Archive — Resources


What 100+ Challenge Fund experiments taught us

It’s been a full year since we launched the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, a $1 million competition encouraging universities to create teams to experiment with new ways of providing news and information to their communities.

The 2014 Challenge Fund winners are in their first six months of experimentation and we look forward to sharing what they’re learning, but it’s already time to look for the next batch of innovation happening in schools across the country.

Last year, we saw so many promising ideas that our partners — the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation — expanded the fund to support two additional winners, bringing the total to 12, and recognizing 13 honorable mentions.

And, as with any experiment, we learned things along the way, including what makes a great application. Here are some tips:

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What makes a winning Challenge Fund entry? Imagination

Music, maps and mold. That may not entirely sum up what we were shooting for when we opened applications last year for the first Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, but it comes close.

The $1+ million competitive fund, aimed at seeding experiments in J-schools, received 125 entries in its first year from schools hoping for the resources to reinvent their curriculum and local news. The dozen schools selected each won $35,000 micro-grants by highlighting collaboration, innovation and solid planning. Winning teams included some combination of students, researchers, media professionals, educators, developers and designers, all focused on community engagement.

The Challenge Fund is the brainchild of a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Democracy Fund, This year, the Challenge Fund is expanding with additional support from the Rita Allen Foundation.

Applications for 2015 opened November 5, and for this year’s launch, we’re highlighting just a few of our 2014-15 winners below to illustrate the diversity of focus and approaches.

Texas State University: Can journalism about music break out of routine story forms, uncover unheard voices and untold tales, and provide more useful formats to the community? Texas State University partners with Texas Music Magazine, KUT Austin, Texas Music Office, Cox Media Group, consultants from NPR, Twitter and MakerSquare to find out with “TexasMusicViz.”

University of Illinois: “Intersections” is tackling the idea that openly mapping a city’s often invisible social media conversations will change the nature of journalism in that community, working with its media partner CU-CitizenAccess.org.

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: With “Hack the Mold,” CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and its partner, The New York Daily News, is experimenting with both in-person and online engagement with tenants when reporting on a low-income community’s experiences with mold in New York City public housing.

You can hear more details about the work and progress of many of our winners by watching them present at ONA14 in Chicago in September.

The deadline for this year’s applications is Jan. 15, 2015. Make sure to check out these very helpful resources as you’re deciding what project to pursue or applying to the Challenge Fund. In addition to the micro-grants, the competition will culminate in at least one grand prize for the project most likely to change either local newsgathering, journalism education or both. A second overall prize will be given for the best project evaluation, regardless of the experiment’s outcome.

We plan to support up to 23 projects by the end of this round. We hope yours is one of them.

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ONA14 resources: Session videos, photos, tips and takeaways

As we pulled together our annual post-conference resources, we were again blown away by all of the inspiring sessions and great energy from this year’s Online News Association Conference, where over 1,900 journalists and technologists joined us in Chicago. We saw a whopping 936 new attendees and were thrilled with how our community welcomed them into the fold.

This was our largest conference to date and we’re proud to say that as we’ve grown, our community has maintained a commitment to networking and helping each other by exploring and sharing the newest technology and practical advice to bring back to their newsrooms. Whether you come from a large organization or a small newsroom, whether your interest is in breaking news or producing news for mobile, whether you identify as a digital journalist, journalism-coder, journo-entrepreneur or media diversity advocate, we have something for you.

Please enjoy these ONA14 resources — and let us know how we can help foster more training, networking and professional development in the next year and at ONA15.

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2015 James Foley Award to honor unsung heroes: conflict reporters


Video produced by Matthew Geer

All too often, it takes a searing, unthinkable image to make the public aware of the dangers a unique breed of journalists face daily. On Aug. 19, one hit particularly close to home with the brutal murder of freelance photographer Jim Foley in Syria at the hands of ISIS, after being held captive for nearly two years.

Jim’s work, like that of his colleagues’, appeared across the globe, as photos, videos or dispatches, describing the horrors of combat, the broken lives of civilians, the legacy of political decisions made far away. It’s crucial work, and, now more than ever, life-threatening. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 40 journalists have died doing their jobs in 2014 so far, covering war, corruption, crime, culture and politics in far-flung countries around the world.

The 2015 James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting, announced at the Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Sept. 27 during the Online News Association Conference in Chicago, is a step toward recognizing that work, and honoring the men and women who see it as their mission. It will be awarded next year to a digital journalist doing excellent reporting in the most challenging conditions and we’ll be formulating the criteria and selection process for the award over the next months.

