Archive — Resources

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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Using open-source tools to expedite news graphics

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. Applications to apply for this year’s fellowship will open soon. Fellow Aaron Williams is a news applications developer with The Center for Investigative Reporting in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Since the Online News Association’s 2014 Conference & Awards Banquet, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to better integrate newsroom workflows into creating and publishing digital graphics. Many newsroom developers juggle copy from reporters, editors and the copydesk, often forgetting key text, while also working on design and code. In other words, collaborating on interactive graphics is a challenge. Here’s a quick look at solutions from other newsrooms, as well as a technique I’ve developed at The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR).

Google Drive as the CMS

Google Sheets is a common tool for powering digital news graphics. While a spreadsheet can’t fully replace a database, it can mimic some of its key characteristics: columns, rows and headers. This provides an easy way for web producers and reporters to add content to a graphic while newsroom developers can focus on the code.


An example interactive map built with Mother Jones’ Story Tools. Source:

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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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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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