This past week, Philadelphia played host to 1,707 professionals in the journalism industry from across the country and the globe for the first part of the Online News Association’s 2023 convention.
For five days, the Marriott Downtown and other parts of Center City showcased the association’s first-ever convention in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, delayed from its originally planned debut in 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to go virtual.
The convention was LaSharah Bunting’s first as ONA’s CEO and Executive Director. Bunting took on the role in March, and was first introduced to the group as an attendee of ONA12 in San Francisco.
“Experimentation is essential in our dynamic industry,” Bunting said. “At ONA, we’re always looking for ways to evolve our work to better serve the journalism community — from trying new conference formats to highlighting more voices from outside of journalism.”
Topics discussed included the emergence of artificial intelligence and other innovative tools, better measuring and engaging with audiences and communities, improving local crime coverage, and combatting election misinformation.
Along with journalists, the event was attended by leading funders, entrepreneurs, technologists, and educators interested in shaping the future of the field.
Conference participants traveled in from 32 countries — including the United Kingdom, Argentina, Japan, and Finland — and 44 states including Washington, D.C.
Locally, reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Resolve Philly, and WHYY News were also in attendance.
Sarah Glover, WHYYs Vice President of News & Civic Dialogue, was a speaker for “Partnerships, Community Engagement, Service, and Trust: What’s Working in Public Media” and moderated a panel discussion on “Better Gun Violence Reporting: Lessons from the Ground in Philly,” the latter of which discussed WHYY News’ Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast, “Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist.”
Other featured speakers at the convention included Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of The 1619 Project, Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Versha Sharma, and Slate Editor-in-Chief Hillary Frey.
Along with close access to Reading Terminal Market and other Philly attractions, attendees got a brief glimpse of another city tradition on Saturday afternoon: the 2023 Philly Naked Bike Ride.
The in-person proceedings of the convention were capped off with the Online Journalism Awards Ceremony and Banquet, hosted by Gene Demby, co-host of NPR’s Code Switch podcast and South Philly Native.
Resolve Philly co-founders and co-Executive Directors Jean Friedman-Rudovsky and Cassie Haynes won the 2023 Impact Award.
On Saturday morning, ONA announced that a few attendees had tested positive for COVID-19, advising participants to wear masks for the remaining sessions and those who were feeling unwell to isolate.
A second virtual-only portion of the conference will start on Sept. 28 and 29 with ONA23:Onward.
“It has been thrilling to be part of ONA’s first time hosting the conference in Philadelphia, and I’m excited to continue some of these conversations online next month with ONA23: Onward,” Bunting said “ONA’s conference is well-known for its high energy. With ONA23: Onward, we’re offering a more relaxed virtual mini-conference, featuring discussions of what’s next for AI tools, design and news revenue.”
Next year’s ONA convention will be in Atlanta, from Sept.18 to 21, 2024.