School of Communication students, faculty and alumni participated in the Online News Association conference October 17-19 in Atlanta. The School of Communication also is the academic partner in the Association’s Online Journalism Awards.

The conference is the one of the largest digital journalism conferences in the world, providing learning sessions, demonstrations and knowledge sharing for hundreds of media professionals. Meet some of the UM School of Communication students, alumni and faculty who participated:

Hadley Jordan, visual journalism undergraduate

Hadley Jordan worked with a team of students and professional mentors in the ONA student newsroom, covering the conference from the inside. She produced photos and videos, including a mini-documentary on journalism entrepreneurship.

“The student newsroom is different than a school project because I’m turning around projects right away—like working in a real newsroom,” Jordan said. “Being part of the student newsroom is a very valuable experience. I am making a ton of contacts and learning from really awesome people.”

Aubrey Aden-Buie, multimedia journalism graduate student

Aubrey Aden-Buie also is an alumna of the ONA 12 student newsroom. She produced video pieces for the conference website, and returned to ONA 13 to learn more.

“I learned a lot of shortcuts this year, to be honest, a lot of shorter ways to do tasks on deadlines,” Aden-Buie said. “Mostly, though, it is inspirational to see some of the projects people are working on and the innovative ways people are working out in the world.”

Aden-Buie recommended that students apply for the student newsroom or buy a student ticket to the conference. “It’s a huge resource,” she said. “The brain-power that’s there at ONA, you just can’t get it anywhere else.”

Qin Chen, multimedia journalism graduate student

Qin Chen worked in the student newsroom in 2012, shooting and producing infographics and motiongraphics. She returned to ONA to network and pick up new skills.

“It’s a learning playground here,” Chen said. “If any students are considering coming to ONA, I would tell them it’s time to put their dreams into practice. It really helps prepare you for where you want to work.”

Deborah Acosta, M.A. Multimedia Journalism ‘10
Staff Editor, Social Video at The New York Times

Deborah Acosta also attended ONA conference first as a student. “I’ve made friends at ONA who I keep in touch with,” she said. “I feel like every time I go, I catch up with them, and I learn a ton in the sessions and just from walking around and joining in conversations.”

Acosta met her former boss at The Miami Herald at her first ONA conference, and she learned valuable skills through the organization including Google Fusion Tables and social media skills that helped her excel at The Herald and eventually land a job at The New York Times. 

“If students are feeling frustrated or that there aren’t as many job opportunities, I hope they’ll continue working on their passions, and ONA can help with that,” she said.

Greg Linch, B.A. Journalism and Political Science ‘09
Local Innovations Editor at The Washington Post

Greg Linch attended his first ONA conference in 2008 as a student. He served on the video streaming team from 2009-2012 and is a current board member of ONA. He presented several workshops at the conference, including “Using WordPress to Structure Your Beat,” “Editorial Workflows in WordPress” and “Programmer Workflow.”

“At the first ONA I attended, I learned so much and met so many amazing people, and it indirectly led to my first job,” Linch said. “I thought that I really needed to go to this every year.”

Linch encouraged UM students to get involved with ONA, apply for various student teams at the conference, and to reach out to alumni. “I am always glad to chat and reach out to students, and there is a great alumni network in our industry.”

Miranda Mulligan, B.S. Communication ‘02
Executive Director of Knight Lab at Northwestern University

Miranda Mulligan spoke at ONA on “Bringing Tech into the Classroom.” Mulligan is a journalist, designer, strategist and speaker who currently manages Northwestern University Knight Lab and serves as editor-in-chief at Evening Edition. 

In her talk, Mulligan said that external learning opportunities can be beneficial for students to learn technology skills that they need in the classroom. “We should be spending some time making sure that our young journalists understand how does the internet work, and how do browsers read and render our content, and really understand how those pieces come together rather than teaching them to be web developers.”

Mulligan pointed out that motivated journalism students frequently seek opportunities to learn about technology and digital skills in workshops and bootcamp settings, many of which were offered at ONA.  

Richard Beckman, Professor and John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Visual Journalism

Current students, Linch and Acosta credit Professor Richard Beckman with introducing them to ONA. Beckman represents UM in its role as academic partner for the Online Journalism Awards, and has served on the OJA jury for five years.

“ONA is the leader for digital media in this industry, and those students who are here at the conference have had a huge advantage over the years because of their access to professionals,” he said.

Beckman hopes that UM students might consider starting a student chapter of ONA to leverage the organization’s network and help students gain new skills. “Our alumni are so involved,” he said. “It wouldn’t be hard to get them to come down, if we could just initiate the structure to make it happen.”