Get ready for the ONA16 Unconference!

Let’s get ready to uncon!

Every year, some of the smartest people in digital journalism gather at the Online News Association’s annual conference.

And every year since 2009, we have given those people the chance to take the conference into their own hands with the unconference.

So, what IS the unconference? Easy: Attendees get the chance to pitch what they think should be a part of this year’s discussion. Maybe we’ll sit in a circle and talk about what we love besides journalism. Maybe we’ll consider how design thinking applies to our daily tasks. Maybe we’ll just get to meet the people we follow on Twitter.

That’s the beauty of the unconference: It can be anything we want it to be.

So how does it work? You (yes, you) can start pitching your session ideas on Thursday, Aug. 18 on our Tumblr site. Keep the pitches coming through the first day of the conference, Thursday, Sept. 15. We’ll post all the pitches we receive on this site.

On Friday, Sept. 16, you’ll see Team Uncon roaming the conference corridors, asking you to vote (please vote!). We’ll then tally the votes on Friday night and announce which sessions will be included on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Come Saturday, if your session was selected, you’re on! You’ll have one of the following time slots:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (two sessions)
  • 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (three sessions)

A couple caveats: The opportunity to lead a session is intended for people who are already attending the conference. They’re also meant to be about journalism, not a platform for companies to sell their products.

Beyond that, the rules are up to you. Do you want to host a workshop? Do you want to put together your dream panel? Do you want to take a break and not think about “the future of journalism” for an hour? Let’s do it. Let’s uncon.

Any questions? Contact us at

Happy brainstorming!

Get Started

Estepa_Jess_120Jessica Estepa is a Senior Digital Producer at National Geographic Partners. She has been involved with ONA since 2009, starting with the student newsroom and now as the team captain of the unconference track for the past six years and as an organizer of the #ONADC chapter. A recovering congressional and federal government reporter, she likes waffles and news.

Google News Lab, Knight Foundation and ONA launch coalition to help newsrooms experiment with immersive storytelling

360 Partnership 16x9DENVER – Sept. 15, 2016 – The Online News Association announced today that it will join with the Google News Lab and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help newsrooms experiment with and advance the field of immersive storytelling.

The project, called Journalism 360, will use grants, workshops, webinars and online resources to support a network of journalists using 360 video, augmented and virtual reality for storytelling. Two immersive storytelling pioneers, Mitch Gelman, chief technology officer of the Newseum, and Sarah Hill, chief executive officer and chief storyteller of Story Up VR, will lead efforts for the online resource hub. ONA will work with Google and Knight to build an international network of journalists focused on sharing ideas and best practices through live events, training and workshops.
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2016 Online Journalism Awards finalists announced

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Finalists for the 2016 Online Journalism Awards, representing a wide range of nonprofit, public, academic, major media and emerging technology organizations from around the globe, were announced today by the Online News Association.

Twelve of the awards now come with $53,500 in prize money, courtesy of Knight Foundation, the Gannett Foundation and the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. These awards honor data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism, public service, technical innovation, student journalism and general excellence.

This year’s awards reflect a deeper consideration of how newsrooms engage their audiences, focusing on the emerging prevalence of new digital tools, distribution channels and content platforms. The second James Foley Award for Conflict Reporting will again honor one of the many journalists reporting under the most challenging conditions; a special committee will select the recipient.

“The range of this year’s finalists is truly remarkable,” said David Smydra, ONA Board member and Online Journalism Awards Committee Chair. “In so many respects — newsroom size, geography, subject matter, platform, technology, storytelling techniques and more — judges were extremely impressed by the full scope and achievements of digital journalists across the industry.”

A group of 76 industry-leading journalists and new media professionals teamed up to screen 1,029 entries and select semi-finalists. Twenty judges representing a diverse cross-section of the industry then conferred to determine finalists and winners.

The winners will be announced at the 2016 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 17, in Denver.

