Minutes – June 16, 2017

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

Board members in attendance: P. Kim Bui, Eric Carvin, David Cohn, Joshua Hatch, Mandy Jenkins, Celeste LeCompte, Greg Linch, David Skok, David Smydra.

Staff in attendance: Irving Washington, Executive  Director; Trevor Knoblich, Head of Programs and Events; Jessica Strelitz, Head of Strategic Partnerships; Jen Mizgata, Director of Programs; 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 May 2017 board call.

Terry McKnight & Ricardo Trujillo presented the audit; in summary, they found that financials were accurate, there were no adjustments, and management was great to work with.

Josh motion to approve audit, Mandy seconded. Motion unanimously passes. Audit approved.

New Business

Partnerships (Jess)

  • Events Recap:
    • Women’s Leadership Accelerator funding in good shape, with Dow Jones & additional funds
    • ONA Dublin was a success, with revenues up 157% over last year. Promising for future sponsorship in 2018, but depends on future of that event.
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Career Center revenue in good shape, despite layoffs within in the industry.
    • E-newsletter has been useful to partnerships, though not necessarily directly monetized.
  • New partnership with American University around ONA-U at ONA Conference — a Wednesday event and a networking event designed to serve both attendees and local students. Goal is to replicate at future ONA conferences with local universities.

Funding and Grants Update (Irving)

  • Challenge Fund deadlines approaching for second of two-year program. So far, program has been a success, with lots of successful outcomes, but unlikely to repeat this specific program in the future. May seed a new idea after this year.
  • Journalism 360: Funded by Knight and Google, will likely be extended, with some changes to how the program is managed to reduce some challenges with how applications were handled and time required.
  • Women’s Leadership Accelerator: Looking to renew support from Dow Jones in 2018
  • ONA Local: As part of funding, we offered grants to local groups to support their work — but finding that local groups biggest challenges aren’t money; it’s time to develop/run the programs and community events on which to spend money.  Suggests other ways to continue extending support.
  • ONA received an Open Society Foundation “New Executives Find” grant in recognition of Irving’s work; provides unrestricted funds and was awarded without application.

ONA Local (Megan)

  • Efforts are succeeding: 75 new local leaders recruited, 54% growth of Meetup groups, 64% increase over 2015.
  • Training is the top reason that people say they want to get involved in ONA Local, but the community that gets built is why people come back over time. (“I know of my counterpart at the public radio station, but I’ve never met her, and I don’t know where I would meet her.”) Networking events, in smaller markets, don’t really happen and can feel more threatening/competitive, so training is a good door-opener
  • Connections are something that ONA can provide — ONA can recommend/introduce people to speakers for their events locally, e.g., and using the local grant to send people out to events. Trying to make this more formal/strategic in 2018, e.g., a local speakers bureau. Particularly useful for student groups.
  • Local Journalism capacity building is another need for the community — people who are deeply invested in local and want to connect/build relationships with others like them. Build support networks, troubleshoot common problems, etc. ONA Local Leadership Summit demonstrated and proved this out. Travel grants really helped get people there, and seems to have helped drive investment. (70% of attendees were women.) In future, likely to reduce programming and give more time for networking, case-study presentations, and more peer support activities in general.
  • Board interested in more ways to support this area of the work, and suggested a range of ideas to consider around funding for travel, more online content, using some conference pitches that weren’t selected for ONA to seed local events, and providing pre-conference sessions to help early career and less well-connected newsrooms (moderation and speaker training, e.g.). Also discussed need to support different types of newsrooms — specifically very small online outlets serving (hyper)local communities.
  • Board discussed likely interest from funders in supporting more efforts in this area, as well as vendors/sponsors interested in reaching this group.

