Online News Association 2010 Conference Recap

November 8, 2010

By: Cecile Oreste, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/DC

Business Wire Media Relations Specialist Cecile Oreste was among the 1,200 media professionals in attendance at the Online News Association (ONA) 2010 Conference in Washington, DC. Online journalists, educators and students from around the country came to the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel Thursday, October 28th through Saturday, October 30th to learn from leaders in the industry, including AOL and NPR among others.

The four day conference started on Thursday with a variety of hands-on workshops including photography, video and audio field trips that shared best practices and techniques. ONA also organized a career summit and job fair featuring recruiters from American Public Media, Associated Press, Bloomberg Government, Gannett and Mashable. Yahoo! News sponsored the opening night reception at The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, where attendees took in some local culture in between appetizers and drinks.

TBD, Washington’s hyperlocal news source, started off Friday morning with their keynote session, “Starting from Scratch.” Laura McGann, Assistant Editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, moderated the discussion between General Manager Jim Brady, Social Media Producer Mandy Jenkins, Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry and TBD Editor Erik Wemple. During the keynote event, McGann questioned Wemple’s decision to devote prime real estate to TBD.com’s feature “The List.” Wemple’s response generated several tweets and also lots of laughs. He suggested that if you don’t have something terrible on your site, then you’re not trying hard enough. You have to fail many times before you get it right, he said.

Saturday’s sessions began with a keynote discussion about Wikileaks and also featured a lunch with Knight News Challenge winners. Other Saturday sessions included “Turning Bits into Bucks,” which discussed entrepreneurial journalism; and “Ten Tech Trends in ’10″ with Amy Webb, CEO of Webbmedia Group, an international digital media consulting firm that advises companies on emerging technology. In addition, Webb is on the Board of Directors for ONA and will serve as Chair of the association’s new Advisory Board.

Some of the trends Webb discussed during her session included the 2011 tablets coming to market and mobile image scanning (QR codes). According to Webb, these two topics, along with open source technology and design, were major themes throughout the conference. “Lots of journalists are eager to use web tools to enhance the work they do, and there were many opportunities this year to learn all about the latest offerings,” she said.

Tanja Aitamurto, Innovation Journalism Fellow at Stanford and blogger for The Huffington Post, said the conference provided insight on new production and business models in journalism, and also introduced the idea of journalism as only one of many products media organizations offer. She brought up a positive message presented by Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune during the “Fund My Media 2.0″ session on Thursday. According to Smith, there is still need for high-quality journalism; and where there is demand, there will be ways to produce and fund it. Aitamurto also added that in order for journalism to succeed in the future, “innovation, open mindedness and experiments are very much needed.”

The conference concluded Saturday night with the Online Journalism Awards Banquet. Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour brought the laughs as the master of ceremonies while MSNBC.com, NPR, ProPublica and CNN.com took home top honors.

Overall, the conference was a great opportunity to learn from and network with online journalism professionals. It also maintained a positive outlook on the future of journalism during a time when news organizations face a number of challenges. For more information about the Online News Association, please visit their website at www.journalists.org.


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