ONA12 energized by Knight Alumni and Fellows

The Online News Association conference in San Francisco Sept. 20-22 was perhaps the biggest gathering of John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships alumni and current Fellows since the Knight Fellowships 2009 Reunion & Conference. There were about 40 alumni attending and/or participating, including a handful of staff and affiliates. Even more Knight Fellow alumni came to mingle at the Knight Fellowships reception at One Market restaurant across the street from the conference. 

Knight Fellows at a reception at ONA12 for alumni

Knight Fellow Andrew Donohue, left, meets 2011 alumnus Michael Marcotte, right, at a Knight Fellows reception during the 2012 Online News Association Conference in San Francisco. photo: David Toerge

The number of Knight Fellows present and the launch of a new logo for the program (JSK for John S. Knight) added a Knight Fellowships buzz to the conference. Knight Fellows from print, broadcast and online journalism were there with insights on everything from the role of comics in journalism to the best social media to gaming applications in storytelling to innovations in tablet and mobile journalism. Stanford journalism fellows from 1967 to 2013 were networking with one another, mentoring new Fellows and full of energy and experiences to share with everyone. 

It’s a sign of the blurring line between current and past fellows in their efforts to help each other and improve journalism. And it reflects our intention to make the entire Knight Fellowships community a powerful force for innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in the field. 

The Knight Fellowships program was one of ONA12’s key sponsors. (Conference T-shirts had our new logo on the back.) For the first time, one of our staff took a leadership role at an ONA conference; Innovation Director Pam Maples served as a co-chair. 

Twelve Knight Fellows, and one member of the Knight Fellowships Board of Visitors spoke on panels or led all-day workshops, a reflection of their continuing deep involvement in journalism innovation and the evolution of our industry. 

Burt Herman (2009) led one of the four all-day workshops that kicked off ONA12. “Hacks/Hackers Hacking” taught attendees how to use Storify, a tool to create stories from social media. The former Associated Press reporter credits his year as a Knight Fellow with giving him the confidence to try a new direction in journalism. He eventually co-founded Storify, whose success was honored at the conference with the Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism. 

Another all-day workshop, “Intro to Design Thinking” was run by alumni Justin Ferrell (2012), Michelle Holmes (2012), Andrew Haeg (2009), and Jigar Mehta (2011). The four, who as fellows had all taken “design-thinking” classes at Stanford’s Hasso Platner Institute, taught the school’s user-focused approach to product development. Ferrell, a former new product design director at the Washington Post, is now helping establish the d.school’s first fellowships program. 

Other Knight Fellowships alumni on panels were comics journalist Dan Archer (2011), “Blow Up the Funny Pages: Why Comics Make for Powerful Journalism;” Elizabeth Osder (2003), “Extreme Revenue Makeover;” Farai Chideya (2003), “Pinterest, Instagram, Google+: Keep Up, Keep Sane;” Adriano Farano (2011), “The Tablet Touch;” Gabriel Sama (2010), “Designing Digital Newsrooms;” Burt Herman, “The Votes Are In: Winning Election Night Coverage;” and Jan Schaffer (1984), “J-Lab’s News Entrepreneuring 4.0.

Current Fellow Latoya Peterson was on the panel, “It’s Not All Fun and Games.” And a Knight Fellowships Board of Visitors member, Dori Maynard, head of the Maynard Institute, was part of a panel called “Healthy Ecosystems in Digital Newsrooms.” 

The energy only multiplied at a special reception for Knight Fellows, alumni and friends at the end of the conference’s second day. About 80 people – from Noel Leiberman, a member of the first class of journalism fellows at Stanford (1967), and his wife, Lois, to Fellows from the current class and many in between, as well as potential fellowship candidates they’d brought along – swelled the crowd in the plaza at One Market. The conversations among old and new friends revolved around exciting new directions for journalism and the opportunities to make a difference.