LaSharah S. Bunting stands at a podium at the 2019 Online News Association Conference on Sept. 14, 2019, in New Orleans.
LaSharah S. Bunting at the 2019 Online News Association Conference on Sept. 14, 2019, in New Orleans. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Online News Association)

A letter from LaSharah S. Bunting: My vision for ONA’s future

How I hope to grow the organization as CEO and Executive Director – and how our community can play a role

By on April 11, 2023

I can still remember the electricity of my first Online News Association conference in 2012. Immediately I knew this was a place where I felt like I belonged. I went home feeling inspired by the sessions, the conversations and the community. And that spark took me on a slightly different path that changed the trajectory of my life and career, which has allowed me to serve this industry that I so deeply love. But when I stepped into the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for ONA12, I had no idea how it would all come full circle a decade later.

LaSharah S. Bunting.

LaSharah S. Bunting.

I am thrilled to serve as CEO and Executive Director of ONA. It is my pleasure to join the talented and dedicated ONA staff and Board of Directors committed to building a culture of innovation in journalism.

I come to ONA after a 20-year career in journalism and media that includes The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, Simon & Schuster and the Knight Foundation. And my varied experience – from print to digital strategy to philanthropy – will set us up to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

My vision for growing ONA

In this rapidly changing landscape, ONA’s mission to inspire and support innovation and excellence in digital journalism is more important than ever. That work remains urgent as the industry continues to confront economic challenges, misinformation, threats to press freedom, the implications of artificial intelligence, erosion of public trust and systemic racism. ONA, starting with its founding in 1999, has a long history of driving transformation in uncertain times, and I am deeply committed to carrying forward that mission.

ONA is at an important moment in its history. Jane McDonnell and Irving Washington led the organization to tremendous growth. And I will build on that success and ensure that ONA remains ahead of the curve.

My vision for the organization is to grow ONA to be the established leader in digital transformation, innovation and experimentation for journalists and news organizations. ONA can be a powerful resource in the efforts to rebuild local news ecosystems that are sustainable and serve the needs of communities. And we must intensify our role as the catalyst for experimentation around emerging technology, storytelling and revenue models.

The heart of ONA will always be our industry-leading programs, training and conferences, and, with the right resources and support, we can magnify our efforts to reach thousands more journalists and newsrooms working to connect journalism, innovation and technology.

ONA has a strong track record of centering equity and inclusion across all its programs, and I am committed to expanding those efforts. ONA’s unique value is our active and inclusive community. And, with a community-first approach, I want to broaden our membership to include more journalists from marginalized groups as well as those working in broadcast, audio and community media.

How you can help

Collaboration is the key to building a solid and vibrant industry. I look forward to more opportunities to join forces with journalists and organizations committed to this work. We cannot do it alone, and we need your help and support as we all work together to ensure a sustainable and thriving future for journalism. I am confident we can build on ONA’s success and chart a new path forward.

I look forward to connecting with everyone in the ONA community as I continue to settle into the role. I invite you to reach out to me with your ideas and feedback; I’m eager to hear your ideas for how ONA can be most helpful to you, our community, as we grow. I plan to give the ONA community a chance to meet me and ask me questions in a virtual event – make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates. I hope to see you all at the 2023 Online News Association Conference in Philadelphia in August and at ONA23: Onward in September!

LaSharah S. Bunting
CEO and Executive Director, Online News Association