Archive — Resources

ASAE Honors ONA for Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education

At ONA, we’re in the business of honoring great work. We’ve recognized hundreds of people, projects and organizations through our annual awards, scholarship and fellowship programs. Our programs are the driving force in our mission to inspire innovation and excellence among digital journalists.

This month, one of our very own programs, the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, received its own honor, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Power of A Silver Star Awards. ASAE’s Power of A (association) Awards, the association industry’s highest honor, recognize the association community’s valuable contributions on the local, national and global level.

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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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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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Engagement Strategies for the Tiny News Desk

This is one in a series of blog posts from the 2014 class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under 30 who are expanding the boundaries of digital news. Apply for the 2015 fellowship here.

Illustration by Flickr user Andy Bright

The hardest task for a small news startup — probably for most news organizations — is prioritizing. We can’t do everything well, so what can we do for the highest return on investment?

That’s the question I’m thinking about every day at Chalkbeat, a news startup that covers K-12 public schools in four states. A few months into my job, I was tasked with devising an engagement strategy. Everyone was doing cool stuff; I salivated over ProPublica’s “Get Involved” page and praised the Center for Investigative Reporting’s coloring books about earthquake safety. These were valuable examples to learn from, but I had to be realistic about our capacity and what we could achieve. We expect highly contextualized, nuanced enterprise reporting and breaking news to be published every day, and yet we only have an editor and two to three reporters in each of our locations.

Two years and many experiments later, the foundation of our engagement strategy is based on what we know works and what we think is promising. We love when our staff experiments beyond these strategies, but a clear prioritization plan helps keep things focused when we’re asking our reporters to do so much.

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Understanding your audience … then growing it, part 2/2

This is one in a series of blog posts from the 2014 class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under 30 who are expanding the boundaries of digital news. Apply for the 2015 fellowship here.

Note: This blog is the second in a two-part series by Fellow Anika Anand, Director of Product at Chalkbeat, an education news network based in New York City. Her first post, published June 2, chronicled ChalkBeat’s need to develop a robust audience research project with a small team. That discussion is continued here.

As we planned for our project, I couldn’t find many good resources on how small newsrooms can do quick, effective audience research.

Below, we share a few of our research methods and takeaways in hopes that other newsrooms will chime in with their own suggestions. It is important to note we did not hire a professional researcher for this project, and these tools were not meant to be as detailed as a proper scientific survey. That said, we received useful feedback for better understanding our audience.

Illustration by Flickr user Giovana Milanezi

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ONA opens 2015 MJ Bear Fellowships for under-30 digital journalism stars

WASHINGTON, DC — The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today opened applications for the 2015 MJ Bear Fellowships for early-career digital journalists, in honor of founding member MJ Bear.

For the fifth year, the search committee will again select three promising, up-and-coming digital journalists — two in the United States or Canada and one internationally, in partnership with MSN International — who are just beginning to make their voices heard in the industry.

Each selected Fellow will receive virtual coaching sessions with a Personal Advisory Board; a free three-year ONA membership and an expense-paid trip to the Online News Association Conference & Awards Banquet, Sept. 24-26, in Los Angeles, where they’ll have a chance to share their fresh perspectives.

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The three profiles of a digital news team

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 ChronicleApply for the 2015 fellowship here.

Photo by Flickr user Graham Holliday.

Over the last decade, as newsrooms across the world have embraced a shift to a digital-first focus, many organizations have experimented with the structure of their digital teams. It seems for every success there is another tech challenge on the horizon to consider, such as the Apple Watch and at-a-glance journalism.

In this ever-changing world, it’s smart to think strategically about the roles digital teams take on across newsrooms. I’ve settled on three profiles that the best digital teams often have: research and development (R&D), news apps and tech. My hope is to provide a smart framework for thinking about how your newsrooms can create the most focused and compelling digital content and products.

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Announcing the First Version of the ONA15 Program

It’s my pleasure to introduce the first version of the ONA15 program! What do we mean by first version? The sessions and speakers you see listed make up only around 70% of the total conference; more topics and presenters will be added until we finalize the schedule in mid-July. For now, here are some highlights.

