Minutes – Jan. 27, 2017

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

Board members in attendance:

  • Meredith Artley
  • Michelle Baruchman (Student Representative)
  • P. Kim Bui
  • Eric Carvin
  • David Cohn
  • Joshua Hatch
  • Steve Hermann
  • Imaeyen Ibanga
  • Mandy Jenkins
  • Celeste LeCompte
  • Greg Linch
  • David Skok
  • David Smydra
  • Elite Truong
  • Benét Wilson
  • Jose Zamora

Also Present:

  • Alison Schary; Davis, Wright Tremaine, General Counsel

Staff in attendance:

  • Irving Washington, Executive  Director
  • Trevor Knoblich, Digital Director
  • Jessica Strelitz, Director, Strategic Partnerships
  • Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager
  • Adam Nekola, Senior Digital Manager
  • Meghan Murphy, Community Manager

The meeting was called to order at 9:05 a.m.

Old Business: The board unanimously approved the minutes for the December 2016 board call.

Board (Joshua Hatch)

Joshua outlined The Brady Chart which shows the roles of the board, committees and staff and released the results of the board survey.

Finances, Development and Partnerships (David Cohn)

David presented the 2016 financials to the board. We adhered to budget, and did very well on grants (renewal of Challenge Fund, Journalism 360 project, both came in 2016). Sponsorships, grants and registration were the top three revenue generators. David also noted we had a 100 percent board donation rate and have out performed budgeted versus actual numbers since 2013.

The Board unanimously approved the 2017 budget.

Business Development (Jessica Strelitz)

Jess outlined business development performance for the year and plans for 2017. The non-ONA17 areas of focus are Women’s Leadership Academy; ONA Dublin; recruiting (virtual career fair option); resources page; webinars; new partnerships; and other asks from partners and sponsors. Jess noted 99 groups supported ONA16, the most ever; 80 organizations on site in Denver and ONA17 is at Marriott Wardman Park in D.C. The goal is to boost sponsorships at ONA17 via new networking cocktails, mini meeting spaces, etc.

Administration (Irving Washington)

Irving reviewed ONA’s mission and values, as well as the core principles of the 3 C’s – Connections, Conference and Content, our value proposition. Conference attendance has grown significantly since 2009 (703 to 2160) and membership and revenue are continuing to trend upward in past three years. The grant picture has grown, much more complex including the growth of the MJ Bear, CNN Diversity and HBCU Fellows programs. We have strong relationships with funders including the Knight Foundation, Gannett Foundation, Democracy Fund, Rita Allen Foundation, Dow Jones, etc. The Challenge Fund grant has grown; all foundations have renewed and it’s currently the second year of Knight ONA Local grant. Irving will explore potential partnerships with groups like ASNE, INN, IRE and LION; also NAHJ, NABJ, Unity. Journalism 360  also presents a chance to partner internationally with WAN-IFRA, GEN and Chicas Poderosas. We’ll also look at partnership resources and member benefits like Zapier, Piano Media and Sqoop. For 2017, we will start the process for a new strategic and business plan.

Digital Overview (Trevor Knoblich/Adam Nekola)

Trevor and Adam noted the rolled out new journalists.org and other digital projects such as the ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code in the digital tool kit that got signatories throughout the year including a student newspaper at University of Georgia. Adam’s priority is server security. He has also consolidated and updated WordPress sites and plug-ins, as well as installing version control, Google Analytics. The plan moving forward includes new features for journalists.org; consolidation of resources; and separate website for the OJA Awards.

ONA Local (Meghan Murphy)

Meghan noted we are in the middle of Knight grant to expand ONA Local into 20 new groups in two years. In 2016, we added 12 U.S. groups, along with Australia and Japan and had 10,511 members on Meetup.com.  By end of 2017, we want to have 73 groups to meet the Knight grant requirements.

