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Reporting on the Nepali earthquake, as journalist and survivor

This is one of a series of blog posts from the fourth ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under 30 who are expanding the boundaries of digital news. Fellow Rajneesh Bhandari is an independent multimedia journalist in Nepal. He regularly contributes to various regional and international media, including The New York Times, Asia Calling, IPSTV, CCTV and others. Apply for the 2015 fellowship here.


Earthquake damage in Barpak, Western Region, Nepal

It was Saturday, April 25. At exactly 11:56 a.m., a 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook Nepal for 50 seconds. In that short span of time, houses collapsed. People were injured. Some were trapped under rubble and died. Hospitals were filled with rescued or injured persons and dead bodies.

I was at Shivapuri National Park when the jolt was at its peak, and thankfully was not injured. Soon after, I started reporting, and it was not an easy assignment. I had challenges in finding transportation, lodging, electricity, Internet and a workstation. Life was extremely uncertain, because we weren’t sure if the earthquake was over or more aftershocks would follow.

An old house completely collapsed and other buildings were damaged near my rented apartment in Anamnagar in Kathmandu. We slept in tents in an open space with 20 other people for many days, fearing that a big aftershock could come any time. My mum would quickly cook something in the fourth-floor kitchen and bring it down, and we ate together on the ground floor. This continued for many days as the aftershocks were ongoing. I had made a temporary workstation on the ground floor where I started filing stories.

Fulfilling the role of a journalist was difficult. Two major aftershocks occurred. The first was a 6.8 magnitude on April 26, as I was filming in Basantapur, and the second reached a magnitude of 7.2 on May 12 as I was filming in Swayambhunath. Many other smaller aftershocks came in between. Reporting the story was sometimes more important than just sitting in open space for safety. Roads were blocked, some by landslides and others due to cracks. It wasn’t easy to move from place to place. Walking for hours was the only way out in most of the rural areas.

Rajneesh's workstation, Kathmandu, Nepal

With no electricity and no good Internet for a couple of days, sending files back to the bureaus was difficult. I ran to all the Internet Service Providers asking to use their service during the initial days after the earthquake, but most were closed as they feared staying inside the building long enough to fix the problem.

The people I interviewed had unique stories. One man wasn’t able to do the final rites for his beloved because he didn’t have money. In another village, the lama, or head spiritual leader, was killed and nobody was left to perform last rites. Monks were looking for relics in the ruble.

Many are still unsure what the monsoon season will bring, and how many aftershocks may still occur.


Fellow Rajneesh Bhandari is an independent multimedia journalist in Nepal. He’s done research on the convergence of media and the mobile revolution in Nepal, and he published an iPad book on autism. He regularly contributes to various regional and international media, including The New York Times, Asia Calling, IPSTV, CCTV and others. He previously coordinated Media Gufa, which requires journalists to be isolated in a room for 72 hours to report news stories using only social media and another group of journalists to report stories from a rural area without using the internet. He also is working as data editor on an investigative project launched by Transparency International, teaches journalism at WLC College, Nepal, runs multimedia workshops for national and international organizations, and is working to improve digital literacy in Nepal by training young people in rural areas how to use digital tools.

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ONA Weekly #63

 ONA Weekly No. 63

Introducing the ONA15 Student Newsroom

Congratulations to the 20 talented digital journalists who have been selected for the ONA15 Student Newsroom! They’ll provide intensive coverage of the Online News Association Conference & Awards, September 24-26, under the guidance of 20 carefully curated mentors. For the sixth year, Google is generously providing a $30,000 scholarship to cover registration, travel to Los Angeles and lodging expenses for all students. Meet the ONA15 Student Newsroom

Emerging leaders, apply for the MJ Bear Fellowship

We’re looking for talented journalists under 30 for the MJ Bear Fellowship, which provides guidance, access to ONA’s robust network and membership to ONA for three years. Fellows receive an all-expense paid trip to ONA15 and get to present their work at the conference. Apply by July 10.

Brainstorm with mobile experts in Seattle

Near Seattle? Join us for a free workshop at Breaking News, July 17. Work with mobile experts from AJ+, MSN, NBC, the Seattle Times and more to design new ways to reach mobile audiences. Learn more and apply for the training, supported by the Gannett Foundation. Looking for more on mobile? Check out resources from ONACamp Indianapolis.

Upcoming Events

J O B S

ONA’s Career Center has hundreds of opportunities for journalists, editors and digital-minded professionals. It’s free to browse and job-seekers can upload their resumes for free. Recent postings include:

ProPublica’s Emerging Reporters for journalists of color

If you’re a college student interested in journalism, apply for ProPublica’s Emerging Reporters program. Reporters receive a $4,500 stipend per semester, plus ongoing mentoring. Learn more and apply.

