Latest posts

What makes a winning OJA entry? Let’s start with great journalism

We’re often asked what makes an entry an Online Journalism Awards winner.

There is no single magic formula, but there is an overriding philosophy: great journalism that best leverages the power of the digital platform. Some winning entries feature videos. Others are heavy with social media. And still others provide a modest mix of multiple media. But all of them engage readers in compelling and innovative ways that highlight the best the web has to offer.

We’ve seen trends over the past 15 years: games, Flash, parallax scrolling, raw documents, mobile and more. The tools, hardware, software and delivery systems may come and go, but the underlying themes persist: educating the public, investigating corruption, delighting readers and pushing the technical boundaries in what browsers and devices can do.

When considering entries, the judges must use a mix of objective and subjective evaluations on entries that can, unsurprisingly, lead to vigorous debates. Where one entry might be a dramatic and impactful investigation that uncovers abuses of power and systemic social issues, another might be a lighter look with special emphasis placed on technology and design. How to evaluate them against each other?

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Using open-source tools to expedite news graphics

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. Applications to apply for this year’s fellowship will open soon. Fellow Aaron Williams is a news applications developer with The Center for Investigative Reporting in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Since the Online News Association’s 2014 Conference & Awards Banquet, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to better integrate newsroom workflows into creating and publishing digital graphics. Many newsroom developers juggle copy from reporters, editors and the copydesk, often forgetting key text, while also working on design and code. In other words, collaborating on interactive graphics is a challenge. Here’s a quick look at solutions from other newsrooms, as well as a technique I’ve developed at The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).

Google Drive as the CMS

Google Sheets is a common tool for powering digital news graphics. While a spreadsheet can’t fully replace a database, it can mimic some of its key characteristics: columns, rows and headers. This provides an easy way for web producers and reporters to add content to a graphic while newsroom developers can focus on the code.

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An example interactive map built with Mother Jones’ Story Tools. Source: https://github.com/motherjones/us-color-coded-map

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2015 OJAs: New awards for students, sports

by Joshua Hatch, OJA Chair and ONA Board Vice President

We are excited to announce our 2015 Online Journalism Awards, with 37 categories and $60,000 in prize money. Building on 15 years of digital journalism excellence, this year we’ll honor work in three new categories: Pro-Am Student journalism, Sports journalism and our previously announced James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting.

As we’ve seen with our Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, J-schools are finding inventive ways to adapt to the rapid pace of change in our industry. One proven method has been to immerse students in the real-world media environment. For that reason, we’ve created the new Pro-Am grouping for our Student category, designed to honor work done by students in an academic environment who receive compensation from, support from or collaborate with a professional outlet (interns at professional news organizations are not eligible).

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Entries open for 2015 Online Journalism Awards

New: Sports, Student-Professional Collaborations, Conflict Reporting honored

WASHINGTON DC — The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today opened the call for entries for the 2015 Online Journalism Awards (OJAs), emblematic of the best in digital journalism, with 37 categories and $60,000 in prize money.

As in past years, the 2015 OJAs have been modified to keep up with the rapidly evolving media industry. New developments this year include:

  • The inaugural James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting will honor one of the many journalists reporting under the most challenging conditions. A special committee will select the inaugural recipient, led by Phil Balboni, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Post, who worked closely with Foley, and ONA Board member and Past President Jim Brady, CEO of Spirited Media.
  • Because of a significant growth in entries, “Sports” now has its own category, moved from the “Planned News/Events” and “Feature” categories.
  • The new “Pro-Am” category within the Student awards will recognize outstanding work done by students in an academic environment who collaborate with or receive compensation or support from a professional media outlet.
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11 projects win second round of $1M challenge to hack journalism education

WASHINGTON, DC — Eleven projects from 13 U.S. universities each won a $35,000 micro-grant to seed collaborative news experiments in living labs — their communities, the Online News Association (ONA) announced today.

The competitive Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education was created in 2014 to encourage journalism programs to experiment with new ways of providing news and information. This year’s winning projects cover issues ranging from poverty to juvenile justice, and food truck lines to logging.

The fund is the brainchild of a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation, and is managed by ONA, the world’s largest membership group of digital journalists.

The 53 entries competing for $385K for the 2015-16 academic year were judged on their ability to create collaborative, student-produced local news coverage, bridge the professor-professional gap, use innovative techniques and technologies and learn from digital-age news experiments. Winning teams included some combination of students, researchers, media professionals, educators, developers and designers.

“This year’s winners were finely focused on partnerships and impact, using creative but realistic tools and ideas that will move local journalism forward in their communities, “ said Irving Washington, ONA Deputy Director, who administered the selection process.

Winning schools and their experiments, announced Friday at the 2015 Journalism Interactive Conference for journalism educators and digital media, include:

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