Initiatives in 2017 include:

  • Looking for better ways to connect groups and learn about their groups.
  • Continuing a new blog series on ONA Locals leaders and activities.
  • Focusing on partnership events;  60 events held in 2016 and half were with partners.
  • Have Theme Calendar for 2017: trust, diversity, engagement, tool kit, the future and self-care
  • Brought 40 leaders to Denver under Knight grant; 80 percent who got scholarship felt it was inspiring to boost ONA Locals
  • In 2017, hosting first local leadership summit in New Orleans for day-long workshop to grow their groups

Programs Overview

Jen revealed the 2017 ONA Women’s Leadership Accelerator inaugural class and noted the number goal is to get more women in leadership.  There were 340 applications and 25 women chosen (11 are completely new to ONA;

48 percent are diverse and four were international applicants). There is a strong lineup of speakers including Kara Swisher, Willow Bay, Liz Herron, Mitra Kalita, Jennifer Brandel, Meghan Chan, Jessica Yu, Charo Henriquez-Scala, Will Nevlle-Roben, and Stacy-Marie Ishmael. Participants will bring a problem to work through.

Jen also noted we did three ONA Camps in 2016 – Toronto, Seattle and North Carolina and brought in Google News Tools trainers for first time.

Conference (Trevor Knoblich/Meghan Murphy)

Trevor noted Table Talks did very well and attendees asked for more structured networking. People want better way to connect, but NOT QR code. Trevor also solicited keynote and presenter ideas from the Board. The Suggestion Box opens in March. Meghan mentioned the student ONA Local meeting and room was packed, as well as the lunch and reception for ONA Local leaders.

Legal, Policy Initiatives (Joshua Hatch and Mandy Jenkins)

Mandy outlined legal aspects that affect our membership (SOPA, net neutrality). In 2016, there were a lot of issues related to politics like the ban on use of gas masks at RNC, FOIA and access to Clinton depositions. She also outlined the letters we joined with other news organizations. Joshua noted we are a member of Sunshine in Government Initiative, since renamed the News Media for Open Government. The group has expanded its scope and helps us advocate for free press issues. Alison outlined what legal issues ONA is position to tackle such as state/local FOIA laws training sessions via ONA Locals. Alison also noted other issues such as the revised FOIA signed by Obama that will see lots of fights on state/federal level, protection for reporters from SLAPP suits aimed at silencing them and looking at what’s emerging and what we don’t know yet.


  • Overall, let members know that they can join our ONA committees
  • Education (Elite Truong, Chair/Michelle Baruchman): Topics that ONA has worked on like Student Newsrooms; students have question about journalism as a career as they graduate; questions about teaching objectivity; have older FB group; providing more education for students and educators; offer a training day/chat with recruiters or a #RealTalk session without recruiters
  • News Ethics (Eric Carvin, Chair): Formed as umbrella for two major ONA projects — build your own ethics code for news organizations and social news gathering initiative; these items are now in maintenance mode, so good time for committee to explore next project, like offering fake news/fact checking as an education resource in partnership with ONA Locals; have regular calls for the committee; and look at a name change, like News Ethics and Standards
  • Diversity (Benét Wilson, Chair): Have been focused on HBCU and CNN diversity efforts; want to bring back monthly diversity call; work with convention/programming committees and jobs for diversity checks; asked that we work with OJAs to have more diverse applicants; and work with Membership Committee to do member review
  • Fundraising (David Cohn and Kim Bui, Co-Chairs): Committee has gone through peaks and valleys; had some fundraising ideas but they didn’t pan out; in a valley and looking for new blood to inspire us; karaoke was a fundraiser, but fell by the wayside; we have mini version of Jane quilt to auction; look at what committee should be or should it go away
  • International (Steve Hermann, Chair): Committee is partly about raising ONA profile internationally and that ONA has international members and joining dots between international and locals; most effort is on internatonal conference,with Dublin coming up; also make international attendees to annual conference feel welcome, along with FB group; keep regular cycle of monthly calls on the committee to take stock of where we are and what initiatives are coming up; and looking at strategy and where we go next internationally
  • Legal Affairs (Mandy Jenkins, Chair): See summary above
  • Membership (TBD, Chair):
  • Online Journalism Awards  (David Smydra, Chair): looking at having own website and archive of past winners; look at categories; look at business development aspect

The meeting ended at 5:00 p.m. ET.

The next board call will be on February 10, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. EST.

These minutes are submitted by Secretary Benét J. Wilson