Last week, more than 200 publishers gathered on the 8th floor of a Columbia College building in downtown Chicago, IL for the 2017 Annual Conference for Local Independent Online Publishers (LION). Throughout the three-day conference, attendees heard from industry experts, innovative publishers and partners and had an opportunity to participate in conversations revolving around the future of online publishing. Between meeting award-winning publishers from across the country to being face-to-face with representatives from Facebook, this conference was certainly worth its weight in gold. Here are five takeaways that left us feeling inspired:

We are not alone

It was invigorating to hear from and get to know other publishers from across the country, all of which share our mission of creating local content for our communities. While there are a number of organizations for journalists, LION is the only industry group that truly represents hyper-local, independent online publishers. We had an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialog (and commiserate) with veterans and startups alike, turning strangers into friends over bottomless coffee, cookies, and mimosas. The company alone was well worth the nine hour drive to the windy city.

Local content is needed

With #fakenews trending and established publications reducing their staff, our communities need local stories written by local residents now more than ever. Although Clutch MOV does not publish hard hitting news, we do help fill gaps in local coverage and tell stories that matter. You can trust our writers to care about our community because we come from your community – we are your neighbors, coworkers, volunteers, and friends. And we hope to continue to earn your trust with each story we publish.

We can make an impact

Our last session of the conference focused on Solutions Journalism and how reporting on solutions can spark constructive discourse. One Ohio publication used this strategy to tackle tough issues like food insecurity and infant mortality in their county while providing readers with hope by reporting on what local organizations were doing to help. Our staff is looking forward to exploring Solutions Journalism in 2018 to help make a positive impact on the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Free isn’t always free

A large portion of the conference discussion focused on how publishers can generate enough income to continue providing free content to their readers. Clutch MOV is committed to providing our content at no charge, but we would love to be able to compensate our hard-working and talented volunteers. We recognize that we will need help from our audience to continue operating and we believe quality, local content is well worth the investment. We hope you do, too.

This is only the beginning

Although it has been a few years since our initial launch, we are gearing up for an exciting year in 2018. Our new look is only the beginning of better things to come. After hearing hundreds of ideas and taking 30+ pages of notes, we are teeming with inspiration. We are ever grateful to have been able to spend three days learning from the best and planning for our future. Thank you for sticking with us and continuing to support our mission of celebrating community, culture and creativity in the Mid-Ohio Valley.