When Phil Balboni, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Post, came to ONA with the idea of honoring Jim and his colleagues — with blessings from his parents, Diane and John Foley — we knew immediately the answer would be yes. Phil worked closely with Jim until his abduction and worked with his family to try to secure his release, and knew firsthand Jim’s dedication to his craft.

As ONA Board member and former ONA President Jim Brady said in announcing the honor, “We hope this award will keep Jim’s spirit and memory alive, and help highlight the brave and dangerous work our colleagues do so that we all may benefit.”

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

The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, today announced its fourth 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 applications from six 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.

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Call for Board Nominations

Online News Association opens call for 2015 Board of Director nominations

The Online News Association is pleased to call for nominations for the six seats open for the 2015-16 Board of Directors.

Participation on the ONA Board of Directors is a unique opportunity for digital professionals to help guide the world’s largest organization of digital journalists in shaping the future of media and building a stronger industry. Board participation is a chance to grow personally and professionally, and to develop skills, experience and connections with a team of other passionate and motivated professionals.

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First round of crowdsourcing adds depth to DIY ethics code project

Crowdsourcing for the ONA Build Your Own Ethics Code project has been underway since May. Our thanks to the dozens of journalists and educators who’ve offered us really thoughtful comments. (A few people, by the way, thought that by “crowdsourcing” we were asking for money! No, we’re just looking for your equally valuable comments and critiques at http://bit.ly/onacrowdsourcing.)

To recap briefly, the project is designed to help individual journalists, news startups and even larger organizations create ethics codes that reflect their view of journalism. Think of it as an ethics code construction kit, highly flexible except for some very fundamental principles that we believe all journalists need to accept.

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Rita Allen Foundation joins Challenge Fund consortium with $200K grant

WASHINGTON, DC — A $200,000 grant from the Rita Allen Foundation will expand and strengthen the reach of a micro-grant contest run by the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership group of digital journalists. With the grant, the foundation joins the funding group behind a $1 million challenge encouraging universities to create teams that will experiment with new ways of providing news and information.

The Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education supports “live news experiments” that further the development of teaching hospital models in journalism education, in which students create innovative projects with news professionals, professors and researchers. It will produce from 15 to 25 projects during the next two years with micro-grants of as much as $35,000 each and grand prizes. The 12 winning experiments for the first round recently were announced.

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Lessons from Haiyan

This is one of a series of blog posts from the third ONA class of MJ Bear Fellows, three journalists under 30 who are expanding the boundaries of digital news. The deadline to apply for this year’s fellowship closed on June 6. Fellow Armie Garde is assistant content editor and multimedia journalist for Sun.Star Publishing, Cebu City, Philippines.

Seven months after Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) devastated Central Philippines, killing thousands, survivors are slowly rebuilding their lives. Many things have changed, but life goes on. Hope is evident.

I have spent most of my life in Leyte, one of the storm-hit provinces, before I moved to Cebu City to study and to work eventually. Back home and in nearby Samar, Cebu and Iloilo provinces, thousands of people were killed, thousands of others were left homeless and displaced and many others are still missing even seven months after Haiyan’s devastation.

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Think Outside the (Advertising) Box

This is one of a series of blog posts from the third 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 closed on June 6. Fellow Ashley Lohmann is a media entrepreneur and founder/director of Beyond the Bombs.

When I launched Beyond the Bombs, my multimedia platform showcasing the untold stories of the Middle East and North Africa, I had prior professional experience in the region, as well as with the media. Yet, as the platform grew, I discovered that I was missing an important skill set: business experience.

If I hoped to expand the platform further, I needed to know how to secure funding and generate revenue. I began seeking advice from anyone I could — journalists, entrepreneurs, bloggers, investors. I quickly learned about funding resources for journalists and media start-ups, but when the conversation turned to revenue generation, the advice became less clear cut.

If you are working on a media project or start-up, here are a few places to start your search for fellowships and funding: Knight Foundation, Matter., International Women’s Media Foundation, UNITY Journalists for Diversity, and International Reporting Project. Also, seek out foundations and accelerators related to the issue your project or venture addresses.

Everyone, from early-stage start-ups to media giants, is grappling with the challenge of making digital media profitable. Advertising, subscriptions, and content licensing are oft-mentioned revenue options but rarely seem sufficient. From my advice-seeking conversations, I distilled two main suggestions for generating revenue.

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