Archive — News

The Wall Street Journal,, Baltimore Sun and BBC News take home 2015 Online Journalism Awards

LOS ANGELES — Coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the Baltimore riots in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death and the shootings in Canadian Parliament took top honors Saturday night at the 2015 Online Journalism Awards, which ended the Online News Association Conference.

At the 15th annual awards dinner, ONA also announced Cengiz Yar, a documentary photographer and freelance photojournalist who is founding Board member of the Frontline Freelance Registry, as the first recipient of the James Foley Award, honoring work by reporters in conflict zones and named for the Global Post freelancer killed in Syria in August. The late journalist Dori J. Maynard also was honored with the Rich Jaroslovsky Founder Award for her tireless work in promoting diversity in media.

New start-up, the Baltimore Sun and The Globe and Mail dominated the Breaking News categories. The $15,000 University of Florida Awards in Investigative Data Journalism were won by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s deep data dive into tax assessments and the Austin American-Statesman for “Missed Signs, Fatal Consequences,” a look at Texas’ failure to help protect vulnerable children. The newest category, sports, was won by Taffy Brodesser-Akner for Matter on the first all-female cast of ultimate fighters, and The New York Times for its “web-native storytelling” around the World Cup.

Each winner of the three General Excellence Awards — The Washington Post, Quartz ( and KBIA News ( — took home a $6,166 prize, courtesy of the Gannett Foundation. The Knight Award for Public Service, with a $5,000 prize from the Knight Foundation, went to BBC World Service, BBC News for its use of WhatsApp in response to the Ebola crisis. The New York Times won the $5,500 Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism Award for its open-source graphics tool, ai2html.

Here are the winners in each category, with links to their winning entries:

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Online News Association to expand local journalism training with $828,000 from Knight Foundation

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LOS ANGELES — The Online News Association today announced that it will expand its program connecting and training journalists in communities across the United States with a $828,000 grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Knight support will significantly help build on the success of ONA Local groups, which bring together journalists, technologists and educators, providing them with digital training and peer-to-peer learning. ONA will bring more resources to its 50 current local groups and create groups in 20 new communities, and develop partnerships with leading journalism and tech organizations.

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Why local journalists can help save local journalism

By Jane McDonnell, Executive Director

Never underestimate the power of connections. In 2008, the Online News Association launched ONA Local, groups of like-minded journalists in cities large and small who organized themselves — meeting up in bars, swapping war stories, sharing the excitement and fears they felt about the potential of this digital journalism thing.

Seven years later, there are 50 unique groups around the world representing 10,000 participants, ranging from the largest (2,000-plus in Washington, D.C., and New York) to the smallest (29 and growing in Detroit) to the newest (ONA Singapore). Events range from simple get-togethers to sophisticated monthly meetups with high-end speakers and trainers. They all share ideas for innovative ways to cover news, spark collaborations, use the latest tools, and job openings.

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We recently announced a generous grant from the Knight Foundation to expand and strengthen ONA Local groups across the U.S. We know you might have questions about the program and how it will work. If you don’t see an answer to your question below, just let us know at

If you’re interested in starting or leading an ONA Local group in your town, city or state, please fill out this form, and we’ll follow up with you as we plan for 2016.

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Online News Association launches free Build Your Own Ethics Code at 2015 conference

LOS ANGELESThe Online News Association today launched a fully crowd-sourced tool that allows journalists to easily customize and publish a digital ethics code.

The Build Your Own Ethics Code platform, supported by a $40K grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, addresses the intense interest and concern in the digital journalism community around the growing ethical issues unique to social media, technology and the viral nature and speed of breaking news.

Using the tool, journalists can review and easily select statements from a menu addressing more than 40 ethical issues, including user-generated content, verification, data journalism, social networks, suicide, graphic visuals, hostage situations, privacy, gender and ethnicity and hate speech. They then can tailor a code and export it for publication and internal use.

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Georgia News Lab, New Mexico News Port win Challenge Fund grand prizes

Over the past two years, we’ve chosen 23 winning projects in our $1M contest to encourage educators to hack the journalism curriculum. 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.

