Minutes – Jan. 24, 2014

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

In attendance:

  • Meredith Artley
  • Jim Brady
  • Jody Brannon
  • P. Kim Bui
  • Eric Carvin
  • David Cohn
  • Josh Hatch
  • Steve Herrmann
  • Richard Koci Hernandez
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Mandy Jenkins
  • Greg Linch
  • Jennifer Preston
  • Jim Roberts
  • Benet Wilson

General Counsel:

  • Jon Hart


  • Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
  • Irving Washington, Operations Director
  • Jess Strelitz, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships and Sales
  • Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager
  • Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager

Opening Remarks and Motion

Jane McDonnell called the meeting to order at 9:12 a.m. Vice President Meredith Artley welcomed new board members.

The December board call minutes were approved by unanimous vote.

Margaret Low Smith, NPR’s Vice President for News, stopped by to welcome the board to NPR.

Meredith opened by discussing the role of the ONA Board. Jane provided an overview of the day’s meeting, focusing on strategy entering ONA’s 15th year, and reviewed the organization’s mission and core values. She discussed the major focus for 2014, specifically news ethics and breaking news initiatives; professional development, next-generation journalists and mentorship (Student Newsroom, MJ Bear Fellowships, AP-Google Scholarships, ONA Educators Facebook page, and the Challenge Fund), the upcoming online Career Center, social and video outreach and work in the legal and policy arena.

Budgets and Financials

Josh presented a series of slides to explain the 2013 budget, comparing the past five years of revenue, and emphasized that the key to the organization’s bottom line is in carefully monitoring expenditures and increasing revenue, even by small margins via sponsorships and fundraising. He also explained how grant funds are apportioned and restricted for distribution in years ahead.

Jane announced that the 2013 audit has begun and will be completed in time for the May Board meeting, as well as a change to a new auditing firm. She also detailed our membership growth and retention. Irving mentioned that the new strategy of selling tickets to the OJA banquet at ONA13 helped generate extra revenue.

Jim Brady, in his last duties as president, called for approval of the 2013 budget to move to the auditor, which was unanimously approved. Jim also called for approval of the 2014 budget, which was unanimously approved.

Development Consultant Bridget Gallagher gave a short presentation on how board members can improve individual fundraising efforts.

Partnerships and Development

Jess presented the business development strategy and goals for 2014, including four new revenue-generating programs and 11 new conference sponsorship options. She said ONA can expect additional revenue from a new ONA Career Center, redesigned e-newsletter, resource pages and ONA Local sponsorships.

Jane outlined our foundation support, specifically from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Knight and McCormick Foundations for the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, and the Gannett Foundation for ONACamps and Online Journalism Awards.

Partnerships delivering benefits to our membership include For Journalism, which is slowly adding more online data courses, which members can take for free; Google4Media in various cities, and the Sunshine in Government initiatives. Jane discussed efforts to build international partnerships and participation, including our alliance with the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, each April; the Global Editors Network Conference in June in Barcelona; and, new for 2014, WAN-IFRA, with which we’ll be partnering in April in London for a small event. Former International Board member Mario Tedeschini-Lalli called in to give an update on the Perugia conference and suggestions to foster more international synergies as new Board member Steve Hermann joins him as International Co-Chair.

Outgoing President Jim Brady led the discussion on Board officer elections. Nominated were Meredith Artley for President; Jody Brannon for Vice President; Josh Hatch for second year as Treasurer; and Mandy Jenkins as Secretary. Jim moved for a vote and all nominations passed unanimously. In her first remarks as President, Meredith recognized Jim for his long-term service and steady leadership to the board, including serving for the two years as president. Jane also expressed her appreciation for Jim’s leadership and partnership.

Executive Session

The group entered executive session, during which directors agreed that the Board should have no expectation that the President or Vice President will hold the post for two years.

Financial Director Appointment

A Board seat is reserved in 2014 for an appointee to bring financial acumen to ONA. Jim discussed the importance of identifying candidates who can help with diversifying revenue streams, monetization and  fundraising. Meredith suggested the Executive Board meet to prioritize the organization’s needs, then report back to the the entire Board.

Legal Affairs

General Counsel Jon Hart discussed the possibility of ONA focusing more on critical policy and legal issues. Jane said she hopes to find funding to provide more resources and impact for our members.

Website Development

Jeremiah discussed journalists.org’s trends over the past year, including a 12 percent jump in year-over-year traffic. Mobile traffic is up 59 percent. Jeremiah explained the plan to move to MemberClicks, an affordable solution to improving our membership back-end in time to open registration for ONA14.  Goals for the front end or the year are to tweak CSS, web design and responsive design, improve search and restructure tags.

Communications and Community

Jen summarized growth and usage on the various ONA social accounts, including Tumbler, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Newsletter subscriptions are up 21 percent. Seven new ONA Local groups were established domestically and overseas. Strategies for the year include being more creative via social media, improve the newsletter process and format, establish more partnerships, extend international outreach and interactions with educators, hold four ONACamps and introduce specialty ONACamps.


Jane said that two finalists are under consideration for the Digital Director position, with a final decision likely in February.

Online Journalism Awards

For the 2014 OJAs, Josh said the Award Committee is evaluating the entry process, categories and ways to honor great work. Online judging worked well in 2013, though the judging process may change a bit this year. The five-year partnership with the University of Miami has expired and Jane and Josh are discussing alternatives.

Committee Reports and Assignments

Eric provided an overview on the new News Ethics Committee, which address issues specific to digital news, with the goal of offering a forum for members to ask questions and discuss related issues such as ethics codes, user-generation content, verification, intellectual property and best practices.

All Board members volunteered for service on committees in 2014.

ONA14 Conference & 15th Anniversary

Jane acknowledged ONA13’s success, with 1,554 attendees and all revenue goals reached. The group recognized the need to better communicate to the ONA membership the high costs of hotel meals. Jane said attendees complimented ONA for its diversity among panelists. Co-Chairs and Program Chairs will be announced soon for the 2014 conference, held at the Sheraton Towers Chicago Sept. 24-27.

Since this year marks ONA’s 15th anniversary, the group discussed ways to provide a historic look back throughout the year and at ONA14, and also began brainstorming on ONA14 keynotes.

The meeting adjourned at 5 p.m. ET.

Minutes submitted by Jody Brannon, Secretary, 2011-2012.