The finalists, many of whom push the envelope of innovation and excellence in digital storytelling and distribution, are:

Breaking News, Medium
Breaking News, Large
Breaking News, Small

No finalists

Planned News/Events, Small
Planned News/Events, Medium
Planned News/Events, Large
Explanatory Reporting, Small
Explanatory Reporting, Medium
Explanatory Reporting, Large
Topical Reporting, Small
Topical Reporting, Medium
Topical Reporting, Large
Online Commentary
Sports, Small
Sports, Medium
Sports, Large
Feature, Small
Feature, Medium
Feature, Large
The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Small
The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large
Pro-Am Student Award
  • America’s Weed Rush, Carnegie-Knight News21 Initiative, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University
  • Bridging Selma, Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication and West Virginia University Reed College of Media
  • Return to Chernobyl, NYU Journalism – Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and FRONTLINE
  • Out of the Shadows, UBC Graduate School of Journalism
The University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism, Small/Medium
The University of Florida Award for Investigative Data Journalism, Large
Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Small
Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Medium
Excellence and Innovation in Visual Digital Storytelling, Large
Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism
The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Small
The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Medium
The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Large
Knight Award for Public Service
General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small
General Excellence in Online Journalism, Medium
General Excellence in Online Journalism, Large

The judges for finalists were:

  • Matt Carroll, Future of News, MIT Media Lab
  • Katelin Chow, Digital Journalist, NPR Code Switch
  • Jenn Chang Crandall, Artist-in-Residence, Alabama Media Group
  • Kenan Davis, Head of Interactive, Guardian US
  • Meghann Farnsworth, Engagement Editor, Recode
  • Priya Ganapati, Product Director, Quartz
  • Mónica Guzmán, Seattle-based journalist & 2016 Nieman Fellow
  • Joshua Hatch, Assistant Managing Editor, Data and Interactives, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • Robert Hernandez, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, USC Annenberg School of Journalism
  • Liz Heron, Executive Editor, Huffington Post
  • Rich Jaroslovsky, Vice President for Content, SmartNews, Inc.
  • S. Mitra Kalita, VP Programming, CNN
  • Martin Kotynek, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, ZEIT ONLINE
  • Jacqui Maher, Interactive Journalist, BBC News Labs
  • Miguel Paz, distinguished lecturer in Data Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, founder of Poderopedia
  • Rhyne Piggott, Assistant Professor of Journalism, Middle Tennessee State University.
  • Robert Quigley, Innovation Director and Senior Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism
  • Nabil Wakim, Director, Editorial Innovation, Le Monde
  • Sisi Wei, News Applications Developer, ProPublica
  • Anita Zielina, Editor-in-Chief New Products, NZZ, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung

*Judges were recused from discussing categories in which their own organizations were entered.

Launched in 2000, the OJAs are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism.

About ONA
The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of online journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, technologists, photographers, academics, students and others who produce and distribute news for digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association annual conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.

About Knight Foundation
knight-logo-300Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About the Gannett Foundation
gannett-foundationThe Gannett Foundation is a corporate foundation sponsored by Gannett Co., Inc. whose mission is to invest in the future of the communities in which Gannett does business, and in the future of our industry. It supports projects that take a creative approach to fundamental issues such as education and neighborhood improvement, economic development, youth development, community problem-solving, assistance to disadvantaged people, environmental conservation and cultural enrichment.

About the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications
university-of-florida-cjcThe University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications is driving innovation and engagement across the disciplines of advertising, journalism, public relations and telecommunication. The strength of its programs, faculty, students and alumni — in research and in practice — has earned the college ongoing recognition as one of the best in the nation among its peers. The college offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates, both online and on campus. The college’s strength is drawn from both academic rigor and experiential learning. The college includes seven broadcast and digital media properties and the nation’s only chair in public interest communications.

ONA16 Survival Guide

Getting here and getting around

HotelPicOur conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center, is at 650 15th Street, Denver, Colorado, USA, 80202. Check out our travel recommendations. The least expensive way to get from Denver International Airport to the hotel is using RTD, Denver’s $9 rail and bus service. Our friends at 5280 and our resident foodie Jess Strelitz have pulled together great tips for food in Denver and near the hotel. And make sure to check out this helpful post aimed at your last-minute needs: what to wear, where to find shopping near the hotel (toothbrush? outfit change? bottle of bourbon?) and more.

