Minutes – Jan. 29, 2016

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

NPR Headquarters

In attendance:

  • ​Meredith Artley
  • Michelle Baruchman (Student Representative)
  • Jody Brannon
  • P. Kim Bui
  • David Cohn
  • Joshua Hatch
  • Robert Hernandez
  • Mandy Jenkins
  • Greg Linch
  • Jim Roberts
  • David Skok
  • David Smydra
  • Jose Zamora

Calling in:

  • ​Steve Herrmann
  • Eric Carvin

Not present:

  • Benet Wilson

Also present:

  • ​Alison Schary, Davis, Wright Tremaine, General Counsel
  • Meghan Murphy, incoming ONA Community Manager


  • Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
  • Irving Washington, Deputy Director
  • Trevor Knoblich, Digital Director
  • Jessica Strelitz, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships
  • Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager
  • Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager

The meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m. ET.

Meredith asked candidates for board officer positions to identify themselves for election later in the day.

Old Business

The board unanimously approved the minutes from the December 2015 Board call.

2015 Review ​(Jane McDonnell, Executive Director): Jane said ONA has met or surpassed goals for the fiscal year ending 2015. Membership, now at 2,513, saw steady growth in the past five years, with a reflective increase in revenue for membership dues. We saw a 17 percent increase in overall revenue in 2015, with a 15 percent increase in conference attendance. ONA also saw a 27 percent increase over goal in terms of grants.

2015 Financials / 2016 Proposed Budget ​(David Cohn, Treasurer; Irving Washington, Deputy Director): David presented an overview of ONA’s financials for 2015. Revenue breakdown showed an increasingly diverse revenue stream, with registration, grants and sponsorships driving the largest shares of revenue. David said it was one of the most diverse budgets he’s seen from a non‐profit. Looking to the 2016 projected budget, there’s an expected increase in grants, with the bulk already confirmed for the year. David said ONA ended above budget for the year. ONA received less revenue from donor contributions than projected, but more than projected in areas of grants, registrations, dues and sponsorships. David reviewed 2015 year‐end net assets, noting an increase in unrestricted assets.

Irving outlined the 2016 projected budget, noting there is expected growth in terms of both revenue and expenses for the conference, and revenue from grants.

The Board unanimously approved the 2015 financials to go to the auditors. The Board unanimously approved the 2016 budget for operations.

Business Development​ (Jess Strelitz, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships): Jess reviewed the success of 2015 business development goals, including new outside revenue and a 27 percent increase in sponsor revenue at ONA15. New revenue also was realized through sponsorships at the first international conference, ONA London.

Jess said ONA London this year will be held on April 1, hosted once again by Reuters, with Google sponsoring the first‐time Opening Night Reception.

Development and Partnerships ​(Jane): Jane reviewed ONA’s work with nine funders: Knight Foundation, Gannett Foundation, Democracy Fund, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation (EEJF), MacArthur Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Ford Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation and Dow Jones Fund.

Jane said the 2016‐18 Challenge Fund will be funded again by a consortium made up of EEJF, Democracy Fund, Knight, McCormick and the Rita Allen Foundation.

Jane noted the Gannett Foundation’s funding is restricted to ONA Camps, the conference and awards, including a new Online Journalism Award for students. The Dow Jones Fund currently supports four Digital Leadership Breakfasts.

Jane reviewed the MJ Bear Fellowship Fund’s investment, which realized a conservative return on original investment, and a new manager in Mylestone Partners.

Legal/Ethics/Policy ​(Joshua Hatch, Chair, Legal Committee; Eric Carvin, Chair, Ethics Committee; Alison Schary, General Counsel): Alison reviewed her firm’s areas of focus as they pertain to ONA’s needs. She also noted ongoing issues for ONA to be watching this year, inlcuding the 50th anniversary of the Federal Freedom of Information Act, anti‐SLAPP legislation and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Eric said development of the Build your Own Ethics Code tool continues this year, and news organizations have signed on to the UGC Ethics Code newly developed at ONA15. Eric also said ethics likely will be a major focus for the 2016 conference.

Board Election Turnouts ​(Meredith; Robert Hernandez, Chair, Membership Committee): Meredith said she and Robert had discussed the issue of annual low voter turnout for the ONA Board elections. The Board discussed forming a strike team to address the issue ahead of the 2016 vote.

