Another ONA conference is in the books, and it was an interesting one. This year’s programming was reflective of all the ways the world has changed for journalism in the two years since I last attended.
The key takeaways this year were largely introspective and philosophical — and it seemed to me that technical skills were diminished in the agenda.
Truly, that is a reflection of our state of affairs.
Theme 1: Encouraging diversity by building trust
Many sessions returned to this idea of fixing the echo chamber problem in media by working in advance of a big story to find common ground with groups that don’t behave or think like core audiences. If they trust you in advance, through personal or social media relationships, the idea is that they will be willing to consume and inform future reporting.
Additionally, panelists asked, if diverse groups aren’t a part of your newsroom’s scope, why would diverse candidates ever apply for jobs?
Theme 2: Fighting misinformation
Multiple sessions encouraged journalists to slow down, think carefully and avoid adding fuel to the fires set by manipulative and offensive trolls who are working daily to invade our civil discourse. While I wish there was a fire extinguisher, the steps being taken did seem like a good start.
Professional researchers are diving into the agendas of those trolls and the tech companies who’ve naively given them a platform. They shared lessons based in learning about this enemy, knowing their goals or code words, and blocking them from entering our own lexicon.
Theme 3: Don’t give up
Through all of it, attendees encouraged each other to think deeply about the industry and their small corner of it. By honoring good work, and reflecting on the bad, there was an unmistakeable sense of resolve.
No one suggested that the battle was lost. No panelist said they had no answers to our challenges.
Instead, all were encouraged to work for the future together.