What’s New

We’re planning to cover a host of new and exciting topics this year. From bots to podcasts, from navigating exclusive sports contracts to creating a more empathetic stylebook, we’ll examine a range of ideas critical to digital journalism.

LIVE__Sessions___ONA15We’re also introducing an entirely new component to ONA15, based on your feedback. We’ve heard clearly that networking is your favorite part of our annual conferences, but that as we’ve grown to a 2,000+ person event, it can be overwhelming to find colleagues who share the same passions and interests that you do. So, this year we are introducing Table Talks – a series of open conversations focused on issues you care about that will take place Friday morning. These discussions  will give you an opportunity to collaborate with top minds in the field to find solutions and explore new ideas. We think these discussions will serve as some of the most exciting activities at ONA15. Watch this space for more details through the coming weeks.

This is the first year we’ve launched with an interactive schedule with speaker bios and photos, as well as session filters. Typically at this time of year, we only have a “static” schedule – essentially a list of session titles, descriptions and presenters. We’re hoping this more robust schedule will make it easier for you to navigate to the ideas that excite you the most. For instance, you can sort by area of expertise — our conference tracks — and we’ve even added a new category this year, “Audio, Photo + Video.”

You can also sort by what you hope to get out of each session:

  • Inspiring - insights from leaders in journalism, media and technology
  • Practical Tips - ideas and best practices to take back to your newsroom
  • Hands-on – experience with a tool in a lab or workshop setting

Coming Soon

As we mentioned at the top, more sessions and speakers will be announced through mid-July. We’ll also have our keynotes, networking events, Midway programming and a surprise or two between now and our official opening. Want to stay in the know? Be sure to sign up for ONA Conference email updates!

We’re also committed to making you feel at home in our host city of Los Angeles. Expect more blog posts about navigating the city, finding cool places to visit and of course, ideas for experiencing the many culinary delights.

And don’t forget: early bird registration ends June 18. We wanted to get you as many details as we could confirm so you can take advantage of this special rate. Register here!

A Huge Thanks

We can’t thank the community enough for the more than 270 ideas submitted to our Suggestion Box. Combined with ideas from staff, board members and our conference committees, we had more than 350 topics to sift through in crafting ONA15.

And speaking of our conference committees … a HUGE shout out to our conference chairs: Google’s David Smydra, USC Annenberg’s Robert Hernandez and the Los Angeles Times’ Megan Garvey, who have been a tremendous guiding force in giving the conference its shape and helping us engage with keynote speakers. Thanks to the Los Angeles Times’ Julie Westfall and the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Luis Gomez, our program chairs, for having level heads and guiding our educational programming. And finally, thank you to the the Program Team and Review Committee who help us select ideas, generate new ones and reach out to presenters from around the globe.

We can’t wait to see all of you in L.A. this fall – it’s going to be a blast!


Knoblich_TrevorTrevor Knoblich is Digital Director with the Online News Association, and is responsible for organizing the educational programming for ONA15.

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Why students should enter the Online Journalism Awards

The Online Journalism Awards recognize excellence in digital journalism … and that extends to student achievements. The awards represent an opportunity to show that those late nights of coding and infinite pizza runs are not in vain. They highlight the best work of digital junkies, new pioneers and social media addicts — which includes students!

Receiving two Online Journalism Awards in 2013 was an unexpected honor for the BU News Service, a team I was part of at the time. I delivered a thank you for those awards before hundreds of veteran journalists. It was a cathartic moment for our newsroom after covering the Boston Marathon bombings. All of our hard work came full circle, and we were able to demonstrate that young people can have an impact on a topic of national importance.

Boston University Professor Michelle Johnson, who oversees the student-run newsroom, noted how quickly students were able to react to the bombings. Standing at the epicenter of the chaos, students used their phones, digital cameras, scrap paper and pens to jot down names, descriptions and describe to the world the story of terror and triumph.

This is what we do; this is our passion as journalists. To student journalists, I challenge you to embrace this opportunity and enter your work to be recognized for an Online Journalism Award. I promise you will not regret it.

Taylor Walker is an Associate Producer at WMUR and recently graduated from Boston University. In 2013, the Boston University News Service won two Online Journalism Awards in the Breaking News and Student Projects category for their work reporting on the Boston Marathon Bombings.

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