For almost 20 years, attendees of the Online News Association have spent the week looking forward to Saturday night. The final night of each ONA conference has traditionally been the night when the winners of the Online Journalism Awards are announced.
As ONA has grown in popularity over the years, the number of awards have grown — with a total of 55 to be awarded this year. And the last awards ceremony in 2019 was more than two-and-a-half hours long.
“Before COVID, we had been receiving feedback that the awards ceremony was a little lengthy,” said Hollie Schultz, program manager, awards and grant-making at ONA.
When the award ceremony went virtual in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID concerns, ONA staff began announcing awards during multiple, small online segments. This year, winners are also being announced over the course of the week.
“When the pandemic hit in 2020, we saw this as an opportunity to experiment with the format,” Schultz said. “Now that we are back in person again, we just thought that this would be a very fun way to recognize the great work of the community throughout the entire week, instead of just one night at the end of the conference.”
The announcement of the winners come out periodically during the week, with small online ceremonies honoring the winners. The awards ceremony will still take place on Saturday night, but only six awards: the best Features story, Community Centered Journalism, Climate Change reporting, Investigative Data Journalism, Public Service and General Excellence in Online Journalism will be announced at the ceremony. The previously announced winners from throughout the week will still be honored during the ceremony.
With the changes to the format, Schultz is excited that the OJAs are back in person for 2022.
“I think over the past few years, it has become even more important to lift up this great work,” Schultz said. “Journalists are often persecuted for just doing their job, so I am really happy the OJAs are here so we can keep the spirit of journalism and morale up for everyone.”
Winners will be posted on the ONA website throughout the week.