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Cant-miss guide to ONA15: Jane McDonnell’s picks

Note: This is one of a series of posts written by ONA staff and conference organizers recommending sessions they feel will be particularly interesting. Previous recommendations came from Julie Westfall and Luis Gomez, co-chairs of the ONA15 Program Team,  and ONA staff: Jen Mizgata, Senior Communications Manager, Jess Strelitz, Senior Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Jeremiah Patterson, Digital Manager, Deputy Director Irving Washington and Digital Director, Trevor KnoblichThis final list was created by Jane McDonnell, ONA Executive Director.

Jane McDonnell

Jane McDonnell

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” — Peter Drucker.

“You can say that again.” — Every journalist in the world.

ONA15 will offer lots of strategies and real-world tips for folks to take back to their newsrooms, and hooray for that. But anyone who’s lived through journalism since the mid-1990s knows that the hardest struggles — and most-effective successes — have been in changing the top-down, guardian-at-the-gate culture of news organizations.  We’ve blended newsrooms,  we’ve pushed for digital-only, and we’ve started up from scratch, building a new paradigm.

So I’m delighted to see so many strong topics and speakers addressing the bedrock of the journalism we’re doing now.  If you want to lead or help affect change in your part of the news world, be sure to drop into these sessions.

1. The Start-Early Session

Building Digital Culture in J Schools

Thursday , 11 a.m.-Noon, Constellation Ballroom II #digjschool

Cindy Royal (Texas State University), Robert Hernandez  (USC-Annenberg) and Matt Waite (Univ. of Nebraska/Lincoln) know where digital culture should start — in our J-schools. These disruptors (of the best kind) will share their successful tips for how to do just that from within academia,  and send true digital journalists out into the world — and into your newsrooms.

2. The Look-Outward Session

Changing Your Stylebook To Create a More Empathetic Newsroom

Thursday, 11 a.m.-Noon, Olympic Ballroom II #stylebookupdate

Changing culture means adapting the language you use (because, as we know, words matter) to speak to topics like sexual violence, LGBT issues and mental health. Just talking about how to  do this is almost as valuable an exercise as actually doing it. Get take-away help here, with best practices on the above, as well as on issues of violence/control, immigration/border and incarceration/social justice. (I know, two great sessions, same time. Nobody said it would be easy.)

3. The Look-Inward Session

Developing Leaders for the New Normal

Thursday, 1:30-2:30 p.m., Olympic Ballroom II #ONA15lead

If I had to pick a must-go, here it is: High staff turnover, new titles, the dreaded “restructuring” —  how do you build and nurture strong, confident leaders in the digital environment? Here’s how. Rock-star established and emerging leaders from start-up, blended and legacy newsrooms talk candidly and share journeys in this open conversation. Bring your stories.

4. The Blow-Up-Everything Session

Solving for News: Real World Lessons From News Startups

Friday, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Olympic Ballroom #ONA15startup

Staring from square one is the logical way to rebuild — or build — your own culture. These six pioneering entrepreneurs jumped head-first into the brave new world, using new ideas and tools to do it their way.

5. The  Real-Talk Culture Session

The 24-7 Blended Newsroom: The Vision, and the Reality

Saturday, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Pacific Room, #ONA15blend

The other side of the digital coin: Legacy newsrooms that take on the mammoth task of turning the ship around amid breaking news and revenue challenges. Staff from NBC Universal (in a sponsored session) share what they’ve learned in the trenches.

6. The Look-Forward Session

Tomorrowland: The Staff and Audience We Should Be Building Toward

Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Constellation Ballroom II, #ONA15diversity

You’ve got your culture nailed down? The combined firepower of Justin Ellis, Tasneem Raja and Caitlin Thompson will give you new ideas on how to staff for it — focusing on diverse, new or younger talent,  with the end goal of experimentation and an inclusive staff.

And, because changing culture can be expensive, be sure to check out the following revenue-focused sessions:

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