ona15-suggestion-boxThis is the third in a three-part series of posts on our Suggestion Box — your opportunity to pitch ideas, people and issues we should share and discuss at ONA15. Check out part 1 to find out what makes for a great pitch and part 2 on some ideas we’ll be exploring.

Our Suggestion Box, which closed on April 10, helps ensure we cover the most important trends and topics in digital journalism.

We’re often asked what the process is for selecting sessions for the annual ONA conference. If you’re interested to know what happens to the hundreds of ideas we receive, read on!

Step 1: Read Every Idea and Nominate The Best

Mid April / Early May

Ideas come to us from staff, ONA Board members, our Program Team, and our Suggestion Box. The Program Team — a diverse volunteer group of professionals and students — reviews each and every idea. We had more than 400 ideas last year, so this is not an easy task!

The group is looking for the best and most innovative ideas and presenters to help move digital journalism forward. They review the proposals based on the criteria outlined here. We ask the Program Team to come up with a “short list” of sessions. In the end, this list usually accounts for 60 to 80 percent of our final conference programming.

Step 2: Create a Draft Program

Late May

Once the Program Team completes its review, ONA staff go through the list of recommended sessions and speakers and begin selecting ideas. We give the pitches a deeper look for quality and speaker diversity. We sometimes combine sessions on similar issues or ask submitters to add another speaker to their roster.

By the end of May, the conference schedule is 80 percent complete. We’ll leave a few slots for breaking news, emerging issues and any gaps identified by a final review committee.

Step 3: Ask Some Experts: What Are We Missing?

Early June

In the final stage, a Review Committee gives the proposed schedule a fresh look and identifies any overlooked topics or speakers. Usually, the committee approves the proposed schedule, with suggested tweaks to presenters for five or six sessions, and proposes new ideas for two to three more sessions.

Step 4: Confirm Speakers and Post Initial Conference Schedule

Mid June

Assuming the Review Committee’s approval, we confirm speaker availability and post as much scheduling information as we can to the conference website. A few more sessions may still be added before the schedule is finalized, but we are no longer looking for submissions on speakers or topics. We do add sessions around breaking topical news as deemed critical by ONA staff.

Step 5: Final Conference Schedule


This is when we post the final schedule of core programming. We may still have a surprise or two, based on an emerging great keynote speaker or an urgent breaking news issue. The Midway, our collaborative, interactive forum, also gets programmed at this point. But by this time we’re more or less finished, and looking forward to conversations with all of you at ONA15!

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