How to craft a great Online Journalism Awards entry

By on May 31, 2016

Take a deep breath. You now have more time to submit your entries for the Online Journalism Awards, honoring excellence in digital journalism.

For the past 16 years, the OJAs have recognized the best in digital journalism, with a special eye toward forward-looking projects and tools. Historically, we’ve seen excellent submissions from major newsrooms, start-ups, technology companies, freelancers, educators, students and more. To help as you dig in, we’ve pulled together key insights from the judging process.

First, ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell advises, “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.”

When reviewing entries, judges will ask these questions:

  • “What impact did this story have?”
  • “How does this entry really take advantage of the web?”
  • “Would this piece be any different if it appeared solely in print?”

ONA Board President (and former OJA Chair) Joshua Hatch adds, “The more you can help judges better understand how your stories best embrace the fundamentals of great journalism — impact, relevance, newsworthiness — and do so by best leveraging the power of digital platforms, the better your chances.”

This year, 12 of the 35 categories come with $53,500 in prizes. The 2016 awards more specifically reflect the shift to producing work for distinct digital platforms and emerging media, as well as increased efforts to include the audience throughout the reporting and storytelling process.

If you’re looking for clarity on a specific question, be sure to check out the Rules & Eligibility and the FAQ, especially helpful if you’re wondering what size category your organization should enter in.

Good luck, and we’re looking forward to seeing your entries!


Jennifer Mizgata

Jennifer Mizgata is Director of Programs at the Online News Association, where she leads the Women's Leadership Accelerator. At ONA, Jennifer focuses on identifying talented digital journalists and innovative journalism projects and providing them with support. Jennifer is a business and design strategist with over a decade of experience creating industry-changing training programs, investing in award-winning projects, and managing key relationships with journalism partners and tech stakeholders. She regularly coaches managers, senior leaders and entrepreneurs on challenges related to their careers and launching new ventures. Jennifer shares advice for navigating tough work challenges in Work Space, a monthly column for Fortune.