Trevor Knoblich’s ONA21 picks: Inspiration for leading change, plus the book talks we can’t stop talking about

Trevor Knoblich is Chief Knowledge Officer at the Online News Association. He oversees learning opportunities for the ONA community, and is passionate about ensuring news leaders can continue to work with their communities to deliver information that is inclusive, relevant and engaging.

Well here we are, headed into another amazing lineup of interactive sessions, networking events and fun celebrating the ONA community. As always, the program, largely organized by Learning Consultant Brian Duff and a dedicated team of volunteers, highlights the overwhelming amount of fascinating discussions and urgent needs facing the global news community.

Thankfully, most sessions will be recorded. There are so many great options to choose from, so don’t feel like you have to be everywhere at once next week! But as I’m navigating through the schedule, these are some can’t-miss conversations for me.

On Tuesday, June 22, our opening session features some new faces in news leadership roles. The Program Team that helped select conference sessions posed five questions to these news leaders about editorial visions, work culture and leading change. Their thoughtful answers are bullseyes for the ONA community. If you’re looking for something to reinvigorate your faith in news, these folks deliver in a big way. I’ll be joining the watch party and Q&A, and I hope you do, too.

An ongoing and urgent conversation in the news community is how better to reflect the communities we serve. Journalism and Cultural Literacy: Addressing Racial Blind Spots in News (June 22) has some dynamite presenters speaking to the issues of fairer, more accurate coverage. If you’re feeling more anxious to jump in with your own voice, a more participatory session opposite this is worth checking out: DEI as a Key Ingredient for Sustainable Growth (also on June 22).

Along the same lines, ONA Board Member and Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Versha Sharma has helped organize an incredible conversation on Broadcasting Trauma, From Black Lives Matter to #StopAsianHate (June 23).

Happening throughout the week, our author chats became so much bigger than I could have dreamed. We rarely get to host live author chats due to travel schedules and publisher requirements, so introducing the “ONA Book Club” is a fun and special treat for the ONA Community with an incredible slate of guests. I mean seriously, look at this lineup: Jamal Jordan! Kat Chow! Masuma Ahuja! Ethan Zuckerman! I am so here for these.

Also new: On Wednesday, we are blending our two most popular conference elements, featured sessions and Table Talks, into a much-needed conversation on burnout and organizational responsibility. Led by an informal partnership between ONA, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, OpenNews, the Solutions Journalism Network and the American Press Institute, we’ll lead participatory conversations on this critical issue.

Thursday, June 24, our 14th Annual Tech Trends in Journalism conversation starts the day. Paula Rogo steps into the lead of this popular conference mainstay. Paula becomes the first non-US-based presenter taking the helm, bringing a unique perspective to our long-standing series.

And a topic we debated elevating to a featured session is the Reuters Institute: Digital News Report 2021 US Launch (June 24). It’s a wonderful presenter lineup, and full of must-hear information.

Be There for Your Community, Not Just When Things Are Falling Apart (June 24) is a business-critical discussion. Anyone with a working knowledge of ethnic and alternative media in the U.S. will tell you one of the biggest criticisms leveled at “mainstream” newsrooms is that they tend to show up when there’s a crisis and craft stories that cast an oversimplified, suspicious pallor on communities in turmoil. A deeper understanding is a must, and a benefit to all.

I’ll close this list of schedule highlights with a strong recommendation for a fireside chat with Los Angeles Times’ Executive Editor Kevin Merida and Versha Sharma (June 25), a companion piece to Tuesday’s opening featured session with other recently announced top-level news executives. These two leaders are stepping into institutions with pivotal cultural significance, at least in the U.S., so I’ll be fascinated to hear how they plan to tackle the many challenges ahead of us.