Reflections on ONA09: Re-engaging

This was an amazing ONA conference for me for so many reasons. For one thing, I’d spent the year working with Liz Lufkin & Katherine Fong and others on the ONA conference program; for another, as I’d suspected when I went to ONA09 with Gary Kebbel, Jose Zamora and the Knight News Challenge, team, this was the year I’d get re-involved with online news and helping ONA plan a SF conference would be relevant.

At the ONA conference this year, I felt like my work had a long shadow–there were the three keynoters, Ev Williams, Lisa Stone and Leo LaPorte, all of whom were kind enough to say yes to my requests (and each of whom did a superb job). Then there was the hard work Mark Briggs and I put into 6 in 60, an ignite-style pitch session for media entrepreneurs, and the keynote I gave at career day (Yes, I am proving to be a reinvention princess), and the talk at Jan Schaffer’s all-day workshop about the work I’ve done starting Oakland Local from scratch this summer (and hopefully, launching it later this week).

But what was really stirring for me (besides the relief at doing a good job while on the hot seat with Ev) was the degree of connection I felt, and the delight and interest in so many of the people I talked to.  You see, online news and I have had a love-hate relationship for many years, and ONA has borne the brunt of it.  I sulked out of an ONA conference a few years ago (2004?) vowing never to return because of the bitter, whiny voices I heard, and when I volunteered last year, it was really as an experiment.

But I have to echo Jay Rosen and others that this ONA was full of an energy and verve that was very engaging. For me, it was a real welcome back. a re-absorption into a world I’d (frankly) almost written off a couple of years ago and that now I find myself passionately engaged with.

Confession: it’s not only that I am an unrepentant news junkie, it’s that I believe that the ability to be heard, to engage in discourse and tell stories in a through and accurate way is the basis for civic engagement. As great as the stories are, its our ability to inform people, or to showcase their data, so that they can be informed enough to take action, should they care to.

At the end of the day, what I care most about with news is not only the information, but the way  new sites can engage the community, help make their voices heard, and build capacity for creating positive social change.

My ONA09 was all about connections–with the great students I’ve gotten to know, like @suzannayada and @annabloom, the recent grads including @pickoffwhite and @rhyencoombs, the news vets including Neil Chase, Rich Jaroslovsky , Jennifer Carroll and David Westphal, and the friends and colleagues including Ryan Sholin, Dan Pacheco, Leslie Walker, Amy Gahran, Lisa Stone, Robert Rosenthal, Mark Katches,Scott Rosenberg, David Cohn , Scott Lewis and Louis Freedberg.

And all the new people I connected with and got to know, including my Montclair Goddess, Debbie Galant–the excitement I feel about what so many of these folks are doing, and working on made me feel great to be a part of ONA, and to be at the conference.

Yep, I am re-engaged for sure.

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  1. Suzanne Yada says:

    Thanks Susan for all your hard work, and your shoutouts, and your support, and your coaching, and your encouragement and for just being a right-on woman!

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