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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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Challenge Fund: Ready for round two

The best experiments start with an intriguing question. When we launched the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education last year, we hoped to spur a fresh, collaborative mindset around journalism education. Our experiment: Can we encourage more U.S. journalism schools to be thought leaders, innovators and change agents?

With our partners — 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 — we awarded $420K in grants last year to 12 schools that came up with original ideas on how to collaborate with local newsrooms on innovative projects.

It’s been an exciting journey to see these projects unfold. In the first year, our winners used new tools, relationships and processes to — just as a sampling — successfully cover the issues emerging from sea level rise; break investigative stories on the New York City Housing Authority and mold in tenements, and launch a student-run digital news portal in New Mexico. They’ve shared their learning along the way at ONA14, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, AEJMC, Journalism/Interactive, the International Symposium on Online Journalism and on MediaShift’s EducationShift.

Although these projects are ongoing, our early, independent evaluations already show local newsrooms strongly believe they’re providing valuable partnerships, news and information.

Now it’s time to build on this groundbreaking work with our second round of winning projects. The 11 selected projects from 13 schools, each of which will receive $35,000 to test their hypotheses, cover a wide range of ambitious experiments:

  • Can virtual reality tell the stories of marginalized youth in the Georgia juvenile system?

  • Can events journalism engage a local Hispanic community to follow government news affecting Latinos?

  • Can a project tracking food truck lines show news organizations how to develop commercially valuable data?

  • Can students create a digital network for fact-checking and investigating claims about the African-American community?

With this round, the Challenge Fund now supports 25 schools in their attempts to commit journalism differently. Just as important, simply applying to the fund has pushed educators to think through their innovative ideas to bring them to life — five of the schools that originally applied or were recognized as honorable mentions actually have pursued their projects, even in the absence of funds.

Where does our experiment go from here? We’ll continue to encourage journalism educators to lead innovation within their local communities as we watch and share the work of our Challenge Fund winners in this space.

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ONA Weekly #53

 ONA Weekly No. 53

Why ONA membership is perfect for grads

J-school grads can tap into innovative resources and connect with the best minds in their field among our nearly 2,300 members and digital journalism community of 60,000 worldwide. Membership also offers a chance to find jobs, collaborators and inspiration for projects. Give your graduate the gift of ONA; get a professional membership for only $50 — a $25 discount.

2015 Challenge Fund winners unveiled at J/i

Educators, sign up to stream Journalism/Interactive sessions April 24-25 and tune in Friday to hear Deputy Director Irving Washington announce the 11 winners of the $1M Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. ONA is delighted to be a sponsor of this event for journalism educators and digital media.

‘Lead yourself first’

Laura Amico, 2011 MJ Bear Fellow, shared tips at last week’s inaugural ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Be sure to check out all of Poynter’s coverage and stay tuned for more resources from the Academy.

Upcoming Events



Journalism jobs

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:

ESPN: The Fellowship now open

ESPN: The Fellowship, for college graduates with less than five years of experience, is now seeking diverse applicants. The fellowship will feature individualized training within a common-core development plan of writing, interviewing, anchoring and production as well as opportunities in Digital Media, Radio, International/Deportes and Studio Production. Apply now.

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.



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Why an ONA membership is a perfect gift for grads

If you’ve got a friend or loved one graduating from J-school this year, we’ve got a gift to start them off on their chosen career — a discounted ONA membership.

Graduation is an exciting time, but it’s also a time when students move away from the networks that have supported them for years as they move on to new but sometimes daunting opportunities.

Connecting with ONA is a great way for them to tap into innovative resources and immediately network with the best minds in their field among our nearly 2,300 members and digital journalism community of 60,000 worldwide. It’s also a chance to find jobs, collaborators and inspiration for their next projects.

And as our gift to 2015 grads, we’re offering our Professional membership at $50 for one full year — a savings of $25.

Buy A Grad Membership

ONA members have access to:

Buy a membership today and give your grad a heard start in digital journalism.

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ONA Weekly #52

 ONA Weekly No. 52

Fostering leadership with women in media

What happens when you get 25 women who care passionately about digital media together to talk about leadership? Real issues come up. Here’s what the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media is focusing on this week. ‪Follow #digitalwomenleaders‬ for takeaways.

Volunteer at ONA15, attend free

We’re looking for volunteers to work at ONA15, our annual conference for digital journalists and technologists. This year, we’ll be in L.A. Sept. 24-26. Our video and social teams are looking for volunteers to report on the conference and we’re looking for general volunteers to help us keep things running smoothly. Get involved.

Thanks for your ONA15 session ideas!

The Suggestion Box is now closed and the program team — a diverse volunteer group of professionals and students — will review each and every idea. Check out the 279 suggestions sent in by the ONA community to see the micro to macro ideas your digital journalism colleagues are most interested in.

Upcoming Events

Journalism jobs

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:

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