This is the eighth and final entry in a series of blog posts to help you decipher each program track at ONA15. You can sort our schedule by your own favorite track by clicking on any of the gray boxes on the main session page. You can also check out my previous posts on our tracks for Mobile Tools + DesignAudience Engagement + Impact,  Developer Tools + Tech, Audio, Photo  + VideoRevenue + Ethics, Teaching + Training and Professional Development.

McCormickLogoThere are so many great sessions at ONA15, it can be difficult to decide which to attend!We’re particularly excited to preview our Newsgathering Tools + Techniques track, generously sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

And don’t forget, for every track we’ll be hosting Table Talks, an open forum for discussing solutions to a variety of challenges in your area of interest or expertise. This is one of our biggest tracks, so take a deep breath and we’ll dive in!

2016 Elections

We’re already gearing up for the presidential race, and the many gubernatorial, state house and municipal elections that coincide with it. In Presidential Race ’16: Riding the Digital Campaign Bus, Mashable’s Juana Summers and CNN’s Maeve Reston team up to  discuss the wild race for the Iron Throne of American politics, and break down who is scoring serious digital points with the public.

There’s probably no issue that will affect politics more than the Supreme Courts Citizens United v. FEC decision, and 2016 will likely be the first election where we witness the full impact of Super PACs. We’ll get two different takes on how to track down dark money at ONA15. First up is Data for Tracking Money in the 2016 Elections, where Mother Jones’ Russ Choma and The Washington Post’s Anu Narayanswamy will review ideas for sifting through data that can’t be automated. Later, the Center for Responsive Politic’s Robert Maguire and the Center for Public Integrity’s Rachel Baye will talk about crafting data sets into a narrative of campaign funding in Constructing a Dark Money Narrative for 2016.

We’ll also take a look at innovative coverage from city to state to the national level with local news outlets in 2016 Election Coverage, from Mayors to Governors to Presidents. The Charlotte Observer’s April Bethea, KPCC Meghan McCarty and the Des Moines Register’s Amalie Nash will highlight innovative election coverage projects they’ve taken on, and how they plan to apply lessons learned for future coverage.

We’ll examine useful tools in Journalism Fact-Checking 101 for the 2016 Elections, with a panel including’s D’Angelo Gore, Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt, Politifact’s Linda Qiu and the American Press Institute’s Jane Elizabeth.

And finally, we’ll look at simple tools for engaging voters in You and What Developer Army? Local Election Coverage Without a Large Data Team with FiscalNote’s Adam Nekola.

Privacy, security and the dark corners of the web

Privacy and security seem to forever expand as critical topics for journalists to understand — especially us digital folks. We’ll have some privacy real talk in Don’t Be the Leak: Protecting Our Sources and Ourselves, a conversation with Boing Boing author and activist Cory Doctorow and the Founder of the Wickr Foundation, Nico Sell.

Does security talk make your head spin? Don’t worry, we’ve got a crash course in how the Internet works in Privacy and Email and Servers, Oh My! An Under-the-Hood Look at the Internet, with Breaking News’ Andy Boyle.

And finally, what if you wanted to tactfully gain some perspective from those who want to remain private on the web? In Plunging Into the Dark Net,  we’ll hear from Alex Winter, producer and director of the documentary film “Deep Web,” along with Andy Greenberg from Wired and moderator Sarah Jeong of Motherboard.

ONA finally gets some culture

For the first time, at least in recent memory, we’re offering two terrific arts and culture sessions. First, we’ll look at how music journalism has evolved as artists and labels increasingly market directly to fans in Music Journalism and the Beat of Disruption. Presenters include freelancer Rebecca Haithcoat, the Los Angeles Times’ Mikael Wood and The Hundreds’ Senay Kenfe.

And to get your appetite primed just in time for dinner on Thursday, TakePart’s Willy Blackmore will chat with famed LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold about the The Ethics of Food Writing.

