This is a candidate for the 2018-19 ONA Board of Directors election
I want ONA to continue building on the awesome work it’s already doing. We are at a critical point in journalism, and there’s always more we can do: fostering discussions and more practical workshops about successful business models in journalism, how we can collaborate and support each other, how we can make diverse newsrooms and management a reality throughout the industry instead of just pockets of it. As it stands, ONA is doing a laudable job promoting and training journalists of all stripes, but there are a few things I’d like to see and help work on:
- Big conferences and even more ONA local meetups/workshops spread throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on supporting local journalism and journalism not based in major cities (and I say that as an NYC stan).
- More collaboration between digital journalist networks and newsrooms: there’s so much we can all learn from each other, if we could put some competitiveness aside. That goes for intra-newsroom as well: I think NowThis has been particularly successful because of the collaborative nature of production between editorial, audience/insights and tech, with tech being a key third component, just as integral to the process of delivering good journalism as anyone else.
- Unprecedented training for unprecedented times: we’re living through a pretty unique period in American history, where public trust in media is low, the president encourages attacks on the free press, fake news is allowed to proliferate across social networks, and crowds or individuals can be increasingly hostile to journalists. We need all sorts of training and support to properly respond to this, from legal protection workshops to honest conversations with social platforms about how to tackle certain shared problems among publishers.
- Diversity of all kinds in newsrooms and management: race and gender, yes, but also socioeconomic background, religion, sexual orientation, nationality.
- Training in developing countries: I think there’s a lot more ONA can do internationally, not just in developed but especially developing countries, some of whom need quality standards and models of journalism even more than others. And there’s a lot we can learn from their innovation, too.
- Regular focus groups of consumers, especially young people: I think we could all benefit from knowing how the target audiences of both the present and the near future are consuming their news. It would be a great resource for the ONA to produce white papers regularly on this topic, in concert with certain publishers, schools or other organizations.
I’d bring focus to all the above ideas and more. I’d work closely with other members of the board and staff to coordinate fundraising for these expanded efforts, drawing on a unique international network of different journalist organizations to form a more cohesive effort. I’m enthusiastic and passionate about sustainable models of digital journalism, about learning and sharing knowledge on these fronts, and I want to invest in the future of the industry. And I’d bring someone from the South Asian diaspora to the board.
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ONA has been an indispensable networking and life-enhancing tool: connecting me to future colleagues, support groups, and most recently, providing me with a scholarship opportunity for women-focused leadership training. I’ve started to pay that back in the past 3 years, helping to organize local meetups and speaking at the annual conference about the cutting edge of distributed media, which NowThis has pioneered in the broader journalism industry. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the world to speak at various conferences and teach young journalists the power of social video. I see ONA as the best digital news organization out there.
Versha Sharma is the Managing Editor and Senior Correspondent at NowThis, where she’s been working since 2014. Versha was hired as a senior editorial producer in the early days of social video becoming a trend, and was tasked with shaping and defining the editorial voice for NowThis. From there, she was promoted to managing editor, managed the company’s emerging platforms strategy and oversaw 2016 Election coverage, running and growing a team of nine producers over 2 years. She conducted an interview with President Obama at a critical moment in the election cycle.
Versha has been an enthusiastic voice for the most innovative models in digital journalism. Prior to NowThis, she worked as a reporter and editor for Vocativ, another digital-first news outlet, where she managed a team of international reporters. She also covered the 2012 presidential election for MSNBC. Versha got her start in digital journalism at Talking Points Memo, where she went from unpaid intern to deputy publisher over the course of 3 years. There, she learned about every aspect of the business, from writing, reporting and editing to publishing, managing social media and advertising. She even did ad operations for a little while.
She loves superhero movies.
Nominator: Rubina Fillion, Director of Audience Engagement, The Intercept
Nominator Membership: Professional
Versha Sharma would be a major asset to the ONA board. She is one of the most talented and ambitious young women I know. I got to know her through the Women’s Leadership Accelerator, and have been consistently impressed with her dedication to digital innovation, both within her own newsroom and by sharing her knowledge in her many speaking engagements. She is one of the most widely admired people working in social video, and that’s been reflected in her rapid rise at NowThis. (She was promoted to senior correspondent this year.)
Versha was responsible for creating the NowThis Election team and leading its coverage of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections. She got a sitdown, one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama, which she conducted masterfully. She helped shape the editorial voice of NowThis before it exploded audience-wise and has kept its voice consistent across platform since then. She is a pioneer/evangelist of the distributed media model inside and outside of NowThis. Versha has served as a mentor for each new vertical/team as the No. 2 deputy in the newsroom.
Versha’s positivity and openness to experimentation is infectious. Her commitment to advancing video journalism would make her a valuable addition to ONA’s board.