Diana López’s ONA23 guide for early-career journalists

Diana López is Program Coordinator at the Online News Association (ONA). Diana first connected with ONA as a conference volunteer. Now she coordinates a range of fellowship programs, resources, volunteer opportunities and other community initiatives for journalists. She’s also a staff liaison for ONA’s Governance Committee and the Vision25 collaboration to advance racial equity in newsrooms.

ONA23 is an excellent place for people just getting started in their journalism career to find inspiration for their path in the industry. The conference provides plenty of sessions for learning about emerging trends in the industry as well as networking spaces, connections to recruiters and even opportunities for getting guidance from peers.

With so many things happening at once, it is easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve pulled together daily suggestions for must-see sessions with early-career journalists in mind — check out the list so you can feel prepared to make the most of your ONA23 experience.

One note for my shy friends: If the idea of asking questions into the mic at a session makes your heart race, I got a great tip for you! This year, we will close out every single day with Table Talks, where you’ll get a chance to interact with your fellow peers and presenters in a smaller and more relaxed setting. Stop by to join casual conversations discussing the big ideas and lessons learned from the day!

Wednesday, Aug. 23

We are kicking off the conference with a day focused on career development. The lineup is designed to set journalists entering the field up for success and to connect them with industry leaders. Our discussions will range from workflow tips to tactics that will help you drive change, even when you’re not the boss. Here are some of the sessions to prioritize:

  • Valuing Your Time, Your Ideas, Yourself: When starting your career, it is tough to set boundaries and be heard by senior leadership. This session will focus on tips for managing your time and workflow, ensuring you give yourself a break, and making certain managers are listening to your ideas, big and small.
    • Speakers: Niketa Patel, Senior Director, Executive Programs, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and Divine L. Williams, Program Coordinator, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY
  • Wonder Tools: 23 Ways To Boost Your Productivity and Creativity: With Jeremy Caplan, Director of Teaching and Learning, CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, as your guide, gather curated examples of new resources and creative uses to make your work more productive and enjoyable.
  • Leadership Skill Mapping: This facilitated, interactive workshop is for early-career participants interested in leadership roles. You’ll create a matrix of leadership skills, current skills needed in newsrooms and a list of your own strengths. This way, you will have a roadmap for which skills to develop next as you build your career.
    • Speakers: Niketa Patel, Senior Director, Executive Programs, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and Divine L. Williams, Program Coordinator, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

You’ll also get to hear how the 2023 MJ Bear fellows got buy-in on their ideas and are making creative projects happen, with moderator Benét J. Wilson, Director, Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship. Plus, we are facilitating a workshop to create a roadmap on which skills you should develop next as you build your career.

View the conference schedule for the latest session timings and details. We are encouraging RSVPs for the Wednesday sessions, so we can keep an eye on capacity and create an optimal learning experience. You can access the options for RSVPs when you register for the conference. If you already completed ONA23 registration, you can make changes any time to add RSVPs by clicking on the personalized link in your confirmation email and choosing sessions under “Select Courses and Events.”

One more tip: ONA Director of Programs Meghan Murphy will lead a session Wednesday afternoon on how to successfully navigate the rest of the conference. I highly recommend attending this ONA23 orientation, especially if it’s your first time at ONA’s conference.

Thursday, Aug. 24

For my TikTokers, get yourself to the session You Have All This Video, Why Isn’t It On TikTok? Led by ONA Board members Kristen B. Reed and Andrew Fitzgerald, this session is your guide to how newsrooms can adapt their video strategies and keep up with the times.

Friday, Aug. 25

Stay well-informed regarding DEI advances in journalism at Real Talk About The Status Of DEI In Journalism. You will hear from Versha Sharma, Editor-in-Chief at Teen Vogue and ONA Board member, as she takes stock of where we are now and how much progress has actually been made.

The future of journalism is collaborative! Learn about The Power of Collaboration via a case study featuring successful Black publishers who will share insights and strategies for achieving long-term sustainability through technology collaboration.

Saturday, Aug. 26

In keeping with the spirit of collaboration, join the workshop Breaking Boundaries: Collaborative Solutions-Mapping For New Storytelling Possibilities to discuss new, visually engaging formats for digital news delivery.

Your next move

ONA’s conference is about learning and fun! So don’t forget to plan time to connect with other community members beyond the sessions. We will have plenty of networking opportunities throughout the week and will share regular updates via the conference newsletter.

At the top of the networking list: Add the ONA23 Welcome Event to your calendar now. We’re hosting this festive event Thursday, Aug. 24, 5:30–7:30pm, at the conference hotel as a special tour of the flavors of Philadelphia!

Register for ONA23

P.S: If you need a little help making the case to attend the conference, we shared some strategies on how to convince your boss and colleagues why you can’t afford to miss out!

Note: This post was updated on Aug. 2 with speaker information.