President’s Letter: Celebrating achievements as we refine our strategy

By on March 21, 2018

When I first joined ONA in 2010, I felt as if I had finally found a home in the journalism community. I had spent the entirety of my career up to that point on the periphery of the traditional newsroom, and at my first ONA event, I finally found my “tribe.” There were others like me, who had spent their entire careers on the digital side of news, along with many “digital immigrants” who had started in traditional newsroom roles to later blaze trails in digital.

ONA has grown a great deal in those eight years, and these days “online journalism” is just “journalism.” Our tent has gotten a lot bigger and our mission a bit harder, but ONA still hasn’t lost that sense of community that has drawn in so many people over the years.

ONA works to support the smartest, hardest-working people in journalism. This year, I’m delighted and honored to have the opportunity to serve as ONA’s Board President alongside Vice President Benét Wilson, Treasurer David Smydra and Secretary P. Kim Bui.

As we embarked on the first phase of strategic planning last year, we had many notable moments to reflect on in 2017. Some highlights include:  

  • Membership ended strong with more than 3,300 members by the end of year.
  • The ONA Local network grew to 72 highly engaged groups that organized 186 events in 2017 — that is, an event somewhere in the world about every other day throughout the year.
  • We convened the digital journalism community in Washington, D.C. for the 2017 Online News Association Conference in October. It was our largest and most successful conference to date, with more than 3,000 attendees.
  • For the 16th year, we celebrated journalism excellence through the Online Journalism Awards receiving more than 1,100 entries from 32 countries.
  • Participants in the Women’s Leadership Accelerator describe their experience as “life changing” and attribute various personal wins to the program, from launching major products to earning promotions.
  • The Challenge Fund is supporting dozens of universities and local news organization to collaborate on innovation in journalism education.
  • Through Journalism 360, 11 grantees are experimenting with new tools and tactics and establishing thought leadership in immersive journalism.
  • On the legal front, we partnered with various media and transparency organizations throughout the year to defend press freedom, advocate for access to information and keep governments accountable. ONA General Counsel Alison Schary shared highlights from our efforts.

While ONA has many reasons to celebrate, it’s no secret that the journalism community is operating in an increasingly demanding environment — one characterized by challenges in revenue models, commonplace threats to the media around the world and, as was more evident than ever in 2017, the prevalence of sexism and sexual harassment in our industry.

These issues are top of mind as we refine the strategic direction for ONA. When we enlisted external consultants to assess ONA’s role in the industry and how best to serve our community, we learned a lot from you. Many of you participated in focus groups, interviews and surveys — thank you! The next phase of our strategic planning process will build on these contributions as we examine ONA’s mission, services and operations. I look forward to working closely with the ONA team and the rest of the Board as we move forward to answer important questions about where ONA is headed.

In the meantime, I know the team is also hard at work on new initiatives for this year. We recently launched the Journalism Mentorship Collaborative to support news professionals committed to diversifying their organizations. ONA Local now has a Speakers Bureau to expand training opportunities for local journalists, and we introduced ONA Insights, a unique event for industry leaders. Work is also underway to make ONA18 an even more valuable, interactive and fun experience — I hope you’re making travel plans to join us Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas.

I am deeply grateful to the ONA staff, consultants, volunteers, donors, partners and my fellow Board members for their dedication to our mission. Most of all, I am grateful to our diverse community — all of you who show up every day to innovate, adapt and collaborate to uphold journalistic excellence. In an industry as rapidly change as ours, we stand for steady and determined optimism.

Mandy Jenkins

Mandy Jenkins

Mandy is the Head of News for Storyful, a social news agency that works with newsrooms to find, verify and publish eyewitness journalism from around the world. She manages a distributed team of news and trends journalists, works closely with product development, manages daily news workflow and collaborates with newsroom clients on social-centric editorial projects.