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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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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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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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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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A Mobile Master Class from ONA London

On March 6, nearly 200 journalists, editors, producers, designers and CEOs traveled to Reuters UK for ONA London: Mobile, our first conference outside of North America. This day-long series of sessions, workshops and networking focused on producing the news for mobile devices, touching on everything from newsroom culture to designing better experiences on mobile.

We’ve pulled together video, audio, presentations and live blogs so you can learn from our expert presenters and knowledgeable attendees. Video recordings and speaker resources from the sessions are only available to ONA members; audio recordings of the sessions and live blogs are available to all.

You can find the full video list and speaker resources here. Not a member yet? It only takes a few minutes to sign up and get access to these resources (and more great benefits). Annual memberships are only $75 for professionals and $25 for students. Become an ONA member today.

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ONA, Poynter Announce First Class of 25 for Women’s Leadership Academy

WASHINGTON DC — The Online News Association (ONA) and The Poynter Institute are pleased to announce the premiere class of 25 women leaders selected for the tuition-free ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media.

The participants were chosen from a pool of just under 500 applicants, screened for potential, need and diversity across ethnicity, age, geography, technology platforms and skill sets.

“We congratulate the talented women who will make up and contribute to this incredible first cohort,” said Jane McDonnell, ONA Executive Director. “Because of the number and quality of the applicants, we’re already planning another session that will focus on promising emerging leaders and their specific needs.”

Members of the first Academy are:

Masuma Ahuja, National Digital Editor, The Washington Post
Kainaz Amaria, Supervising Editor, NPR Visuals, NPR
Heather Battaglia, Software Engineer, Northwestern University Knight Lab
Libby Bawcombe, Digital Design Director, The Atlantic
Kristina Budelis, Multimedia Producer and Freelancer
Megan Chan, Director of Digital Product, Politico
Kari Cobham, Social Media Digital Analyst, Cox Media Group
Meghann Farnsworth, Director of Distribution/Engagement, The Center for Investigative Reporting
Melisa Goh, Senior Home Page Editor, CNN, cnn.com
Geneen Harston, Director of World/National News, Rivet News Radio
Imaeyen Ibanga, Video Producer, NBC News
Meagan Kelleher, Director of Digital Content, Tribune Broadcasting
Christina Kline, Deputy Mobile Editor, The Wall Street Journal
Amanda Krauss, Director of Technology, The Texas Tribune
Sarah Marshall, Social Media Editor EMEA, The Wall Street Journal
Rebekah Monson, Co-Founder, WhereBy.Us / The New Tropic
Holly Moore, Managing Editor, USA TODAY
Nuria Net, Editor, Emerging Arts & Special Projects, Fusion
Tracie Powell, Founder, All Digitocracy
Shadi Rahimi, Deputy Producer, Al Jazeera/AJ+
Mariana Santos, Director of Interactive and Animation, Fusion
Ruth Spencer, Managing Editor, Guardian US
Almudena Toral, Visual Journalist
Elite Truong, Support Manager, Vox Media
Mandy Velez, Lead Editor, A+ (aplus.com)

“This was an amazing and intense process,” said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s Vice President of Academic Programs. “Amazing because we discovered so many journalists doing incredible work. Intense, because there were so many well-qualified women craving leadership training. We knew there was demand for this, but now we see how significant that demand is.”

The seminar, to be held April 12-17 at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Fla., will help women gain and polish the skills and knowledge needed to rise to the highest levels of media leadership. The classes will be structured to encourage open, candid discussion and networking, and participants will walk away with not only strong skills but with a built-in support system for the future.

Sessions will be led by prominent women leaders in the startup, tech, media and academic fields, and faculty will include S. Mitra Kalita, current Executive Editor (at large) for Quartz and Adjunct Faculty at Poynter; Liz Heron, Facebook’s Manager of News Partnerships; LaToya Drake, Marketing Manager/Media Outreach for Google and Kelly McBride.

The Women’s Leadership Academy is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Google; the craigslist Charitable Fund; and the McClatchy Foundation, which will also provide seed funding for up to three additional academies. Poynter and ONA will jointly host the second academy in the Spring of 2016.