Making your schedule

When planning out your schedule, you’ve got options: Our responsive conference website looks lovely on your mobile. The interactive schedule on the ONA16 site is the best place to go for live updates and video streaming (where available). If you want to build a schedule, you can use our mobile app. Simply download the Grenadine Event Guide from the iOS or Android stores and use the code ONA16. You’ll receive a print program at registration, but remember, the online schedule is always your most up-to-date option, complete with any last-minute room, program or speaker changes.

Parties, receptions and events

We hope your schedule includes more than just sessions. Check out our definitive list of ONA16 parties and special events, including special receptions, meetups around town and early-morning yoga on the terrace.
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All of the things for ONA16

Most of you are on your way, and some of you are already here! Welcome to Denver! Here are some final reminders and tips to get you situated at ONA16.

Weather + what to wear:  Bring comfortable shoes for walking the Exhibit and Midway floors, fancy ones for the OJAs, receptions and parties, and sneakers for walking, biking and running, if you’re so inclined.

Warm days in the 70s and cool nights in the 50s (and high 40s) require a wardrobe that includes jackets, jeans, sweaters and pants, as well as lighter pieces for getting outside during the sunny days. Most events and sessions are casual, but we love it when people get glammed up for the the OJA awards banquet on Saturday.  Also, meeting space is always fairly cold so stuff something into your ONA attendee bag to warm you up during sessions.

2015-12-10 07.56.46An artsy hotel: The Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center is full of local artwork, including a striking set of climbers headed up the soaring wall in the main lobby.  If you’re headed to your room alone and hear the sounds of the ocean or children laughing, don’t freak out. It’s just part of the moving art found in each guest elevator. The front desk has details on of the hundreds of pieces and designs in the hotel.
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Vote now for the ONA 2017 Board of Directors

VoteIconVoting for the 2017 Board of Directors for the Online News Association is open Sept. 13-30. ONA members in good standing as of Sept. 12 can help shape the future of the the world’s largest digital journalism organization with your vote.

To vote, members can head over to ONA’s member center to access their credentials for the voting platform. Members will see their credentials as soon as they log in. Voting will close Sept. 30 and winners will be announced in October.

All 18 candidates will be in attendance at the 2016 Online News Association Conference in Denver and will share their thoughts on digital journalism during the Story, Platform and Design: Digital Journalism Insights + VIP Meetup, on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 4 p.m. MT. We’ll be live-streaming the event and archiving video for those who can’t attend. Send your questions in advance using #onaelects.
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In the know: Parties, receptions + networking at ONA16

Brightspot_LogoThis post is sponsored by the Brightspot.

Connect with your audience by creating compelling digital experiences, delivered on seven different viewing experiences, ultimately distancing yourself from competition. Introducing Brightspot TV: your over-the-top video channel, published like any other content type, from one unified platform. Learn more at The Midway.
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ONA names Irving Washington, CAE, as next Executive Director


WASHINGTON, DC — The Online News Association, the world’s largest organization of digital journalists, is pleased to announce that ONA Deputy Director Irving Washington, CAE, will succeed Jane McDonnell as Executive Director, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

In his current role, Irving serves as a key contributor to short- and long-term planning and strategy, responsible for operations and programming. Since joining ONA in 2011, he has managed ONA’s highest-profile initiatives, including the $1M Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, served as point person for all logistics for ONA’s annual conference and has grown the organization’s critical diversity and professional development programs.

“After a thorough search process, it was clear that Irving was the best choice to help us write ONA’s next chapter,” said Joshua Hatch, ONA Board President. “His background, knowledge, passion and professionalism are unmatched, and all of ONA will be the beneficiary of his leadership.”
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How to up your development and tech game

This year, a number of our sessions will focus on developer tools and technology that power digital journalism. Whether you want to learn how to create projects with a viable future, have meaningful conversations with developers and tech experts, find out what’s really going on inside smartphones or get advice about running a newsroom on a small budget, we’ve got you covered.

New this year: You can now ask the developers questions in advance of the conference. Get answers to your dev and tech questions and help speakers understand what you’re most interested in by posting a question on the session page. Just click through to the sessions below and drop your question in the embedded form.

