Why journalism students should attend the 2013 Online News Association Conference

By Andrew Gibson
Nate Silver, who blogs about political statistics
for The New York Times, is the keynote speaker
at ONA13
No matter whether you're studying newspaper, magazine, TV or radio news, you have two things in common with your journalism peers. You want a job, and that job will involve some kind of online work.

Attending the 2013 Online News Association Conference is an opportunity to address both concerns. You'll hang out with employers and notable names from across the industry and learn the digital skills necessary to keep up with the rapidly evolving field.

Registration is open for ONA13, scheduled for Oct. 17-19 in Atlanta. Although students get a discounted rate, we probably still have some persuading to do. That's why we've written four reasons why journalism students should attend ONA13.

Learn skills employers want
Heard of the website News Nerd Jobs? It's a lengthy list of jobs waiting for journalists who can code and work with data. Lucky for you, several proposed sessions (the program isn't finalized) at the conference will help you gain the necessary skills to snag these kinds of positions. Ideas in the ONA13 Suggestion Box include Webscraping 101 (a way to extract data from websites) and Data Storytelling with Tableau Public (a tool for creating interactive graphics). If you attend ONA13, the most innovative minds working in digital journalism will provide hands-on training on these topics.

Beginners welcome
This comes from ONA regarding session suggestions: "We are especially interested in ideas aimed at beginners and intermediate level training." You don't need to be Nate Silver (more on him later) to attend ONA13. An assumption of the trainings is many in the room don't have experience creating data visualizations or churning out code.

Besides, the conference isn't all about technical stuff. Are you a finance reporter? A possible session covers how to write money stories tailored to Main Street. Or maybe you want to brush up on shooting video sequences or learn best practices for using social media in sports coverage. There's bound to be something for almost everyone at ONA13.

Nate Silver
If you don't know who this is, stop reading. OK, keep reading -- but emerge from hibernation. He's the baseball-statistics whiz, New York Times FiveThirtyEight blogger and best-selling author who correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states in the 2012 presidential election. Silver's accuracy launched him into stardom -- and wouldn't you know it, he's the ONA13 keynote speaker.

Bring your Twitter stream to life
Sometimes in the digital age, you have to meet people in real life. Nerve-racking, right?

But seriously, this conference is typically strewn with journalism heros -- both as presenters and attendees. In 2012, Wall Street Journal engagement director Liz Heron and WYNC senior data editor John Keefe were around. I can't say who's going this year because registration just opened, but there's a good chance you'll see people you follow on Twitter or have seen elsewhere on social media. As you stroll the halls of ONA13, it'll be like your timeline is coming to life.

We hope you're persuaded, but feel free to use the comments section for questions about the conference.

Essential links
Photo courtesy of ONA Central

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