ONA Conference Updates

  • Trevor discussed:
    • Themes & Programming: Current Political Environment; Revenue; Career Building/Professional Development; and Expanding Inclusivity. Freelance-focused session. Accessibility in news.
    • Speaker Diversity: More than 50% presenters are women, 1/3 POC/Latino, 1/4 Local Newsrooms.
    • Under The Hood/CYOA Format: Adapting to the large spaces, themes assigned to the ballrooms; there will be 5 mini-sessions, preceded by lightning talks, and followed by break-out deep dives.
    • Table Talks coming back with minor tweaks, not major overhaul
  • Jen reviewed other ONA Program involvement at the conference:
    • Fellowships for MJ Bear (3) HBCUs (5) and CNN Diversity Fellows (5) opening soon; WLA cohort very engaged (many on program) and will be meeting for training at ONA (at WaPo)
    • Looking to highlight grantees from Journalism 360, Challenge Fund, etc.
  • Adam reviewed:
    • Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab – 87 students, 49 mentors; the innovation lab portion, with Jeremy Bowers, is still TBD; web and technical things will be up and running sooner, to give more visibility.
    • Online Journalism Awards: New website looks great, still more work to be done to complete the archive and to work toward having durable archives, if sites go down or projects break as web changes in the future. Looking at archiving approaches.  Promotion efforts as well: Creating a badge that people can use to link to their brand page on the OJA website, adding more content, including awards videos, etc.
  • Jess reviewed sponsorships, which are at 90% of goal already. Some remaining opportunities available, but many sold out. Demand outstripping availability, particular interest in: pre-scheduling time with attendees, speaking/demo opportunities, event-adjacent networking events, promotion to ONA community outside event, and year-round opportunities.

Board Research

  • Governance chair Kim Bui presented her findings of polling a few of our sister organizations to look at recruiting & pipeline, appointments, term limits, and fundraising.
  • Several organizations commented on the success of ONA. They see us as having competitive elections, diverse candidates & board, and very active board members. Board members in other orgs are more specifically responsible for recruiting other board members.
  • In other organizations, committee membership is not limited to board members — using it as a recruiting tool.
  • Some orgs have had non-journalists on the board, to fill gaps in skills & knowledge.
  • Org type (we need digital pure play) and diversity (we need POC) are the main reasons that people appoint board members — most wish they didn’t have to do this, but feel it’s necessary. No one appointed more than three members, and almost everyone appointed one candidate. Skill-based appointments are largely done for fundraising skill.
  • Total length of service — most had none, but others had total years/term limits of 2, 4, and 6. Orgs with no term limits have problems with people staying on too long. Many of them had/are thinking about instituting them.  ONA previously had term limits of 3-4 terms and eliminated them 7 years ago, for fear that it was pushing people off of the board while they were still effective and useful.
  • Officer terms limits — some cases, outgoing board president served in some continuity position.
  • Appointed vs. election: ONA has 2-3; in most instances, appointees then run for election in subsequent years.
  • Many boards are shrinking in size
  • Student board members: elected, but in a variety of ways (single seat, elected by membership; single seat, elected by student members), and often part of a larger, more active student membership
  • Fundraising: There are a few organizations that expect the board to give, many that don’t. Some have targets, such as $5K, however you get there.
  • Orientation: Range from packet/call to in-person trainings
  • Key Takeaways:
    • Adding non-board members to committees
    • We should re-visit term limits & consider adopting some
    • Next step: non-journalism organizations (membership, in adjacent spaces)
  • Kim’s research shows that orgs with strong committee-to-board pipelines are more structured: if you’re running a committee, there is an established set of goals, priorities, and responsibilities.
    • How do we make the ONA Local membership be a pipeline?
    • Focusing on what you want the committees to do — and using that as a way to build relationships through projects/output with non-board committee members.

Board elections

  • Our voting membership is approximately 12-16% annually
  • Voting Process
    • We currently use Memberclicks/eBallot to manage actual voting; there is a voter registration deadline. There was a suggestion to make it easier to find the ballots/vote, share voting tools on social, etc. A “Getting Started” page with a short URL
  • There are eights seats that will be open, including the non-voting student representative. Five members are running for reelection.
  • The board discussed how many seats to hold back for appointment. Holding back two seats gives us flexibility. Holding back two gives us room to recruit senior, executive-type members who are unlikely to run, and we’re losing two hard-to-replace demographics (International, Executive). Holding back one gives the membership more choices.
    • Action: The board voted 5-4 to hold back two seats for appointments following the election.
  • Student Seat:
    • The student seat is a non-voting, appointed seat. If we want to make the student seat a voting seat, we’d have to increase the number of voting seats and change that in the bylaws. We will  leave the process and position as is.
    • Education Committee will lead this recruitment. Greg, Benet, and others will help.

Strategic Planning

  • The board engaged in a planning exercise in preparation for the strategic planning process this fall. Dr. Adrienne Semidey from Velma Hart and Associates led the activity.

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

The next board call will be on July 21, 2017 at 1pm E.S.T. No meeting in August.

These minutes are submitted by Celeste LeCompte