The annual Online News Association conference was held last week in Los Angeles and three LMA staff members were in attendance, speaking on panels and meeting with other peers in the industry. Here’s what LMA’s Penny Riordan, Apryl Pilolli, and Andrew Ramsammy took away from the conference focused on digital journalism.

Solutions for increasing trust with your audience

Did you know that after people have conversations with a working journalist, those people’s trust in that media organization, and in news in general, increases significantly? That was a key finding of a study conducted by researchers in partnership with Trusting News, as they shared at an ONA panel on media trust.

In a survey of community members who agreed to participate in conversations with reporters in various types of newsrooms, 86 percent said they felt more trusting of the reporter or news organization after just one conversation, and 28 percent of them said they would consider subscribing.

— Penny Riordan

Audience engagement roles are going 2.0

When I attended my first ONA conference seven years ago, there must have been a half dozen sessions about social media and using analytics in your newsroom. But this year, a strong theme in sessions was audience engagement.

From centering community engagement in live events, to developing a playbook to make audience roles more human, to developing more trust with your readers, newsrooms have moved beyond using social and content to chase scale. It’s all about developing relationships with readers.

— Penny Riordan

Diversity should include sources

This was my eighth year attending ONA. I was happy to see that the topic of equity and inclusiveness in staffing and reporting was part of numerous sessions. Some of the sessions included “Are You Ready to Transform Your Source Diversity?”, “Equity in Publishing: Black Publishers Session,” and the session I spoke at, “Are You Really Covering Your Whole Community?”

One stat that stood out to me during my session: A Pew Reserach Center study found that only 21% of adults have spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist. And that number declines when you look at younger, nonwhite adults.

Lynn Walsh, the assistant director at Trusting News, offered a solution in the form of an interview guide her organization put together to help journalists talk to their whole community.

-Apryl Pilloli

Climate change and journalism

Another session that stood out to me was “Climate Change, Eco-Anxiety and What Journalism Can Do to Help.”

In a December 2021 study in The Lancet, young people aged 16-25 agreed that the “future is frightening.” More than 50 percent of respondents said they felt “sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless and guilty” about climate change.

This is a really concerning stat, as you don’t want your audiences to tune out because they feel helpless to make an impact.

To that end, panelist Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and founder of Currently, points out that “It’s our duty, as climate journalists, to build provisions and give voice to provisions of alternative futures that aren’t just a dystopia.”

— Apryl Pilolli

The evolution of Black-owned media

This was my first year attending ONA, and I felt overwhelmed in a good way. You could feel the pent-up demand on Day One of the conference when by 7:30 a.m., a line was already snaking around the second floor for registration.

I was at ONA to speak on a panel discussing equity in publishing alongside Janis Ware, Word In Black publisher and CEO of The Atlanta Voice; Sara Lomax-Reese, CEO of WURD and co-founder of URL Media; and Garry Pierre-Pierre, publisher of The Haitian Times.

The panel discussion was a lesson in both the challenges that publishers have faced and the sense that new opportunities have begun to emerge since the reawakening on race in America during the 2020 protests. While the work continues on several fronts, the hope is support for Black publishers continues, especially at a moment when both new and veteran journalists are returning to the Black press because of what some feel is a calling and an alignment of mission and purpose to the Black community.

— Andrew Ramsammy