What makes a winning OJA entry? Let's start with great journalism

By on May 19, 2015

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?

It’s difficult — and that’s where detailed descriptions can help judges mentally walk through what an entrant had to do to bring their creation to life. This is where the texture and the impact of the project are made real for the judges, giving them a nuanced understanding of the full scope of your entry.

OJA winners come from all corners of life and the globe: from the largest newsrooms to a small team working around the kitchen table; from high above Manhattan or deep in Silicon Valley to a classroom or incubator in a small town or city. What they all share — what really makes a winner — is a focus on using the digital tools at your disposal to deliver the best, most impactful and most engaging journalism possible.

Submit an OJA Entry

Jane McDonnell

As executive director, Jane 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.