Posted in Conferences & Conventions, journalism

10 Things I Learned At #ONA17

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I thought I’d go ahead and get this down on the blog while it’s still fresh in my mind. If you didn’t attend this year’s Online News Association conference in D.C., you missed one of the best events of the year.  Here are 10 things I learned — and start getting ready for #ONA18 in Austin, Texas!

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The ONA HBCU Digital Fellows with Instructor Michael Grant and Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times.

1. I’m excited about the new generation of digital journalists of color. Between the HBUC Digital Fellows, the CNN Diversity Fellows, the MJ Bear Fellows and the ladies I met at the ProPublica Diversity Breakfast, I think we’re pretty well covered as they all move ahead in their careers.

2. Michelle Johnson of Boston University and Katia Hetter of CNN kick ass! These women, along with their team of mentors, ran this year’s Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab. Not only did they oversee the stories written by students, but they also focused on innovations including new tools and creative storytelling. Check out their stories and innovation here.

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#NABJatONA

3. #MediaDiversity is alive!! I saw it in what was a record number of overall and diverse attendees in D.C., and NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NLGJA were all represented. This is impressive because it wasn’t so long ago that there were conferences where I could physically count the diverse attendee. I also saw it on the panels and at the sold-out diversity reception.

Doug-Mitchell4. There are employers who want to do better. We had more than 20 hiring managers attend year three of “Workshop for Inclusive Recruitment, Hiring and Retention.” Led by Doug Mitchell, speakers (including me) discussed trends and tips on creating and maintaining diverse newsrooms.

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5. Amy Webb STILL rocks with her “10 Tech Trends For Journalists” session. We all know that you need to get there early if you want a seat. This year, Amy handed out free copies of her book, “The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream” and Google set up their coffee bar to have us caffeinated for her talk. If you saw her presentation at NABJ Philly in 2011, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Click here for access to a Dropbox with all her data for the trends. And click here to watch the one-hour presentation.

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Tiffany Lew, me and Ayumi Fukuda Bennett, left. Ayumi’s sketchnote of the #ONA17 opening keynote address.

6. Sketchnoting is a thing. For real! I was a mentor at the ProPublica Diversity Breakfast and I was paired with Ayumi Fukuda Bennett and Tiffany Lew (who are both great). When I asked Ayumi what she did, she pulled out a Moleskin notebook and POW — it was an amazing sketchnote of the opening #ONA17 keynote address. She does this live and is done with a sketch 20 minutes after a session is over.  See a video of her doing her thing here. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website on Medium. And seriously — you need to hire her for your next workshop, panel or event. Seriously.

7. Facebook is here to help. They held office hours on the exhibit floor where specialists took appointments to teach skills. I took the CrowdTangle and Instagram consults and I can’t wait to play with them. You can check out some lessons here.

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8. The ONA Midway was a great place to get down and dirty with tools and tech. I’m sad that I only had a few minutes in this cool space.

9. We have another stellar (and diverse) group of ONA board candidates. You can check out the video from the Lighting Round session, where 11 board candidates made their pitches on why they should be one of the five candidates elected.

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10. There wasn’t enough coffee!! There was a coffee shop on site and Google had a coffee bar across from registration. But the lines for both were always long, so I got my java fix in the Student Newsroom and the very kind folks at the Knight Foundation Lounge.

Benét J. Wilson is the board secretary for Online News Association. She is the immediate past VP-Digital of NABJ. She is an independent aviation journalist and content writer based in Baltimore. 

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