Site sponsor: ONA 2003 Conference and Awards Banquet, Chicago

It's Over

Jonathan Dube asked me to write a blog entry because of what I said at the podium when I accepted the Online Journalism Award for General Excellence (Independent, Under 200K) for the Web site I edit,

To the extent that the site should be recognized for any innovations (as I said, more or less coherently), these are largely the result of inspiration from previous ONA conventions. Our comprehensive coverage of the local elections came after I talked to Ruth Gersh, head of AP Digital (or whatever it's called now), at the 2000 convention at Columbia.

The Community Gazettes, a pioneering effort at community journalism, were developed after I discovered two sites at the 2001 convention in Berkeley, Village Soup and Themeparkinsider, both of whom used regular readers as professional journalists.

The idea for the newcomers' weblogs -- blogs written by people who are new to New York City (some of whom have not even arrived in the city yet) -- came from Adrian Holovaty, whom I met at the 2002 convention back in New York.

I have picked up lots of ideas at the 2003 convention in Chicago, but I suppose I'll have to wait to see what happens in 2004. Meanwhile, I need to get to sleep.

Jonathan Mandell
Gotham Gazette

Posted 11/15/2003 11:24:16 PM | Permalink

Why Awards Matter

Some people routinely skip awards dinners. After all, it's just a list of winners and you can always catch up later. But the ONA attendees who made that choice this go round missed a lot. Anyone who cares about the present and the future of online j couldn't help but be moved by Max Blumenthal's stirring acceptance of the independent feature journalism award for's "Day of the Dead". Anytime someone wonders why online journalism matters I'll think of Max's passion and commitment to telling the story of the women of Juarez. I'll think of the journalists of producing exemplary work under the most trying circumstances. I'll think of the students from Fairbanks who made the dry words of the Patriot Act come to life. And I'll think about the work being done now that we'll hear about next year. -- Staci D. Kramer

Posted 11/15/2003 10:24:33 PM | Permalink

Thanks ONA from!

We are interactive media producers at, the online partner of the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina. We've just finished up a weekend at the ONA conference and we are busting with new ideas and renewed enthusiasm for our profession. We were excited to see so many mid-sized papers win at the awards ceremony tonight. Although we didn't take home the glass trophy for our project, Against Their Will , we were flattered, encouraged and feel validated to have been a finalist and are leaving with the prize of new knowledge and friends.

Thanks ONA, we can't wait for next year.
Katherine Elkins and Jennifer Falor

Posted 11/15/2003 10:22:49 PM | Permalink

Predictions for the future

In his opening keynote Jack Fuller may have said things are changing too rapidly for us to predict the future, but how could we get some of the sharpest minds in digital media together and not put them on the spot? ;)

Here are the predictions the "Back to the Future" panelists gave for how they see their businesses in three years:

-- Retha Hill, Vice President for Content, People will interact with TV in a way they can't now.
-- Dean Wright, Vice President and Editor in Chief, More visual, with more video.
-- Esther Dyson, Chairman, Edventure Holdings Inc.: My newsletter will be a blog.
-- Ruth Gersh, Editorial Director, AP Digital: Print will no longer drive the AP. AP will create things in the order they need to be filed.
-- Leonard Apcar, Editor in Chief, The New York Times on the Web: We will not be wedded to the newspaper as the central core of The New York Times.
-- Mitch Gelman, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of We'll have more on-demand access to video, via TiVo and the Web, and thus more choice.
-- Richard Deverell, Head of News Interactive, BBC News: We'll have more intelligent engagement with our audiences, and a broader diversity of the devices delivering news.

Here are the one-liners they ended the panel with:

Deverell: "2004 will be the year video takes off."
Gelman: "We're going to look to the audience for the direction we're going to follow..."
"Mitch! How could you say that?" quipped Apcar.
But Mitch wasn't finished. "...and, of course, to The New York Times." Hilarity ensued.
Apcar: "The home page will become less important than it is today."
Gersh: "The Nigerian e-mail will turn out to be true." More hilarity.
Esther Dyson: "Down with news nuggets."
Retha Hill: "Down with blogs."
Dean Wright: "An online journalist will win a Pulitzer."

We'll have to revisit these predictions next year... Better get started on your Pulitzer candidates! (and reply to that Nigerian e-mail...)

-- Jonathan Dube

Posted 11/15/2003 10:14:22 PM | Permalink

This is Great, Let's Expand

I always take away such great insights and tidbits from the professionals I meet here at the annual ONA conference that it makes me sad when it is over. Why do I have to wait a full year to do this again? Couldn't we do more in the way of seminars and regional gatherings? This would also allow us to share information with our regional competitors. We can learn more focused information when discussing among people who face our same challenges everyday. Sure, I can grab kernels of information from the smaller sites in our network, but I can relate more to regional competitors on a more than annual basis.

