Articles by

Jane McDonnell

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    Jane McDonnell is the executive director of the Online News Association (ONA), a nonprofit member organization for digital journalists. With Knight Foundation support, the group is expanding its ONA Local program to accelerate the adoption of the best digital practices in journalism.  Photo credit: Michael Bolden.Never underestimate the power of connections. In 2008, the Online News Association launched ONA Local, groups of like-minded journalists in large and small cities who organized themselves -- meeting up in bars, swapping war stories, sharing the excitement and fears they felt about the potential of this digital journalism thing.Seven years later, there are 50 unique groups around the world, ranging from the largest (2,000-plus members each in Washington, D.C., and New York) to the smallest (29 and growing in Detroit) to the newest (ONA Singapore). Events range from simple get-togethers to sophisticated monthly meetups with high-end speakers and trainers. They all share ideas for innovative ways to cover news, spark collaborations, use the latest tools, and job openings.In the beginning, we helped by finding group leaders, offering resources, trainers and organizing principles and -- very important -- watching, listening and learning. What we learned is that each group had its own ecosystem and unique culture, translating into different needs, reflecting the communities they lived and worked in. Combining forces gave them not only support but a resolve to innovate.
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    This article is cross-posted with permission from ONA.  Music, maps and mold. That may not entirely sum up what we were shooting for when we opened applications last year for the first Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, but it comes close. The $1+ million competitive fund, aimed at seeding experiments in J-schools, received 125 entries in its first year from schools hoping for the resources to reinvent their curriculum and local news. The dozen schools selected each won $35,000 micro-grants by highlighting collaboration, innovation and solid planning. Winning teams included some combination of students, researchers, media professionals, educators, developers and designers, all focused on community engagement. The Challenge Fund is the brainchild of a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Democracy Fund, This year, the Challenge Fund is expanding with additional support from the Rita Allen Foundation.
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    Photo credit: Heikki Pölönen. The following is cross-posted from the Online News Association's website.  The 2014 Online Journalism Awards -- the only comprehensive set of prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism around the world -- open today, marking their 14th anniversary. It's worth taking a spin through their short but distinguished history, since they collectively mirror the stratospheric arc of digital journalism.  The OJAs were launched in May 2000 by ONA's pioneering founders. As you might suspect, there weren't a ton of entries that year, in part because there weren't a ton of "online" journalists. There were only 11 categories to choose from, with titles like "GENERAL EXCELLENCE IN ONLINE JOURNALISM, ORIGINAL TO THE WEB" and "CREATIVE USE OF THE MEDIUM, ORIGINAL." In hindsight, these categories look like baby steps, but they signify the commitment, excitement and sense of possibility surrounding journalism and the brave new world of the 'net.  As digital media exploded, so did the number of OJA entries and categories. Over this time, our dedicated volunteer chairs and committees were prescient enough to know they needed to be nimble, viewing each year's awards with an eye toward the breakneck evolution of online news. Categories emerged focusing on technical tools and welcoming news start-ups and nontraditional media. ONA also was able to put its money where its awards were, thanks to generous and forward-thinking support from the Knight and Gannett Foundations that gave winners the encouragement to keep the innovation coming.  This year, under the direction of Chair Josh Hatch, the OJAs open with 33 categories. Ten of the awards now come with a total of $52,500 in prize money, honoring data journalism, visual digital storytelling, investigative journalism and technical innovation in the service of journalism, as well as those important touchstones from 2000, public service and general excellence. Some things should never change. 
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    The following blog post, written by ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell, is cross-posted from journalists.org. Photo credit: Flickr user David Moreau. When we put out the call to J-school educators for the first round of experiments to #hackcurriculum for the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, we already knew we were hitting a rich vein just waiting to be mined. We saw the momentum in our Facebook Educators group, where a virtual cohort of nearly 600 digitally hungry and committed academics exchange rapid-fire ideas on favorite tools, curriculum tips, job openings, how-tos and student motivation. We heard it in the halls of our annual conference, where academic attendance is climbing and more and more mentors compete to work with the best and brightest in the Student Newsroom. And we hear it in the frustration of committed, multitasking teachers who are searching for the means to creatively engage their students in the community and work with local media. The four foundations supporting the Challenge Fund — the Democracy Fund, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism, Knight and McCormick — had long been on the same wavelength. The time was overdue to provide some space and support, up to $1 million worth, for experimentation in the academic and media ecosystem.
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    Searchlights and Sunglasses, via YouTube Journalism educators can now apply for up to $35,000 in micro-grants from a $1 million challenge fund encouraging universities to create teams that will experiment with new ways of providing news and information. The Online News Association will administer the fund. Below, ONA Executive Director Jane McDonnell writes about the challenge. You and your fellow j-school colleagues have been talking for far too long about that innovative experiment that will shake up your curriculum. There's a talented student who just needs the right mix of collaboration and inspiration to fulfill her promise. You have a media partner willing to work with you and a cool engagement platform in mind. Researcher: Check. Designer? Could be. Developer? In the wings.  RELATED LINKS Continue the conversation with #edshift and at edshift.org.  "Pencils down everyone. Your digital toolbox is here': Five lessons from 'Searchlight and Sunglasses" on KnightBlog  "Getting students to ask tough questions: My 5 favorite parts of "Searchlights and Sunglasses" on KnightBlog "What curriculum innovators can learn from 'Searchlights and Sunglasses'" on KnightBlog "Navigating Knight's new book: Choose Your Own Adventure" on KnightBlog You've got the right ingredients to apply for the 2014 Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education, and inject up to $35,000 in the form of a micro-grant that can push your idea to launch and -- we hope -- make both your curriculum and your local news landscape stronger. The competition, run by the Online News Association and funded by a collaborative that includes the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund. It will support live news experiments that further the development of teaching hospital models in journalism education, in which innovative projects are created by teams of educators, students, professionals, technicians, and researchers. Micro-grants will be awarded to 15 to 25 projects to be completed during the 2014-2015 academic year. “Your project should stretch the limits of what you think you can do,” said Irving Washington, ONA’s director of operations and Challenge Fund administrator, in advising applicants. “Don’t be afraid to fail. The goal is to empower journalism schools to lead professional innovation and thought leadership. The size of your school or program shouldn’t limit the project’s ambition.” Teams will be selected based on ideas that show the most potential for: encouraging collaborative, student-produced local news coverage bridging the professor-professional gap using innovative techniques and technologies and producing shared learnings from their digital-age news experiments