As regular readers of The Food Section know, Mondays are typically reserved for newsier material, such as reports on what new liquor laws or the current pickleball craze could mean for eaters across the South. But I’m today preempting the climate change-adjacent story planned for this space to share a late-breaking development:
The Food Section this weekend received the LION Local Journalism Award for New Business of the Year.
I hadn’t heard of LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers prior to launching The Food Section. In fact, I was probably a few months into operations before I realized there was an organization dedicated to supporting journalistic excellence outside of legacy media. LION has roughly 500 member outlets, all of which are serving communities that have been abandoned, overlooked, or harmed by legacy media.
You may live in a place where the local newspaper has shut down or shriveled, and one of these upstarts is doing the important work of keeping the public informed. Among Friday night’s honorees were Enlace Latino NC, the state’s first Spanish-language digital news service; Asheville Watchdog, which exposed a local attorney preying on vulnerable homeowners, resulting in his arrest on 41 felony charges; and Mississippi Free Press, which helped Black women overcome barriers to COVID care.
Still, I’ll admit to bias in this instance. I was most excited about The Food Section winning one of the evening’s premier prizes, given in recognition of the newsletter’s “operational resilience, financial health, and journalistic impact.”
Officially, the judges (who were under the impression that this is a multi-person newsroom) wrote that, “Their focus on bringing quality food journalism to underserved communities in the South is something that is clearly needed, and they’re doing it through a business lens to actually make it work.”
Unofficially, one of them told me after the ceremony, The Food Section “impressed the hell out of us.”
Even though I attended the shindig in Austin, thanks to a LION travel scholarship, I had no expectation of going home with a trophy. That’s because my revenue strategy is astoundingly simple: I’ve figured from the start that if I did good work, people would pay for it.
And you did. As I said in my impromptu acceptance speech, The Food Section’s success has been made possible entirely by its paying subscribers. This newsletter would not exist if you didn’t share my belief that food journalism consists of more than recipes and reprinted press releases—and trust me to hold power to account by practicing it.
In other words, this fancy hardware belongs to you. Let me know if you ever want to borrow it for a spell.
But as I also said from the stage, I want to thank more of you next year. Even though The Food Section will have aged out of the New Business category, I have every intention of continuing to publish award-worthy journalism, so long as its readers continue to support it.
If you haven’t yet upgraded to paid status, now’s a great time to do so. And if your paid subscription is about to expire, please consider renewing.
I know economic circumstances have changed for many readers over the past year, but the price of The Food Section is holding steady at $9 a month. In the spirit of moving forward, that’s the equivalent of 2.8 gallons of gas, or about half of what people pay on average for a single Uber ride. I hope you’ll agree that’s an investment worth making in independent, hard-hitting food journalism.
Like many award-giving organizations, LION asks its winners to pose with their trophies after claiming them. But it’s up to the event photographer to coach them on just how to position their hands so it’s clear what’s happening in the picture. Since New Business was the evening’s second-to-last category, the photog had repeated the same instructions many, many times before I reached her.
She was astounded that I didn’t seem to require any guidance, until I explained that I spent a summer working as an antique portrait photographer at Stagecoach Stop USA. Apparently, I’d internalized all the advice I’d given to wannabe cowboys who wanted to be sure the label on their Jack Daniels bottle was showing.
That was a fun job. But this one’s even better. Thank you for allowing me to have it.
The Food Section’s independent and original food journalism from and about the American South is made possible by paying subscribers.
“Impressed the hell out of us” seems just right. And good to learn about LION and their work
Congratulations! Bravo. Great job and charming speech. Keep up the great work!