Hope to see you all sooner.

Jonathan McCarthy, Editor, Special Projects -

Posted 11/15/2003 09:18:17 PM | Permalink

A welcome military perspective

Maj. Riccoh Player brought starch, patriotism and a refreshing openness to the panel, Covering War in a Digital Desert. As a Marine now doing duty as a fellow with the Chicago Tribune, Player gave his own personal insight to the issues of embedded journalists. This ex-public affairs officer for international travel for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had an insider's view to the release of information to the public about the war on Iraq. It's time to bring "out of the box thinking," he says, to the way the military handles the press.

Among the challenges, he acknowledged, is the military's roundabout, and time-consuming, system of notifying next of kin of the death of loved ones. With broadcast and online mediums able to report immediately from the field, delays in such notification need to be addressed.

He admitted it's hard to get generals, used to getting things done their way and not being questioned, to respond to new ways of behaving. But, he said, Marines are a competitive type, and like to be on the winning front. While Player admits to preferring "real action" as a "warrior" to chichat, he's also willing to fight this particular battle.

I say, make that my public affairs officer. Better yet, make him a general.

Andrea Panciera, editor,, the Web Site of The Providence Journal

Posted 11/15/2003 09:01:54 PM | Permalink


Our world of news is changing. When once we had only the differentiation of radio, television and print, we now have this new thing of which we seem only to have a dim awareness. This new thing is the Internet, and Interactivity is its primary virtue.

To most minds at this conference, Interactivity seems to represent the bells and whistles of the medium to present news to an audience. I say most because in some cases there are those who are also thinking about the idea of Interactivity as a user to user activity. The first is easy and fits into the traditional way of doing things. More precisely offering a product to a mass audience.

But the focus that has been put on blogs shows that the second, and harder type of Interactivity, may be finding a place at the discussion table. It may be the case that the New York Times is making its tepid attempts at introducing blogs (an attempt in its collective mind - one suspects - that they want to do it right and if it doesn't happen the way NYT would prefer it'll be declared a failure, which is why they have also buried it). But others are seeing for what it may infact be, the empowerment of an audience which provides it with an avenue of ownership over the site and provides them with a voice and a direct involvement in the creation of content.

We need to take the time to rethink what journalism means in the new media environment. What does it mean to be a print journalist, a radio journalist, a television journalist? What does print, what does television, what does radio do best? What is so fundamental to each of these media that distinguishes them in the Interactive media age and how do we make the most of it? Radio, print and television are not going to go away in the Interactive age, but what do they mean and what are the fundamental attributes of these media that make them distinct in the new media age?

We have a great deal to think about and we need to do be talking about it.

Christopher C. Paine
Indiana University/Herald-Times of Bloomington

Posted 11/15/2003 08:41:21 PM | Permalink

Dinner Discussion (response)

... Response to Travis:

And earlier Andrew Sullivan, in response to a question about whether blogging should be taught in J-schools said (jokingly?) that that would surely spell the death of blogging

Dorian Benkoil

Posted 11/15/2003 08:29:26 PM | Permalink

Choice quotes

Some things that stuck out (to me) from today's panels and keynote:

"Is that journalism? Who cares?!" -- editor Teresa Hanfin, talking about inviting two avid fans and frequent posters to her site's opinion boards to write essays arguing the merits of opposing football coaches

"We're parasites in some respects. Or we're editors in other respects. (Audience laughs. He smiles.) I guess that's a good insight, isn't it?" Andrew Sullivan, on how bloggers rely on the work of others, then site portions of their work

"I think the Wall Street culture is poisonous ... everything is codified, risk is measured. Journalists have courage but the people who fund them often don't." Esther Dyson

Dorian Benkoil (

Posted 11/15/2003 08:28:15 PM | Permalink

Dinner discussion

Lots of people benefit from each panel, but dinner conversation is much more idiosyncratic, a real crap shoot in fact.

The folks at the Washington Post's table (they sat close to the stage in hopes of a good outcome to the awards) talked about whether journalism schools should focus more on journalistic principles or the latest technology training. The final decision -- both, in good measure.

Travis Smith, Editor, blog here)

Posted 11/15/2003 08:05:33 PM | Permalink

My brain's "hard drive" is overflowing

Intense, tense, at times. Jack Fuller's "nice print guy who doesn't get it" keynote unified us, but there's also tension between those doing traditional newsgathering they dump to the web (rather than to press) and bloggers. (And there's some negativity about blogging, ranging from hostility to a patronizing, "We'll see if blogs are still big next year.")

Last night, brain burn was so intense I skipped the trip to the Trib newsroom and instead went around the corner a coupla blocks to Bill's Blues Bar. Dancing to Charlie Love and the Silky Smooth Blues Band was the only way I was gonna recharge for today. (Others said they went straight to bed.)

