Minutes – Jan. 24-25, 2013

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

Dow Lohnes offices, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013

In attendance:

  • Jim Brady, President
  • Jody Brannon, Treasurer
  • Josh Hatch
  • Burt Herman
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Christine Montgomery
  • Jim Roberts
  • Mandy Jenkins
  • Greg Linch
  • Mario Tedeschini-Lalli
  • Benet Wilson
  • Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
  • Jeanne Brooks, Digital Director
  • Irving Washington, Operations Director
  • Branden Smith, Senior Manager, Business Development and Sales
  • Jen Mizgata, Social Media Manager
  • Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager
  • Kevin Loker, Digital Coordinator
  • Jon Hart, Counsel

On the phone:

    • John Keefe
    • Richard Hernandez


    • Meredith Artley
    • Juana Summers


9:20 a.m.: President Jim Brady called the meeting to order, and welcomed new Board members Jim Roberts, Mandy Jenkins, Greg Linch, Richard Koci Hernandez and Benet Wilson.

Board Meeting Overview

Jim opened the meeting by reminding the Board that elections for the four officer positions for 2013 – President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary – would be held during the second day of the meeting.

Jim noted that there was 100 percent Board participation for donations for 2012.

Jane McDonnell introduced all seven staff members and explained the new organizational chart, noting Irving’s new duties as Operations Director. She is exploring free office space in Washington, DC for staff. Jim congratulated the staff for its great work and enthusiasm at the 2013 conference.


With Carolyn Skinner, Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, on phone

Jane outlined the organization’s revenue strategy for the coming years. ONA has a three-year revenue plan for 2011-2014, which was approved at the January 2012 Board meeting. The revenue streams include the conference (registrations and sponsorships), membership, Online Journalism Awards entries and grants, as well as event sponsorships, and will be adjusted to reflect new goals. Jane noted that ONA would experience a transitional period with full staff and experimenting with diversified revenue streams.

Carolyn walked the Board through the 2012 budget, up to and including the November financials. She explained the history of the organization’s budget and finances. She emphasized the importance of the net asset number, rather than the bottom line, and that ONA’s net assets are a strong number for an organization of this size. Jane said our audits have been clean because we make sure to distribute our revenue over all our programs for maximum member benefits.

Jane and Jim agree that establishing a Financial Committee for budget and audit oversight would be helpful, and it was suggested that members volunteer during the second day of the Board meeting during the portion of the meeting devoted to Committee reporting.

Business Development

Branden Smith, Senior Manager, Business Development and Sales, said this year’s priorities include 2013 conference sponsorship packages, new sponsorship packages for the Global Editors Network (GEN) News Summit, and to expand the target list for our 2013 conference, the GEN conference and The Midway at ONA13.

Jeanne Brooks, Digital Director, noted that ONA Local groups are growing and identifying their own sponsors for events. Jane said ONA NYC recently raised $4,000 in sponsorship funds from a good range of companies (a large media corporation, a publishing company, a foundation and a startup).

Branden said that after the members’ site is rebuilt, ONA can explore other revenue efforts, including corporate memberships, expanded Job Board and newsletter sponsorships, as well as expanded digital training.

Fellowships, Scholarships, Grants and Partnerships

Jody Brannon detailed the MJ Bear Fellowship Fund, our first true financial investment as an organization. Jody said we’re getting close to starting recruitment for the third class of Fellows. A discussion of costs involved with the Fellows and the investment fund followed.

Jane said the Gannett Foundation continued support at $50,000 for ONACamps in 2012 and we expect the same for 2013. AP and Google funded $120,000 total for the six AP/Google scholarships we administered, including $30,000 for administration.

Intellectual partnerships include the Center for Investigate Reporting, Muckrack, NASA, Fast Company, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews, AAJA, the International Journalism Festival, SPJ, UNITY, NewsU, Hacks/Hackers and NABJ.

Grant proposals for 2013 include the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, $100K for training modules and web development; $25-$50K to strengthen participation and leadership in briefs and legal training, such as last year’s SOPA/PIPA position, and $25-$100K for the Online Journalism Awards, to create a microsite and showcase work and best practices. Jane will also be exploring smaller general support grants.


Jeanne said the organization previously separated website and communications, but that both are now under “the digital team.” Digital Manager Jeremiah Patterson gave an overview of site pageviews and breakdowns by section. The digital team will be taking an agile approach to improving journalists.org and overhauling the membership section so that users can edit profiles and receive receipts.

Jeremiah and team are looking at proposals from four development firms to improve the backend, with Yuri Victor and Daniel Bachhuber advising. The goal is to roll out the site in phases six weeks ahead of the 2013 conference. In the meantime, the team is looking at a system for registrations.

Jeanne said the team has been working to streamline the meetup.com setup for ONA Local groups, including how to integrate the Meetup API with our front-end.

Membership and Metrics

Jeanne said Communications and Social Media Manager Jen Mizgata has started tracking social metrics and produces weekly reports, using them to inform communications/membership decisions. Digital Coordinator Kevin Loker has begun to track support tickets.

Associate membership has declined; professional membership has increased. The student percentage has remained the same. Discussion followed about gender, ethnic, geographic, and market-size diversity of new members.

