LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: The 2015 Online News Association Conference at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel on September 24, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Daniel Petty/for ONA)

A New Chapter for ONA … and Me

By on June 29, 2016

If I’ve learned one thing from 30-plus years in journalism, it’s not to bury the lead. So here goes: On Dec. 31, I’ll be leaving ONA as Executive Director.

That wasn’t quite as easy to write as it looks. When I very happily took this job in 2008, ONA was an nine-year-old organization bursting with potential, the scrappy brainchild of digital journalism pioneers who mirrored the culture of the web — open and adventurous. While the industry was imploding around them in 1999, they chose to embrace the remarkable chaos, and ONA was born.

I may not have been there with them in body, but I was so there in spirit, jumping into work that would help me learn as much as I could about digital and what it meant for our profession. For me, helping ONA evolve was exactly the right fit at the perfect time. Back then, armed with a staff of two and a deeply engaged board, we started to burn down the figurative silos and connect all of you wonderful journalists, developers, educators and students. And bless your virtual hearts, you were all in. Like me, you were just waiting for the party to start.

Online News Association Conference 2015

I’ll be leaving an ONA that’s now the largest organization for digital journalists in the world, with 2,600+ members, a community of 60,000, and a growing global reach. Every year you join us for what has become digital journalism’s reunion, the largest conference of its kind. Our finances are healthy, our board collaborative and forward-thinking. Our partners and collaborators in the tech, media and academic worlds, our incredibly generous funders and sponsors recognize our commitment by providing invaluable support to programs that give a face and a voice to diverse, mad-skilled and thoughtful new talent in the field.

Online News Association Conference 2015Online News Association Conference 2015
Online News Association Conference 2015

All of that is largely because of the best staff you could hope for — Irving, Trevor, Jess, Jen, Jer and Meghan, who inspire me with their passion and professionalism. They make me laugh. They make me think differently. They’re going to make me cry when I go. They kill it at spotlighting and connecting people and ideas and helping you grapple with new ethical quandries resulting from the ever-changing technology in your hands. They work incredibly hard to make sure you have what you need to get better at what you do. But if you know them, you know that.

ONA Staff

ONA Staff

I’ve also been luckier than I deserve when it comes to leadership role models, starting with longtime friend and former ONA President Kinsey Wilson, who had enough faith in me to put this job in my hands, right down the line to former Presidents (and amigas) Christine Montgomery and Meredith Artley, Jim Brady and Josh Hatch. The board members I’ve worked with over the past eight years have been exceptional, always thinking “we” instead of “I.” This board in particular has been beyond supportive as we planned an ambitious two-year strategy and worked on making the next leadership transition as smooth as possible.

Board of Directors and Staff

2016 ONA Board and Staff. (Not pictured: Benet Wilson and Eric Carvin)

There’s no way to personally thank each of the thousands of volunteers who make up ONA Local leadership — from DC to LA, Australia to Singapore — as well as conference and event teams, awards screeners and judges, fellowship selection committees, ethics teams and the people, members or no, who reach out just to see how they can help. Every day, you show us the best of journalism.

ONA15 Rotating Presentation

Volunteers at ONA15

Members of ONA South Florida at a recent meetup.

Members of ONA South Florida at a recent meetup.

You’ve all made my job easy, and that makes deciding to leave hard. But … my husband Larry and I just bought a house in Maine; apparently there’s a lot of nature there and I’m planning to thoroughly check it out. Time is a luxury few of us have nowadays, and I’m really interested in seeing what I’ll do when I have more of it. (And there is a guest house; just sayin’.)

Next stop: Maine.

Next stop: Maine.

So, what’s next? A search committee will be doing its due diligence very shortly, and more on that will come tomorrow from Josh. I’ll be here until year-end for a smooth hand-off. And afterward, I’ll still be part of the ONA family, and I’ll still have my hand in, because journalism. Not sure what shape that will take yet, but I’m still a child of the internets — always open for adventures.

As for journalism, journalists and that future we keep talking about as though it’s not already here: In a time when change has become the new normal across the globe, you’re always there, always willing to throw in, to share, to make our industry better, because you know the stories you tell, no matter how you tell them, impact lives every day. Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for letting me help you do that.

Looking forward to getting and giving lots of (> ^_^ )> in Denver.

Jane signature





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.