ONA celebrates 10th anniversary

October 2, 2009 | By | Category: 10th Anniversary Celebration, Student Newsroom
Graphic by Nicole Fallek

Graphic by Nicole Fallek

In 1999, as the World Wide Web became the mainstay of information delivery, several working members of the online press came together to support the wave of digital media. Now, the 1,700 professionals and academics who make up the Online News Association are trying to figure out what’s next.

ONA members—whose principal livelihoods include gathering, producing and studying news for digital presentation—are celebrating their association’s 10th anniversary at the annual Online News Association Conference Oct. 1-3 in San Francisco.

Executive Director Jane McDonnell praised the association for being one of the first to recognize the potential of the Internet, and one of the only journalism organizations whose membership continues to grow.

“I think the beauty of ONA is we really had a head start,” she said. “A few small online journalism groups had started, but ours was really the first and most advanced.”

McDonnell drew a difference between “traditional” and “digital” media but said she believes that while the two may never form a complete circle, they are certainly gravitating toward each other.

“Traditional journalists are seeing more and more how valuable community journalists and bloggers are,” said the executive director, who has a long history in the worlds of digital journalism and nonprofit organizations. “There’s a feeling that we need to work together, not compete against each other, and that’s a very healthy thing.”

And this healthy collaboration has included multiple forms of media ever since the first ONA meeting took place in Chicago a decade ago, said past ONA president Douglas Feaver. “It was a good spectrum of both newspaper and electronic media,” he said. “Even all three TV networks were at that meeting.”

As independent journalists look to move their work online, ONA reaches out not only to them but also to technologists who have studied the trends and trajectory of online media. For McDonnell, this is the future of mainstream media.

“We definitely see the way journalism is shifting – it’s more like a tsunami at this point, moving very rapidly,” McDonnell said. “We’re pretty well placed to understand that and react to that very quickly.”

After 10 years of promoting that understanding, ONA shows no signs of slowing down. This year’s three-day conference  features workshops and presentations, a student newsroom and a range of speakers, including two headliners who have transformed the landscape of online media: Twitter CEO Evan Williams and BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone.

For Feaver, a founding member of the association who now believes the most pressing issue facing journalism is creating a profitable online advertising model, the annual conference has always been the most effective platform for discussions on the future of media.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that is in a given room that not any one individual can possibly possess,” Feaver said. “At the conference, we all want to know that we’re in this together.”

For more information on the Online News Association and this year’s conference, visit www.journalists.org.

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