  • Tools v. Snowflakes. A great idea can be the start of a long-term project or a one-time-use creation. If you work with interactive news applications or graphics, this is the session for you. We’re excited to have Chris Amico, interactive editor at Frontline, and Priya Krishnakumar, graphics and data reporter at the Los Angeles Times, lead this session. Whether you worry if your project will have a future, work with future tools, or lead to repeated ideas, this session will show you the way to a middle ground.
  • The Break-It-And-Make-It Workshop! Get an inside look at smartphones, web pages and social streams in this interactive workshop. John Keefe, senior editor of data news from WNYC, and Christine Sunu, Open Lab fellow from Buzzfeed, will walk you through the “break” portion of this session. Here, you’ll have the chance to crack open those black boxes to learn more about the devices and data around us. For the “make” portion, you will try your hand at building simple information objects and will get a glimpse of other existing examples, such as information-enabled lamps and cuddle toys.
  • Small Team, Small Budget? Yes, You Can Hire a Developer. With many newsrooms facing small or shrinking budgets, hiring a developer seems like an expense you can’t afford. Thomas Thoren, data reporter at The Lens, will explain why a developer can benefit the entire newsroom, based on past experiences from a news app team built from the ground up. Keep an eye out for additional speakers.
  • Table Talks: Developer Tools + Tech. Our Table Talks are a chance to meet with industry experts and your peers to talk through the issues you’re most passionate about related to development tools and technology. Note: topics will be announced closer to the conference and we are not taking questions for speakers in advance for Table Talks, since these are participatory conversations.

These sessions represent just a small section of what we’ll be focusing on at the conference this year. Be sure to check out the entire ONA16 program.

A 360 Tour of Visual Storytelling

Next month, many ONA16 sessions will show you how to improve your video storytelling skills. Take a look at these sessions focusing on video, virtual reality and 360 video.

New this year: You can now ask our speakers questions in advance of the conference. Get answers to your video questions and help speakers understand what you’re most interested in learning more about by posting a question on the session page. Just click through to the sessions below and drop your question in the embedded form.

  • Broadcast, Web Video and the Attention Economy. Online video can capture people’s attention in ways that print journalism can’t always do, but telling the news from an online video approach can mean taking on a very different mindset. Our team of experts will tell you how they have approached this challenge in a variety of ways. Nasr ul Hadi, ICGJ Knight Fellow – India; Molly Hughes, Director of Denver Post TV; Misty Montano, Digital Content Manager at 9NEWS KUSA and Chip Mahaney, National Director of News Recruitment at The E.E. Scripps Company, will talk about the workflow they’ve each used to produce high-quality web video, as well as best practices for gaining attention for your pieces.
  • Quick Guide to Your Basic 360/VR Toolkit: As 360 video and virtual reality have grown, so has the number of tools for creating them. Lakshmi Sarah, co-founder of Tiny World Productions, Kevin Tsukii, Immersive Video Lead for Immersive Group, and Nicholas Whitaker, Training and Development Manager for Google, will give an overview of affordable cameras, audio equipment and software to help you get started.
  • VR Technical Town Hall. This session, led by Robert Hernandez, Associate Professor of Professional Practice at USC Annenberg School of Journalism and ONA board member, is aimed at practitioners who are already experienced in creating VR pieces. This is a place to openly discuss best practices, tools, current and upcoming gear, along with what’s on the near horizon for this rapidly growing medium. Space is extremely limited for this session.
  • VR Technical Workshop: Introduction to Unity. The more accessible virtual reality becomes, the more we are learning about it and the more we experiment. True virtual reality isn’t just 360 video; it also contains computer-designed graphic elements. We’re very excited to have our well-versed speakers, Daniel Pacheco, Professor from the S.I. Newhouse School at Syracuse University, and Ashley Pinnick, artist, VR developer and storyteller, give you a crash course on the Unity game engine. Unity is one of the most common tools for creating a true VR experience. This session will include an overview of what Unity has to offer, some pointers for getting started and resources for learning more about the platform. Though this is an introductory course, we consider this a technical workshop. This is aimed at people who are making VR content now. Please make sure you download the personal license version of Unity before the session (and preferably before you meet the hotel’s WiFi).

We’re looking forward to talking about how news organizations can create better experiences on video and beyond. These sessions represent just a small samping of what we’ll be focusing on at the conference this year. Be sure to check out the complete ONA16 program.