About the Online News Association
The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of digital journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. Membership includes journalists, technologists, executives, academics and students who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

About The Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute for Media Studies is a global leader in journalism education, and a strategy center that stands for uncompromising excellence in journalism, media and 21st century public discourse. Poynter faculty teach seminars and workshops at the Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and at conferences and organizational sites around the world. Its e-learning division, News University, www.newsu.org, offers the world’s largest online journalism curriculum in 7 languages, with more than 400 interactive courses and 300,000 registered users in more than 200 countries. The Institute’s website, www.poynter.org, produces 24-hour coverage of news about media, ethics, technology, the business of news and the trends that currently define and redefine journalism news reporting. The world’s top journalists and media innovators come to Poynter to learn and teach new generations of reporters, storytellers, media inventors, designers, visual journalists, documentarians and broadcast producers, and to build public awareness about journalism, media, the First Amendment and protected discourse that serves democracy and the public good.

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Selecting the first Women’s Leadership Academy cohort: Phew

We knew it was going to be hard. But this hard?

Based on events over the past year, it didn’t take superior powers of observation to see that the tuition-free ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media was an idea whose time was way past due. But as the selection committee — myself, Poynter’s Vice President of Academic Programs Kelly McBride, Poynter General Counsel Ellyn Kamke and ONA Digital Director Trevor Knoblich — started poring through applications, we were overwhelmed by the response: 486 very qualified candidates for 25 spots.

So, how to choose?

This being our fledgling class, we left room in our selection process to pivot on the skills and chemistry that would make for a stellar, collaborative and inclusive first cohort. Once we saw the entire pool, we armed ourselves with caffeine to set about defining a clear strategy and military-grade eligibility guidelines.

Immediately apparent was the fact that candidates organically fell into two categories, experienced managers or emerging leaders. In order to accommodate both types of leaders, we agreed to move forward in holding a future leadership academy — more on this to come.

For the April 2015 class, we focused on experience, selecting for:

  • Management experience, i.e. direct supervision
  • Immersion in digital media
  • Practitioners only
  • Diversity, including ethnicity, age, geography and platform
  • Innovative thinking
  • Leadership potential

Implied in the selection was an ability to bring new ideas and unique solutions to the mix to ensure a group that would candidly, sometimes fearlessly, tackle both strategic and operational issues. We’ll be sharing more details on instructors, our talented first class and the program in the lead-up to the seminar.

We know this cohort will have plenty of lessons to take back to their newsrooms, but we’re excited about what we’ll learn as well, including ideas to bring to the next class, or building offshoot training customized for specific future groups, such as educators or developers.

We’re grateful for the guidance of our faculty, Quartz’s S. Mitra Kalita and Facebook’s Liz Heron, and support from the Knight Foundation’s Jennifer Preston. And we congratulate all 25 women in our first class — we’re looking forward to diving in. But most of all, thanks to everyone who applied. We know you’re out there, and we’ll be working to keep filling the tremendous leadership need we see in newsrooms everywhere.


Jane McDonnell is ONA’s Executive Director. She oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, working closely with the Board of Directors. Her purview includes membership, partnerships, global community outreach, budgeting and revenue generation, fundraising and development, the Online Journalism Awards, and providing vision for ONA’s state-of-the-art annual conference.

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Registration opens for ONA London: Mobile

Join our all-mobile news conference

Registration is now open for ONA London: Mobile, March 6 at Reuters UK. This one-day conference will focus on how news is created, packaged and shared on mobile devices.

We’ll brainstorm on how to get your newsroom to think mobile first, engaging audiences via chat appsdesigning mobile news productspush notifications, creative ways to engage a mobile audience and more.

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Applications Open for ONA-Poynter Women’s Leadership Academy

The Online News Association (ONA) and the Poynter Institute are now accepting applications for the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. Led by prominent women leaders in the startup, tech, media and academic fields, faculty will include S. Mitra Kalita, current Executive Editor (at large) for Quartz and adjunct faculty at Poynter; Kelly McBride, Poynter’s Vice President of Academic Programs; and Liz Heron, Facebook’s Manager of News Partnerships.

Only 25 promising women leaders will be selected for the program, held April 12-17 at Poynter’s campus in St. Petersburg, Fla. This groundbreaking, tuition-free seminar will help women gain and polish the skills and knowledge needed to rise to the highest levels of media leadership. The classes will be structured to encourage open, candid discussion and networking, and participants will walk away with not only strong skills, but a built-in support system for the future.

Learn more