On our blogging panel, Denise Polverine of Cleveland Online said that until you blog yourself, you can't know how empowering it is. Denise, Tom Regan, Jeff Jarvis and I had very few differences among us -- we were a team from the future, reporting on its shape.

I just asked Esther Dyson publicly, as an unaffiliated futurist, how she thinks news and information will enter our lives after the quantum leap, the watershed. She said she thinks Wall Street is poisonous, and that (wealthy) citizens will have to step up to insure news can still be gathered.

"News philanthropy?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, "if necessary."

You could feel the ripple go through the room.

Andrew Sullivan seemed nicer than on his blog -- he wasn't outraged at anything. He was a good sport to face this crowd, which he said he found intimidating. And he was a great lead-in to our panel of news bloggers since he got everybody up to speed on transparency: We didn't have to go there.

If the net had stayed up, this would have been smoother, but the retreat to the old-fashioned way -- speaking our truth rather than showing it -- was perfectly in keeping with the clash of old and new here.

There's one thing I forgot to say anywhere, so I'll say it here: The most important story facing us now is the integrity of electronic voting. We all know how easily one file can be uploaded to replace another. With the stakes so high, the campaigns and our votes could be a charade that plays out with no relation to the election results reported. Don't let that happen.

-- Sheila Lennon, Subterranean Hom

Posted 11/15/2003 05:50:05 PM | Permalink

ONA in the blogosphere

Gosh, it's humbling to post after the great Andrew Sullivan... Connectivity problems aside, it seems that the biggest roadblock to a robust conference weblog is that so many attendees are covering the conference in their own blogs. So it seems appropriate to give them some props here. In no particular order:

> Jeff Jarvis did a nice play-by-play of Sullivan's speech.

> Mary Hodder has plentiful notes on Jack Fuller's keynote and the "Strategies for Growing Our Audience" panel.

> Staci Kramer is guest blogging the business side of things on

> Poynter's Convergence Chaser has a write-up on -- no surprise -- the convergence panel (among other things).

Anybody I missed? Let me know and I'll add to this entry.

--Eric Ulken, co-chair, ONA student newsroom and de-facto conference blog troubleshooter

Posted 11/15/2003 03:02:22 PM | Permalink

After the keynote

It's good to know that even the ONA has blogger and tech problems. This is my second attempt at posting to the ONA blog. Bottom line: great conference. It's actually very comforting to hang out with a bunch of human beings in the flesh who are also in the strange world of Internet journalism. I'm so used to communicating with people via email or, at best, IMs, in this endeavor that I almost forgot the real people behind this new universe. It's been great to meet them, to tackle questions to which I don't yet know the answer and to feel a little more connected with the rest of this world.

And I got to shake hands with the great Jeff Jarvis! Glenn, eat your heart out.

--Andrew Sullivan

Posted 11/15/2003 02:55:04 PM | Permalink

thoughts on the conf

tips: if a panel is worth having, worth listening to, you shouldn't tripple it up with other panels. i really wanted to see two panels at the same time, and don't like having to choose. also, need stronger wifi, and fans in the rooms... thanks, loved Andrew Sullivan. why not a wiki so that all of us here could blog this together, during panels from our laptops?

mary hodder

ps, i'm blogging it, as is jeff jarvis:

Posted 11/15/2003 01:13:16 PM | Permalink

Get that man a blog

Jack Fuller was right on the money yesterday when he said that we in the online news industry need to continually "experiment and adapt." However, when asked about blogs, he launched into an assault on the entire storytelling form as if 1) All blogs are unedited; and 2) That's absolutely essential because no reporter can be trusted to maintain journalistic integrity without an editor hovering nearby. Someone needs to explain to him that a blog is simply a tool. And the way professional journalists use that tool should be in such a way that retains our core journalistic values.

--Ken Sands, managing editor of online and new media, The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.

Posted 11/15/2003 10:09:01 AM | Permalink

Convergence defined

Convergence is when your site finally loads just as your laptop's batteries die.

--Stuart Chirls, Editor, The Journal of Commerce Online

Posted 11/15/2003 10:07:02 AM | Permalink

Is it print? (cleaner version)

A few folks, myself included, are concerned that the conference feels like it's for the "Newspaper Online News Association" and that we may be too much in a print mentality -- just at a time when users are in large numbers truly using the Web for so much more than straight text.

--Dorian Benkoil, (who also has a strong print background)

Posted 11/15/2003 10:00:40 AM | Permalink

This is a group weblog for discussing topics from the 2003 Online News Association conference. Since this is a gathering of online journalists, ONA wanted to make the conference as interactive as possible. So we invited participants to share their insights in this weblog.

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