Online News Association to expand local programming, advance journalism innovation with $800,000 from Knight Foundation

Press Release

September 24, 2015


LOS ANGELES — Sept. 24, 2015  —  The Online News Association (ONA) today announced the expansion of a program that supports local news by bringing together people who are passionate about journalism and technology to share best practices in digital journalism. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $800,000 to extend and improve the program’s effectiveness in cities and towns across the country.

Related Link

"Why local journalists can help save local journalism" on Knight Blog by Jane McDonnell, 9/24/2015

Since 2008, volunteers from the ONA Local program in 50 communities have been organizing regular meetings that bring together local journalists, technologists and journalism educators to learn from each other about new tools and techniques. The gatherings produce more than local training workshops and a peer-to-peer learning network. They support the changing journalism ecosystem made up of people committed to using new approaches to inform their communities. Participants are from local newspapers, online news sites, television stations, public media stations and digital upstarts, local universities and nonprofits. In the largest cities, ONA reports 100-150 attendees at monthly meetings.

Knight support will expand and help build on the success of ONA Local. ONA will bring more resources to its current network of local groups, develop partnerships with leading journalism and tech organizations, and create new groups in at least 20 communities.

“To accelerate the digital transformation of local news, we need to support people at both traditional news organizations, online news sites and digital upstarts who are committed to innovation and embracing new ways to inform and engage people,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “By expanding ONA’s work we hope to expand digital journalism training opportunities, support emerging leaders and strengthen the network of people working to advance the practice of journalism.

“ONA Local groups are a strong example of how networked journalists can encourage and teach each other,” said Online News Association Executive Director Jane McDonnell. “We’re delighted to be able to offer them more targeted help, and respond to the great need we see for these connections across the country.”

In the fall, the Online News Association will use Knight funding to hire a community engagement manager, who will start new groups and offer strong support for ONA Local leaders, including training, networking and annual conference attendance. In addition, a data-driven assessment and evaluation will be completed to develop a better understanding of local news needs in individual communities and improve the ONA Local program.

The announcement was made on the opening day of the 2015 Online News Association Conference (ONA15), which continues through Sept. 26.

Support for the Online News Association is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to advance excellence in journalism and to help news organizations inform people in communities of all sizes through experimentation, innovation and leadership. Knight has made many investments in this area, including the $5 million Knight Local Media Initiative, which has supported more than 50 online news sites around the country. 

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 the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight 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


Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager, Online News Association, [email protected].

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]