Pro tips for better coverage

We’re certainly not lacking on sessions aimed at improving your news reporting in general. Take Changing Your Stylebook to Create a More Empathetic Newsroom, a look at how we can simultaneously create more nuanced coverage while meeting audiences where they are,  helmed by The Arizona Republic’s Megan Finnerty, The Washington Post’s Sharif Durhams, Poynter’s Kristen Hare and  The Carter Center’s Stephanie Uribe.

We’ll also explore how to better represent the diversity of voices in any given area with Community Engagement Models for More Inclusive Journalism, featuring the Geraldine Dodge Foundation’s Josh Stearns, Hearken’s Jennifer Brandel and  New American Foundation fellow Laurenellen McCann.

We know true breaking news stories are lurking just beyond the trending topics we see on social media. In Where Science Meets Storytelling: Reporting from the Unsurfaced Web, we’ll review how data mining and signal detection can draw out those hidden gems. Storyful’s Áine Kerr will lead the discussion with Dataminr’s Ted Bailey, Vocativ’s Gregory Gittrich and Banjo’s Damien Patton.

From the elections to the World Cup to the Olympics, planned news events are a constant in journalism. For Olympic Training for your Planned News Events from London to Rio, we’ve invited a terrific panel of sports editors and journalists to discuss how they prepare for major news events. NBC’s Richard Cordella, Folha de S. Paulo’s Mariana Lajolo and  ESPN’s Joy Russo join the discussion, moderated by BBC’s Steve Herrmann.

Finally, in one of our favorite philosophical pitches for ONA15, Upworthy’s Amy O’Leary will discuss the very roots of why narrative appeals to us, and how that can help us design better stories in the digital age in From Scheherazade to Snapchat: Ancient Storytelling Practices That Win the Internet for Good.

Looking ahead

As always at ONA, we’ll give you a practical look at how new and innovative technology and talent will help shape reporting in the next few years. In Flying Into New Territory with Drone Journalism, BuzzFeed’s Ben Kreimer, Stanford Knight fellow Dickens Olewe, University of British Columbia’s Taylor Owen, University of Nebraska’s Matt Waite and  Yale University’s Valerie Belair-Gagnon will look at emerging potential for drone coverage, as well as the implications of the FAA’s draft drone rules.

Get immersed in news in Virtual Reality in a Material World, at look at the incredible narrative journalism pieces created by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Wallner, Gannett’s Ray Soto and Emblematic Group’s Nonny de la Peña. We’ll also get key insights into where this field is headed from Google’s head of strategy for Cardboard, Aaron Luber and USC professor Robert Hernandez.

In Build Bots to Boost Your Reporting, hear five different ways to apply bots in your reporting, then take a deeper look with one of our five session leaders, including WNYC’s John Keefe and Jenny Ye, The Associated Press’ Justin Myers and Philana Patterson and The Los Angeles Times’ Honest Charley Bodkin.

Media futurist Amy Webb returns with an ONA staple: Tech Trends in Journalism, a look at some of the coolest tech around that will be sure to have some exciting surprises in store.

We’ll host another annual event with the ONA Lightning Talks, rapid-fire pitches of Big Ideas for journalism. Pitch your idea here. Attendees will vote on their favorites to be included Saturday at the conference!

And digital tools aren’t the only place where we can get a sense of great trends in journalism. We’ll also feature our MJ Bear Fellows — three journalists under 30 who are making an impact in the field. Our 2015 fellows — Tech4Agri founder Keron Bawscombe, the Caller-Times’ Nadia Tomez-Robledo,  and WNYC’s Ariana Tobin — will be joined by 2014 fellow Rajneesh Bhandari, who was unable to attend last year’s event. Come check out their amazing projects and get inspired by ways to cover education, immigration and agriculture for your own newsroom.


We hope you’ll have a chance to explore these sessions and many others, and use our amazing networking opportunities to meet colleagues who share your passions and interests.

And see you in LA!