First off, I’d like to wish a happy 2012 to all our members. It’s sure to be another exhilarating year for those of us in journalism, and we’re thrilled you’ve chosen to experience it with us. Additionally, I’m personally honored to be serving as President of ONA this year. As a longtime board member, I’ve seen this organization grow dramatically over the past seven years, and I’m proud we’ve been able to build on the original vision our founders had when they created ONA in 1999.
I’m writing today to provide you with an update on our recent board meeting and some other important ONA news.
This was the first meeting of our 2012 board — with new members Mario Tedeschini-Lalli, Burt Herman, Juana Summers and John Keefe all in attendance at the offices of Dow Lohnes in Washington D.C. on Jan. 20-21.
The most important outcome of the meeting was the Board’s approval of a three-year strategic plan that will put us on a stronger path to sustainability, create richer partnerships, expand member benefits and amplify your voice on issues that deeply affect journalists and their work.
We didn’t set out to create a new strategy because things weren’t going well, of course. ONA — now 13 years old, believe it or not — is 2,000 members strong and in excellent financial shape, with an terrific and expanding professional staff and a board that increasingly reflects the makeup of our membership. But, as we all know from toiling in the digital world, you can never get too comfortable. Change is always around the corner, and we think the new strategic plan sets us up nicely for the future.
The plan is centered around what we think ONA’s three core areas of focus should be: Connections, Conference and Content. ONA members make connections for career-oriented decisions, inspiration and fun. Our conference brings groups and individuals together to learn and share what they’ve been up to. And our content — of which we’ve never had more, thanks to the relaunch of journalists.org — is shared via the web site, ONA Issues, ONA Camps, email, newsletters, social media networks and local meet-ups. We think staying focused on these three areas best serves our membership. More to come on this plan in the coming weeks.
Here are some of the other activities going on around the busy ONA virtual office:
Sustainability: Like all of you, we’re experimenting with new ways to grow. We’ll begin by applying our $200,000 Knight Foundation grant to fund a Business Development hire early this year. That hire will work closely with the technology community to expand partnerships to keep you connected with emerging tools and tech, and help ONA continue to lead the way in digital journalism. An oversight committee will keep an eye on our progress during the year. If you’re interested in this position or know someone who might be, here’s the job description.
This week, Executive Director Jane McDonnell also announced a new full-time hire — Communications and Social Media Manager, Jen Mizgata, who has been connecting you to each other and the great new content on journalists.org and ONA Issues, as well on as our slew of social media platforms.
Issues and Legal Affairs: On Jan. 5, ONA published a letter opposing both SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect-IP Act). In the weeks since, pressure to stop the legislation came from the White House, many members of Congress and from the tech community at large. As a result, both SOPA and PIPA have been pulled from the legislative calendar. Backers of the legislation, including former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), now the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, have vowed to keep fighting for both acts. We’ll keep you posted as they do.
We were proud to be part of the disparate community that united to fight what we saw as a potentially harmful piece of legislation. As the digital world becomes more complex, our Legal Affairs and Issues committees will be monitoring, researching and discussing legislation and policy that affects you, your work and the public. We plan to keep you informed of issues of interest with links on journalists.org and our ONA Issues Tumblr. And when we feel it’s warranted, we’ll take the larger step of making the organization’s voice heard on critical issues.
It’s worth pointing out here the work our Legal Affairs Committee has done on your behalf over the past four years, most recently joining an amicus brief in U.S. v. Alvarez, filed in the Supreme Court.
Committees: A new year also means a new set of committee assignments. We also created two new committees for 2012: Membership and Oversight. The latter will provide oversight of the Board’s implementation of the strategic plan. The former isn’t a brand-new committee; we’ve had a Membership committee in the past. A few years ago, we decided everything we did was about membership, so a specific committee wasn’t required. But we’ve heard from some of you that it isn’t always clear what the benefit of being an ONA member is, so we decided we would reform the Membership committee and answer that challenge. For example, did you know that ONA members in the United States receive free print issues of the quarterly magazine published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard? Here’s a full list of member benefits. If you’re not a member, you can join here.
Targeting Communities: As our membership grows, we want to be sure to bring in fresh perspectives that will inform journalism, so we’ll be reaching out to students, educators and the international community. The revitalized membership committee will work with a representative slice of ONA membership to research the tangible benefits that would most help members.
As ONA grows in size, reach and influence, we’ll continue listening to you to find out how we can help you produce the best journalism possible. We consider that our most important job, and we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say in 2012.