’re all heading in the right direction.”

In addition to her duties for LION Publishers, Lawton is the founder of Canoe Media Services, a consulting firm in Alexandria, Va. She is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University (2003, MSJ in online media), and Washington University in St. Louis (2001, BA).

LION Publishers is the only nationwide group representing the publishers and editors of local independent online news websites, who are successfully creating the future of reporting: locally owned and operated news outlets that directly serve their communities.

LION Publishers are online news leaders who are innovating in business, technology, communication and storytelling while honoring the rich heritage of local journalism.

The 120 members of LION include the publishers of both for- and nonprofit news sites across the United States, ranging from rural towns and urban neighborhoods to regional news sites.

LION offers members platforms for peer-to-peer networking, preferred rates from insurance brokers and other vendors, mentoring by leaders in the field, and online clinics on techniques for business and editorial success. LION is planning a repeat of its successful national conference focused on local online news innovation and excellence to be held at Chicago’s Columbia College in October 2014.

Click here for more information on LION Publishers.


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