Officer Elections: The Board elected the following members to officer positions for 2016: President, Joshua Hatch; Vice‐President, Mandy Jenkins; Treasurer, David Cohn; Secretary, Benet Wilson. The Board thanked outgoing President Meredith Artley for her two years of service.

2016-17 Strategic Plan Overview

Domestic/ONA Local/Student Expansion ​(Jane, Irving, Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager): Jane introduced the two‐year strategy plan for 2016‐17. The ONA Local initiative, funded through a Knight Foundation grant, is moving ahead with the hire of Meghan Murphy, incoming Community Manager, who will join the staff in February. Jen gave an overview of ONA Local. There are 49 total groups, 22 in the United States, 12 international and 15 student groups, for an increase of 88 percent since 2011. Jane said Meghan will create a two‐year ONA Local Strategy, and introduced post‐grant plans for measuring its impact.

International Expansion ​(Jane; Steve Herrmann, Chair, International Committee): Jane reviewed ONA’s current status in regard to international groups and introduced a strategic plan to review international growth. The first step will be to form an advisory committee and create a mission statement. One goal will be to build out plans for international conferences in 2017 and 2018.

Digital Overview ​(Trevor Knoblich, Digital Director; Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager): ​Jeremiah reviewed ONA membership numbers, which saw a 36 percent increase over the past five years. He noted the membership backend has made it possible to better track user information such as renewals and voluntary demographics.

Trevor reviewed the internal digital initiatives in progress, including a refreshed journalists.org website; an improved user experience for the ethics site and exploring a microsite dsign for the Online Journalism Awards.

Jen discussed the communications goals for ONA and metrics across ONA’s social platforms. Newsletters have seen a 161 percent increase in subscribers since 2011, and the newsletters for general membership and ONA15 had extremely high open and click rates. Jen said in 2015, ONACamps included both specialized and general events at the local level. Jen is planning the first camp for 2016 in February in Nashville at the Tennessean, with a focus on mobile.

2016/2017 Conference (Trevor, Irving): ​Trevor reviewed the program team and the review team for ONA16. Trevor also asked for the Board’s continued assistance in identifying keynote ideas and recruiting keynote speakers. Trevor reviewed the goals set for ONA15 last year, which were to make the conference more welcoming to first‐time attendees and expand networking opportunities. He also went over plans for ONA16, including refining the new Table Talks; addressing the needs of growth audiences in broacast/video, business, virtual reality and Spanish language; and gathering more specific session feedback.

Irving noted marked improvements in WiFi performance at ONA15 with the advent of an external company and a help desk. ONA16 will be held in Denver and ONA17 in Washington, DC. Irving said the search for venues for 2018 and 2019 are already in progress.

Diversity, Leadership Pipeline​ (Irving): ​Irving reviewed the strategy plan and highlighted wins for ONA’s diversity initiatives for early and mid‐career journalists, including CNN Digital Media Fellowship and the HBCU Digital Media Fellowship. Irving said the first‐ever Women’s Leadership Academy in 2015 was a great example of how ONA programs can build communities within communities. The attendees are very close and have credited the program with their professional growth.

Irving highlighted the Student Newsroom and plans to grow the network around current and former participants, as well as the impact of Challenge Fund projects in local communities due to the work of student journalists and academics. Irving said the key takeaway for these diversity initiatives is to create a “college to C‐suite” strategy.

Online Journalism Awards ​(Joshua, Jane): ​Jane said she will seek a foundation partner to allow ONA to hire a coordinator to manage the awards process, work on branding and messaging around the awards, develop a microsite for entries and cover costs for the dinner and emcee. Jim Roberts kicked off board discussion about the categories for the OJAs and how those might shift going ahead. David Smydra volunteered for the OJA Committee Chair seat vacated by Joshua.

Committees (Irving): Irving reviewed the committees’ purposes and chairs. The Board discussed which committees to chair or join for 2016. The new or returning chairs are:

  • News Ethics Committee, Eric Carvin
  • Education Committee, Jody Brannon
  • Fundraising Committee, P. Kim Bui, David Cohn
  • Membership, Robert Hernandez
  • Diversity Committee, Benet Wilson
  • Online Journalism Awards, David Smydra
  • International Committee, Steve Hermann
  • Legal Committee, Mandy Jenkins

The meeting was adjourned at 4:30 p.m. ET.

The next call will be Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, at 1 p.m. ET

Submitted by Secretary Mandy Jenkins