As you may have noticed on the Internets, I’m running for the Online News Association’s Board of Directors. Voting begins Friday, September 21.
I’ve outlined my platform overview here, with more concrete proposals updated below.
When I was a journalist working in the Midwest – ONA was a lifeboat for me. I was the first social media editor for The Cincinnati Enquirer and I felt so isolated from the rest of the industry as we figured out that role. We didn’t have a local ONA group or any sort of digital media meeting of the minds. Everything I knew about what others were doing in online news came from blogs.
When I attended my first ONA conference I thought, “This is exactly what I’ve been missing.” I learned so much there, not just from the panels, but also in the war stories told over beers of others experimenting in digital media. It was a relief to find out I wasn’t alone.
When I eventually ended up moving to Washington, D.C., I was suddenly surrounded by digital journalists. I am fortunate to have an active local ONA chapter where I’ve made a lot of friends over the past few years.
Not everyone is so lucky. My work at Digital First takes me to small local newsrooms across the country, where I meet lots of journalists looking for a lifeboat. They might be their paper’s first social media editor, former copy editors turned online evangelists, or reporters dabbling in databases – all of them largely working on their own, learning what they can pick up along the way.
ONA needs to bring these people into the fold. Whether they are isolated due to geography, demographics or newsroom culture, we need to find them, bring them together virtually or at a local/regional level and provide them with resources that will help them continue to innovate in their newsrooms.
Along similar lines, ONA should make an even stronger push to recruit future journalists through college journalism and computer science programs. Those of us in hiring roles know the sort of skill sets our newsrooms need – and by working with universities and internship programs ONA can help create the journalists of the future.
ONA also can’t forget our existing members still need their own lifeboats, too. By taking a critical needs assessment of our membership, we can better identify the sort of higher-level training programs and conversations ONA should facilitate, possibly as a separate track to existing, more entry-level panels and programs. We need to still have programmers, data wizards and social media types walk away from the national conference or local ONA Camps and say, “Wow, that really blew my mind.”
I’ve met a lot of innovative, hungry journalists in my travels with Digital First and as a freelance journalism trainer. These are the folks who stand out in their local newsrooms – teaching themselves a new tool or programming language, staying late to work on personal projects and always making themselves available to help their less digitally savvy colleagues.
These journalists are often the primary source of digital support in their newsrooms, but they need support, too. Many are somewhat isolated from support within the industry, perhaps because they are in sparse media markets or have a less than encouraging newsroom culture. That’s why I propose a two-fold outreach effort to reach these journalists…read more.
As a Midwestern journalist, I used to feel completely invisible to the journalism innovators, discussion leaders and hiring editors on the coasts. Anyone who wants to try something new should get support and encouragement, no matter where they live. Whether they want to lead changes in their local newsrooms or take on new challenges in larger markets, ONA should be helping these journalists along.
The first way to do this woud be to cast a spotlight on the industry’s less-lauded players and projects. Another way would be to establish a virtual mentorship program. Think of it as a sort of Big Brothers, Big Sisters for online journalists – ON THE INTERNETS…read more.
There are some brilliant people in the world of data journalism and news apps – the problem is, there isn’t nearly enough of them. I won’t pretend to say that I know exactly how this would work, but if ONA could team up with NICAR and some of our membership leaders in the academic world, we could help journalism schools transition themselves to prepare future journalists for this job market…Read More
Many specialists I talk to in data, social or mobile journalism have (privately) told me they no longer see much point in attending ONA. They’d rather go to NICAR or SXSW or other, more specialized conferences where they’ll be more likely to have their minds blown. How can we lure these specialists back? For one, we need to expand the session offerings to include more higher-level, specialized tracks. This has happened, to some extent, with the unconference and pre-conference sessions – but why not bring a few of these into the mainstream schedule? Read More…