What We’re Reading

Some recent posts we’ve highlighted on the ONA Issues Tumblr:

Have an outstanding article on digital journalism issues to share with us? Tweet it with #ONAissues.

The Online News Association is a nonprofit membership organization for digital journalists, connecting journalism, technology & innovation. Learn why you should become a member.



Learn more

WNYC Announces Search for the Next Great Podcast

WNYC’s Podcast Accelerator to Give New Voices A Pathway, a Platform, and a Pilot

Winning Pitch to be Selected at the Online News Association Annual Conference in September 2015 in Los Angeles

June 25, 2015 – New York, NY — WNYC, home to top podcasts including RADIOLAB, FREAKONOMICS RADIO, and HERE’S THE THING with Alec Baldwin, is looking for new talent, new ideas, and new voices for the next wave in what’s been hailed as “a golden age of audio.”

Launching today, the WNYC Podcast Accelerator will give both established talent and up-and-coming storytellers the opportunity to pitch their big podcast idea and potentially win the chance to produce a pilot. Modeled after successful tech accelerators such as Y Combinator, the WNYC Podcast Accelerator is the first of its kind in the dynamic podcasting space, providing production advice, industry connections, mentorship and a platform for creating remarkable audio content.

The application period will run from today until July 15. Five finalists will then be paired with producers from top WNYC podcasts including Freakonomics, Death, Sex & Money, Here’s The Thing, and Studio 360 who will mentor and train the candidates, helping them hone their pitches – including storylines, character development, sound, texture and voice — throughout the summer. On September 25 in Los Angeles, at the 2015 Online News Association (ONA) Conference – the world’s largest gathering of digital journalists — the finalists will make their pitches to a panel of judges. The winner gets the chance to produce a pilot episode with a WNYC producer.

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A focus on community engagement at ONACamp Indianapolis

Over 100 journalists from around the Midwest came out for ONACamp Indianapolis, a full-day digital journalism training hosted at the Indianapolis Star on June 12. With a focus on community engagement, the workshop provided practical tips and best practices for reaching audiences through social media, video, mobile devices and more. A big thanks to the Gannett Foundation for their generous funding for this event, which was free for all participants.

Here, we’ve collected resources from our expert presenters so you can learn from their excellent tips.

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ONA Weekly #62

 ONA Weekly No. 62

Help us rethink news for mobile (in Seattle!)

Join us July 17 at Breaking News for ONA Mobile dCamp: Seattle, a free, day-long workshop to discuss and develop new ideas for mobile-first news. Supported by the Gannett Foundation, this design camp will identify reader needs and propose practical mobile-first solutions. Applications are due July 8.

Five ways newsrooms can connect with their audiences

“The hardest task for a small news startup — probably for most news organizations — is prioritizing,” writes Anika Anand, 2014 MJ Bear Fellow and Director of Product at Chalkbeat. She shares five engagement strategies for small newsrooms in her latest blog post for ONA.

Engagement resources from ONACamp Indianapolis

We’ve pulled together resources from presenters at ONACamp Indianapolis, where more than 100 journalists joined us at the Indianapolis Star for a free day of digital news training with a focus on community engagement. Get tips on building news with a community, creating verifying news on social media, creating video for web and more.

Upcoming Events

Reuters Offers Free News Content for Digital Publishers

Download and use up to 10 free, ready-to-publish Reuters multimedia news items per month and an unlimited amount of featured contributor content. Use award-winning text, pictures and videos covering multiple news categories including breaking news, business, politics and more. Search now at http://open.mediaexpress.reuters.com.
This content is sponsored by Reuters.

New jobs for journalists

ONA’s Career Center has hundreds of opportunities for journalists, editors and digital-minded professionals. It’s free to browse and job-seekers can upload their resumes for free. Recent postings include:

Trauma Journalism: Training for educators

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute is hosting a free, two-day conference to teach journalism educators about the impact of trauma on individuals and communities, how to build resilience through reporting, and provide hands-on help in creating units or standalone courses and capstone classes on trauma. Registration opens in July.

What We’re Reading

Some recent posts we’ve highlighted on the ONA Issues Tumblr:

Have an outstanding article on digital journalism issues to share with us? Tweet it with #ONAissues.

The Online News Association is a nonprofit membership organization for digital journalists, connecting journalism, technology & innovation. Learn why you should become a member.



Learn more