CAMP 2015: 4 lessons from the ONA-Poynter Digital Women’s Leadership Academy

By Nicole Chavez, 2015 JAWS Fellow

Many women are at the forefront of digital media. Some create or produce content, others are showing leadership potential and many are already leading digital newsrooms across the United States. A diverse group of those 25 women was selected from nearly 500 applicants to attend the first Online News Association-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media last April.

Jane McDonnell, executive director of Online News Association, talks about the ONA-Poynter Digital Women’s Leadership Academy at 2015 CAMP. (Photo by Nicole Chavez)

Jane McDonnell, executive director of ONA, shared at the 2015 JAWS CAMP four important things that organizers and faculty learned during the leadership academy, which they hope will serve as a guide to improve their next seminar.

Some of the women selected were freelancers, some came from startups and others came from legacy media organizations, but all shared a passion for digital media. During the weeklong seminar, they learned leadership skills and talked about their work managing digital teams and how to navigate the newsroom culture while trying to create change.


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

Many participants thought they were going to change the world when they were hired and later realized things were going to be slightly different in their newsrooms, McDonnell said. The ability to change things is difficult, it takes hard work and some time.


Imposter Syndrome is alive and well

McDonnell said the organizers quickly realized they had a vibrant, energetic and really talented group of women at the weeklong academy. They are talented and leaders in their newsrooms, but many admitted that at some point in their careers, they felt a lack of self-confidence.


Women, you have influence. Use it.

The women at the workshop hold leadership positions, manage employees and do great work, but sometimes they feel powerless. During the academy, trainers encouraged them to believe in themselves and create change.


You, too, can be a killer negotiator

Jane McDonnell, executive director of Online News Association, talks about the ONA-Poynter Digital Women’s Leadership Academy at 2015 CAMP. (Photo by Nicole Chavez)

McDonnell explained that many employees don’t ask for raises or even negotiate salaries when starting a job because they lack confidence. During the discussion at CAMP, some suggested making a review of what your assets are and presenting that to your employee, others said asking for more days off or a bonus can be another option if compensation is out of the question

“If you walk into a negotiation with a frustrated point of view, you are not going to get anywhere,” McDonnell added.

Here are a few tips for negotiating from Katie Hawkins-Gaar, digital innovation faculty at The Poynter Institute; and Will Neville-Rehbehn, creative and advocacy director for VShift as cited by McDonnell.

  • You can negotiate anything. There’s more to discuss than a salary raise, keep in mind that you can ask for a new position/assignment, more vacation days, training opportunities or a bonus.
  • Who is across the table? Learn more about the person you would be talking to. Would it be your supervisor, someone from human resources or both?
  • Do they know what you do every day? Develop relationships in your newsrooms, and make sure both managers and colleagues see your work. “You have teams and coworkers around; make sure those people know your value,” McDonnell said.
  • You have power when you walk into that room. Telling you “no” is a risk to employers. The cost and process of hiring a new person could be long and inconvenient them. “It’s actually beneficial for them to keep you happy,” McDonnell said.