Jen said ONA Local groups have had 100+ events in 2012. There’s been a 30 percent increase in groups, with eight new ones. Chicago, Portland, San Diego, South Florida (Miami) and Spain launched, as well as a Georgia University student group.

Jeanne recapped three recent ONACamps, at NABJ, in Minneapolis and in Missoula, Montana. This year she’s headed to San Francisco for an ONACamp at the AAN conference, Benet Wilson has invited ONACamp back to NABJ and Jeanne is in touch with NASA regarding a two-day hackathon. South Dakota is also a goal for late spring/early summer.


Jen reviewed the success of the ONA Issues blog on Tumblr, which saw a 109 percent increase in followers and has a high interaction rate. Other social platforms had steady growth, with strengths being sharing information on training and events, responding to members and sharing ONA content and conference details. Most of the focus was on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr in the past couple years, but more recently Jen has been increasing focus on LinkedIn because of success there.

Membership Survey

Robert Hernandez reviewed the results of a recent membership survey, which included an even split of members and non-members. The membership survey response breakdown closely matched our overall composition, as did the demographic breakdown.

Programming, coding and data are the most desired types of training, according to respondents, along with leadership. Discussion of the survey ensued.

Training Modules

Jeanne asked the Board for ideas for training modules that the team will be building in the coming year, and a Board discussion followed, also covering options for building an online community around what ONA does.


Jane introduced new ideas for the 2013 conference registration, set-up and programming, as the number of attendees continues to grow. Discussion of meal costs and attendee registration costs followed. Jane said the low hotel rate at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and the larger venue would be a good time to explore increasing attendance and weighing costs.

For programming, Jeanne noted that we would play with the traditional conference models and minimize heavy panels. Discussion followed of ideas for structuring the tracks and how sessions should be picked. Jane said we also want to give attendees more time for networking.


Co-Chair Josh Hatch said the OJA committee anticipated making changes this year to refine the new category sizes and eligibility requirements, including the student category and possibly folding international awards into the general awards.

Jane said we’re in fifth year of a five-year partnership with the University of Miami for OJA judging. The Board’s discussion on when to hold the banquet resulted in consensus to keep it as the finale of the conference.

5:30 p.m.: Meeting Adjourned.

Friday, Jan. 25, 2013


      • Jim Brady
      • Meredith Artley
      • Christine Montgomery
      • Jim Roberts
      • Robert Hernandez
      • Mandy Jenkins
      • Greg Linch
      • Burt Herman
      • Benet Wilson
      • Mario Tedeschini-Lalli
      • Jody Brannon
      • Josh Hatch
      • Jon Hart
      • Jane McDonnell
      • Irving Washington

On the phone:

      • Jeanne Brooks


      • Richard Koci Hernandez
      • John Keefe
      • Juana Summers

9:15 a.m.: Jim Brady called the meeting to order.

Jim called for nominations for Board officer seats. The Board unanimously voted to re-elect President Jim Brady and Vice President Meredith Artley; Josh Hatch was elected treasurer and Jody Brannon was elected secretary.

The Board discussed whether to continue holding two-day Board meetings. The Board decided to resolve 60 days out if one or two days are needed. It was also decided that the Board will meet at the conference, minus the staff.


Jim invited Board members to volunteer for committees and compiled a list of the committees on which each Board member will serve. Committee chairs reported on the activities of their committee.

Legal Affairs

Chair Josh Hatch said the committee has been involved in three activities:

      • Taking the lead on important digital journalism issues (e.g. SOPA letter in 2012). ONA will seek out more funding to expand these efforts.
      • Filing amicus briefs generated by other groups, such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Berkman Center.
      • Providing training at the annual conference and ONACamps.

Josh said our membership in the Sunshine in Government Initiative has been valuable. Josh sits on SIG’s steering committee and noted that the work-to-resources scale is amazing.

Discussion followed of the legal issues ONA can and should address and how ONA’s legal efforts serve members. The Board discussed whether to expand its legal efforts to include international issues.


Chair Mario Tedeschini cited ONA’s partnership with the Global Editors Network, which we partnered with last year for its Data Journalism Awards. We will be presenting two full days of sessions at its June conference in Paris.

Mario noted that ONA Spain started in September, a new ONA Local group.

In 2012, the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, featured panels and workshops sponsored by ONA, and ONA will present again in 2013. ONA also started a partnership with a Brazilian group called MediaOn, which asked us to be part of its annual conference. Burt Herman presented there.

Discussion followed about efforts to reinvigorate Local groups in London and Germany. Mario said Asia is key for future growth.


The Board discussed whether the Education Committee should be divided into separate committees of students and educators. The Board discussed inviting a student representative to participate in Board meetings.
The growth among educators is higher on our Educators Facebook page than in our membership. In general, the Facebook group builds itself.

Irving Washington said we have a bright group of students this year for the AP-Google Scholarships and the next deadline is coming up on Feb. 8. The Board discussed improving promotion of the scholarships.


Jane asked if the Diversity committee should be folded into the Membership Committee. The Board agreed to keep it separate and review its mission.


The Board discussed whether, in light of the success of the ONA Issues Tumblr, the Issues Committee should be dissolved.


The Board created a financial oversight committee that would include the treasurer to monitor annual budgets and financial audits.

Advisory Board

The Board discussed the role of the Advisory Committee and how to reinvigorate the committee.

12:06 p.m.: Meeting Adjourned.