Minutes — Oct. 9, 2015

Online News Association Board of Directors Meeting

In attendance:

  • Meredith Artley,
  • Jody Brannon,
  • P. Kim Bui,
  • Eric Carvin,
  • David Cohn,
  • Josh Hatch,
  • Steve Hermann,
  • Robert Hernandez,
  • Mandy Jenkins,
  • Greg Linch,
  • Jim Roberts,
  • David Smydra,
  • Benet Wilson.

Not present: ​

  • Jim Brady,
  • Jose Zamora

Staff​ in attendance:

  • Jane McDonnell, Executive Director;
  • Irving Washington, Deputy Director;
  • Trevor Knoblich, Digital Director;
  • Jen Mizgata, Social Media and Communications Manager;
  • Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager

The meeting was called to order at 1:05 pm

Old Business

The board unanimously approved the minutes for the July board call.

Board Business

General Counsel (Jane McDonnell, Josh Hatch): Jane said ONA has retained a new general counsel firm, Davis Wright Tremaine. Laura Handman, Thomas Burke and Alison Schary will be working closely with ONA, with Schary acting as the primary contact. Jane said she is very impressed with Schary and has already given her an overview of the issues the Legal Committee has been tracking.

Nominations/Elections (Jane): Jane said voting for the ONA Board closes tonight (Oct. 9). New Board members will be announced Oct. 20. Jeremiah said there is a 15.2 percent voter turnout, about 389 out of 2,565 possible voting members, which is a slight increase from last year.

Student Board Representative (Jane, Benet Wilson): Jane said Benet, Robert, Greg and Jody have been working on the first nonvoting student board representative role, eligibility and responsibilities and will share conclusions with the Executive Committee first. The student rep will be selected by December, in time for orientation, and attend the January 2016 Board meeting. He or she will act as a liaison to the Board on student issues.

ONA15 Updates

Debriefing/Board feedback (Jane): Meredith recognized the staff for the amazing annual conference in Los Angeles September 24-26. Jane sent the Board a Google form to input feedback and urged directors to be as critical as possible to make next year even better. Jane thanked the staff for all of its hard work.

Budget (Irving Washington): Irving said the final numbers are still being calculated, but the ONA15 budget looks strong. ONA15 had 2,180 attendees, a 15 percent increase over last year and the largest conference ever. The Board will review the final budget at the January meeting.

Membership (Jeremiah Patterson): Jeremiah said ONA’s membership was at 2,565 before the conference, its largest yet. He said the ONA15 website saw about 104,000 page views and an average of four minutes per user during the conference, which is healthy. He went on to outline more metrics from ONA15. David Smydra noted all of the resources have given the conference a long tail.

Programming (Trevor Knoblich): Trevor noted the diversity of ONA15 speakers this year, with 52 percent women, 36 percent persons of color, 24 percent local speakers and seven percent international. The new half-day of Table Talks were very well received and garnered lots of positive feedback and constructive criticism. Trevor has a general survey out for feedback. Jane recognized the staff and Board members for helping to make the conference so much more diverse.

Sponsors (Jane): Jane said Jess Strelitz went above and beyond even her success from last year. Irving noted Jess was 118 percent over goal, including bringing in about 30 percent new groups for ONA15, a huge accomplishment.

Communications/Resources (Jen Mizgata, Jeremiah): Jane praised ONA’s social media efforts, powered by Jen, who said there were more than 30,000 tweets on the main hashtag alone, with thousands more on the session hashtags. Jane noted the hashtag was trending nationally every day, and those for the keynote sessions on online harassment and the Google keynote also trended nationally. Jen said the online harassment session was the number-one trending topic in the United States for the day.

Finances, Development and Partnerships

ONA Local, New Hire (Jane): Jane said after the $828K ONA Local grant from the Knight Foundation was announced at ONA15, Jen started a growing list of interest in starting up ONA Locals. Jane said she is putting together a job description for the new hire to lead this initiative, who we hope will be in place before the end of the year.

Challenge Fund (Irving): During the conference, Irving met with the main funders.

EEJF/ Digital Toolkit (Trevor): Jane said ONA has released the beta Build-Your-Own Ethics Code. She said the deadline for the final report on the Digital Toolkit, which includes a live scheduling tool, is Feb. 1, 2016. ONA may apply for a new grant to allow further work on the ethics kit.

Digital Leadership Breakfast (Jane): Jane said ONA received a renewed $50K grant from Dow Jones Foundation to continue the program. Jane said the staff and Board would need to think about how these events might be done differently in the future.


International/Conference (Steve Hermann, Jane): Our second international conference in 2016 is likely to be in London again. Steve said there was a very good turnout for the international meetup at ONA15. He said the meetup spawned interest in setting up local chapters in Dublin and Brazil. Steve noted ONA also needs to consider more activity in Scandinavia. Jane said the conference had over 300 international attendees, a significant increase from last year.

News Ethics Committee: Chair Eric Carvin said the UGC Ethics charter was crafted at the conference by a group of journalists long interested in the project. The Executive Committee is discussing language and plans for the proposal, then it will go to the full Board. Mandy said members of the working group came from a variety of organizations and seeing them agree on the language around the charter was remarkable.

Legal Affairs (Josh Hatch): Jane said she and Josh will be meeting with ONA’s new legal counsel to determine how ONA tackles digital issues.


Jane said the next Board meeting will be Jan. 28-29, 2016, at NPR headquarters in Washington, DC.

The Board will discuss the 2015 budget and projected 2016 budget, as well as the two-year strategy originally discussed at the May board meeting in 2015.

The call ended at 2:02 p.m. ET.

The next call will be on Nov. 13, 2015 at 1 p.m. ET.

These minutes are submitted by Secretary Mandy Jenkins