Today we announce a grand-prize winner for the Challenge Fund to two schools — and their collaborators — that embody the full spirit of the challenge. Georgia News Lab and its partners, led by the University of George, will receive $65,000 for their innovative project, a series that led to a state ethics commission investigation into a program that squandered millions of dollars of federal HIV grant money. This was an impressive collaboration among four schools and two media companies in the state.

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Meet ONA’s 2015 MJ Bear Fellows, under-30 digital journalism stand-outs

The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its fifth class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under age 30 whose innovative work in independent, community and corporate news represents the best of new media.

The selection committee combed through 59 applications from 23 countries to choose these up-and-coming digital journalists — two in the United States or Canada and one international, in partnership with MSN International — who are making their voices heard in the industry.

“Once again, applicants were leading, not following, in their newsrooms,” said Amy Eisman, MJ Bear Fellowship Committee Chair. “The breadth of their entries was stunning — from deep data work and creative crowdsourcing to building tools to help news organizations in the future. In the end, we are struck by their deep devotion to news and information, to including diverse voices, and to serving their readers, listeners and viewers.”

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2015 Online Journalism Awards finalists announced

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Finalists for the 2015 Online Journalism Awards, representing a wide range of nonprofit, public, academic, major media, and emerging technology organizations from around the globe, were announced today by the Online News Association.

Ten of the awards now come with $60,000 in prize money, courtesy of Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation and the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. These awards honor data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism, public service, technical innovation and general excellence.

New categories for 2015 include “Sports” and “Pro-Am” within the Student awards. ONA also debuts the James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting, which will honor one of the many journalists reporting under the most challenging conditions. A special committee will select the first recipient later in the year.

“This year, judges were swayed less by bells and whistles that didn’t add to the content, and instead zeroed in on high-quality journalism that was able to take flight on digital platforms,” said Joshua Hatch, ONA Board member and Online Journalism Awards Committee Chair. “It goes to show what a democratic force technology has become to journalists around the world.”

A group of 134 industry-leading journalists and new media professionals teamed up to screen 994 entries and select semi-finalists. Fifteen judges representing a diverse cross-section of the industry then conferred to determine finalists and winners.

The winners will be announced at the 2015 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 26, in Los Angeles.

The finalists, many pushing the envelope of innovation and excellence in digital storytelling and distribution, are:

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Using design thinking to reimagine mobile news in Seattle

How might we better design the news experience for mobile consumers? This was the central challenge for over 50 reporters, designers, developers and others passionate about journalism at ONA Mobile dCamp: Seattle on July 17. Hosted by Breaking News and organized by ONA, this free daylong workshop was a crash course in design thinking that spurred brainstorming new approaches to creating mobile experiences for news consumers.

We started by creating a collaborative environment so that everyone could draw on the support they needed from their teams. That required some advance prep:

  • We invited Tran Ha and Daniel Stringer, experts from Stanford’s d.School, to explain practical ways newsrooms can use human-centered design to create products that respond directly to user needs.
  • We asked participants to apply to the workshop so we understood their areas of expertise and their experiences creating mobile experiences.
  • We built teams to take advantage of diverse skill sets and backgrounds — journalists, designers, developers and product managers.
  • Each team member got a toy animal when they checked in at registration to mark their team identity. We brought art supplies and other toys to foster creativity and playfulness for the protoyping phase.
  • We brought in team leaders from a range of local and national newsrooms to work closely with groups throughout the day, guiding them through identifying user needs, brainstorming, prototyping and refining their vision.
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Solving a problem: Designing usable interactives for mobile

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 Aaron Williams is data visualization editor at the San Francisco ChronicleYou can watch for our forthcoming announcement about the next round of fellows here.

Photo by Flickr user

Designing interactive graphics for desktop and mobile is tough work. A designer can sometimes change the graphic’s scale to fit on mobile. Other times, it’s better to create a separate graphic for mobile viewing. What’s the best path?

A group of us tried to answer this question at the SRCCON (Source-con) conference last month.

I co-facilitated Data Viz for All: Help Us Make Interactives More Usable for Mobile with Youyou Zhou and Julia Smith. In the session, we tackled accessibility and usability of interactive graphics on mobile.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we found.

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