Challenge Fund FAQ

How do I follow the challenge and participate in conversation about journalism education?
To stay up-to-date on the journalism educators community, join the ONA Educators Facebook Group.

What is the process for applying?
All applications must be submitted online by October 28, 2020, 11:59 p.m. ET.

How many entries may I submit?
There is no limit to the number of entries per faculty member or school. However, collaboration is a key goal of the contest; we strongly encourage applicants from the same school to collaborate.

Can for-profit companies enter the contest?
For-profit companies can partner with a local college or university to be part of their entry.

What kinds of projects are you looking for?
This is an experiment.We want to fund experimental projects that encourage collaborative local news coverage, bridge the academic and professional communities, improve training for students and generate meaningful lessons for digital news. Projects that increase community engagement are particularly welcome.

Have the requirements for collaboration changed in 2020 due to the global pandemic?
The Challenge Fund has supported universities as they’ve collaborated with local news organizations and we’ve encouraged applicants to take a teaching hospital approach. In 2020, we know that collaborations may look different than they did in the past. We also know that educators are some of the most innovative people we know. When you apply,  talk to us about your local circumstances and how you might adapt your projects to foster collaboration.

Would you fund the continuation of an existing project?
No. Your experiment must diverge from the status quo and test something new. Your project should have an approach that represents a genuine innovation in technology or journalism in your community. We are looking for projects that, if successful, would change how journalism is done or taught in your community.

Who can enter the contest?
The contest is open to teams led by a faculty member at a U.S.-based college or university. Teams should be composed of developers, media professionals, technologists, students, researchers or designers to deliver local news to their communities.

Do I hold the intellectual property rights for my idea?
Yes. All materials will be owned by the grantee organization. The grantee organization will give ONA and its funding partners worldwide license to publish materials or other works produced from use of grant funds. This license is to allow open use of the tools and techniques so the innovations can spread.

How are projects selected?
An Advisory Committee will review the applications and send recommendations to the Funder Committee for final selection.

When will I receive notification if I win?
All applicants will hear from us. We will notify you whether you are selected or not by December 2020.

When will winners be announced?
The winners will be announced in December 2020.

What aspects of the project budget can be funded?
ONA does not pay indirect administrative fees to grantee organizations.

If I win, how are the funds distributed?
ONA will work out a schedule with each winner. Our intention is to distribute first payments within 60 days of the project’s approval.

Are winnings taxable?
Because individual situations vary, you need to consult a professional tax adviser on this issue.

Who receives the prize money in our team?
ONA will award a single dollar amount to one college or university within the team. Teams should make arrangements to disperse funds among multiple organizations. The college or university is solely responsible for allocating any prize amount among its team members as it deems appropriate. ONA will not arbitrate, intervene, advise on, or resolve any matters among entrant members. It will be up to the winning team(s) to reallocate the prize money among its members, if they deem it appropriate.

Who do I contact for more information?
Contact the program team at

Terms and Conditions

By submitting this proposal the applicant represents to the Online News Association (ONA) that:

  • The work is solely that of the applicant or people working with applicant who make these same representations to ONA.
  • The applicant has not infringed on the rights of anyone else in creating the work.
  • The applicant indemnifies ONA and its partners against any claim of infringement of rights by others.
  • ONA is under no obligation to fund or otherwise have a future relationship with the applicant.
  • By making a submission, a contestant is deemed to have thereby granted to ONA and any other third parties acting on the our behalf, a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide perpetual license to display publicly and use the submission. This license includes posting or linking to the submission on ONA’s websites and applications, including partner websites, and inclusion of the submission in any other media, worldwide.
  • Applicants receiving the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education awards will have to abide by the terms and conditions of their award agreement.

Applicants understand and agree that submission of an entry constitutes a representation and warranty by entrant that all of the members of the team have read and accepted the rules. Furthermore, an entrant that is part of a team understands and agrees that if his/her team is selected to receive a prize, the team is responsible for ensuring the funds are appropriately distributed to each member of the team and each member of the team must agree upon the method of payment. In addition, once a team has registered, the team may not add, remove, or substitute members or otherwise change the composition of the team for the duration of the Challenge. Finally, the eligibility of the Entrant is tied to the team’s eligibility; if one member of the team does not comply with these Rules or is disqualified, the team as a whole will be disqualified.

ONA will consider, on request, ways to keep ideas confidential during the application process. Please contact ONA if you have major concerns about protecting your ideas or initiatives so that we can see if we can work with you to achieve your objectives.

Adapted from the Knight News Challenge Guidelines and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Games To Generate Data Challenge.