ONA strengthens investment in local journalists with an expanded leadership training program

Piloting new iteration of ONA Local networks focused on community innovators

By on February 28, 2019

We are pleased to build on the incredible success of ONA Local the past 11 years and introduce its next iteration, a new training program that emphasizes cohort-based leadership development to connect innovators in local journalism communities. The first cohort of 92 ONA Local organizers represents more than 50 communities, from St. Louis, Phoenix and Baltimore to Mexico City, Argentina and Australia.

ONA Local — a global network of resource-sharing groups for digital journalists — has expanded considerably in recent years. With the support of a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation from 2016 to 2018, we experimented with different ways to launch new groups, build leadership teams and provide ongoing support. During that period, our Meetup network has nearly doubled, now reaching over 14,000 members. We organized ONA Local summits to train organizers in key leadership skills and seed collaborations among community builders who otherwise may not have a chance to connect, and designed a Speakers Bureau initiative to expand training opportunities for local journalists. We also improved the structure of the ONA Local student groups to facilitate opportunities for students to explore digital journalism and collaborate on projects.

“As the network has grown, we’ve found that investing in leadership skills among the organizers who are bringing together innovators in local news communities not only exponentially amplifies ONA’s reach and impact at the local level, but also provides organizers with key leadership skills they can use to lead change in their newsrooms and beyond,” said Meghan Murphy, Senior Manager of Communities and Local Journalism Initiatives. “The new ONA Local program strengthens our commitment to developing changemakers in local news around the world.

“Being a part of ONA Local directly connected me to rising journalism stars in other communities that I now follow semi-religiously. They inspire my day-to-day work as well as my ONA Local programming.”

Alex Harris, ONA South Florida

Organizers in the cohort will receive training designed to help them lead innovation in their newsrooms and more broadly in local journalism communities. The training will focus on skills such as recruiting and managing diverse teams, mentorship and leading through influence. As organizers host local events throughout the year, they will serve as ambassadors of ONA’s mission to inspire innovation and excellence among digital journalists and become go-to resources for their peers.

We are excited about this new direction for ONA Local and to work with an enthusiastic crew of community builders to strengthen local journalism. Get to know the 2019 cohort of ONA Local organizers, as well as the students and educators leading campus-based groups this academic year, and find a group near you to join one of their events.

As we pilot this new leadership training program, ONA is seeking funding from media and technology companies, foundations and academic institutions to build on this transformative learning and community building experience. For more information on providing financial support, please contact Jessica Strelitz, Head of Strategic Partnerships, at jessica@journalists.org.