Archive — News


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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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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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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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

Launching the Women’s Digital Leadership Academy

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go! The ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media will be held next week, April 12-17. Make sure to meet the 25 participants, selected from a pool of nearly 500 applicants, who will attend the tuition-free seminar. You can also read more about the amazing faculty leading conversations throughout the week.

You can join in the conversation at #digitalwomenleaders, and stay tuned for more updates!


We’re also thankful to our sponsor, the Ford Foundation, for its tremendous support in making this dream a reality.

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ONA Weekly #51

 ONA Weekly No. 51

25 leaders in digital media to watch

Next week, the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media will bring together a cohort of 25 emerging newsroom leaders for an intensive week focused on developing their talent. Learn more about them, and follow their takeaways with #digitalwomenleaders.

ONA15 speaker and session ideas DUE FRIDAY

Deadline time! We want to hear your great ideas for this year’s ONA conference and we need them by Friday, April 10, at 11:59 ET. Send the ONA15 Suggestion Box the people and projects that inspire you, your big ideas and the failures in your newsrooms that others can learn from.

ONA at the International Symposium on Online Journalism

Headed to Austin for the ISOJ? Hear from the 2014 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education about their excellent projects on Saturday, April 18, and say hi to Deputy Director Irving Washington and Digital Director Trevor Knoblich.

What challenges do newsrooms face?

ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell and Trevor Knoblich spoke with The Innovation Engine about the business and culture of news organizations and how journalists can stay current with new tools and tech. Get tips on new tools and some takeaways on how to improve your mobile journalism in the 30-minute podcast.

Upcoming Events

THREAD at Yale: Storytelling in Modern Media

June 7-10, 2015
Apply to join a group of storytellers from print, radio, and other media who will gather in New Haven, Connecticut to learn from masters in the field and from each other. Apply by May 1, 2015. Admission is rolling.
This content is sponsored by Yale University.

Just listed! New jobs for journos

Looking for a new job or just want to see what’s out there? Check out ONA’s Career Center. Job seekers can browse the latest openings and upload their resumes for free.

What is your favorite podcast episode?

NPR is interested in your favorite podcast episode. Let them know what you listen to and which episode you think is best. The only rule is that if you work in radio or on podcasts, please don’t enter anything produced by you or the organization you work for.

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

From Compensation to Innovation: Agenda for the Women’s Leadership Academy

The ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media is happening April 12-17, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to work with the 25 amazing women and expert faculty collaborating in this inaugural group.

Find out more about the participants and the faculty.

With the high level of interest — nearly 500 applicants — in the program, we thought we’d share the emerging themes and topics for the week aimed at starting focused, candid conversations. ONA and Poynter will be creating summary materials of the event, and you can follow the ongoing conversation on Twitter using #digitalwomenleaders.

Understanding Your Leadership Skill Sets

Faculty: Katie Hawkins-Gaar (Poynter), S. Mitra Kalita (Los Angeles Times), Kelly McBride (Poynter), Jane McDonnell (ONA), Butch Ward (Poynter)

The cohort will share their goals and experiences as leaders to help set the tone for the week. Using the results of a survey, they will also dive into strategies for management styles and decision-making, and then review their own strengths as digital leaders and start developing a personal leadership plan outlining their goals.

Designs for Leadership in Digital Media

Faculty: Laura Amico (The Boston Globe), Sara Catania (NBC4 LA), Cory Haik (The Washington Post), S. Mitra Kalita

We’ll discuss challenges specific to leadership in the digital space, including creating a culture of innovation and agility, entrepreneurship, managing digital products and wrangling technology and tools.

Participants will also have a conversation with Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Blumenstein and Fusion’s Jane Spencer, moderated by Facebook’s Liz Heron, about championing colleagues for leadership roles.

Navigating Newsroom Culture

Faculty: Meredith Artley (CNN), LaToya Drake (Google), Liz Heron (Facebook), Stacy-Marie Ishmael (BuzzFeed News), S. Mitra Kalita, Will Neville-Rehbehn (VShift), Latoya Peterson (Fusion)

We’ll discuss systemic inequities in newsroom culture, focusing on creating a cohort to support diversity in leadership, strategies for balancing a career and family, developing business partnerships and the ins and outs of negotiating a compensation package.

The Business of Leadership

Faculty: Meredith Artley, Kelly McBride, Butch Ward

We’ll focus on the business side of leadership, including how to wield influence, how to manage business relationships, the ethics of women as leaders, and a look at money, budgets and revenue. Faculty and participants will engage in one-on-one coaching.

Bringing it Home

Finally, participants will have a chance to share their personal leadership plan and discuss how to keep conversations going beyond the Academy. We’ll invite the cohort to share feedback on everything from format to presenters to topics covered so that we can improve future events.

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