Online-journalism innovator McDonnell appointed to SPLC Board of Directors





Jane McDonnell, a veteran digital-media thought leader who led the Online News Association through a period of unprecedented growth, has been unanimously elected to a three-year term on the board of the Student Press Law Center.

The SPLC board consists of 15 volunteer members drawn from the fields of law, journalism, education and nonprofit leadership. Its members manage the business operations and set the policy directions and priorities for the SPLC, the nation’s only legal-assistance organization that specializes in serving the needs of college and high-school journalists and their faculty advisers. 

McDonnell has a long history of creating and supporting digital journalism in the commercial, independent and nonprofit sectors. From 2008-2016, she was Executive Director of the Online News Association (ONA), the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, overseeing daily operations and long-term financial and program strategy.

She previously served as consulting senior editor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s 2008 State of the News Media Report. and oversaw the communications, marketing and digital efforts at the Center for Public Integrity, part of a CPI team that won a host of national investigative-reporting awards. She started Public Access Journalism in 2001 to examine social issues in print, broadcast and themed public websites, funded by foundations. As a Managing Editor at Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services, McDonnell led work on Knight Ridder’s emerging digital projects and received the company’s Excellence Award for her work as president of Partners in Journalism, a volunteer group that helped Washington, D.C., public high schools produce newspapers.

“The Student Press Law Center is poised for a period of great expansion just as the Online News Association was a decade ago when Jane took charge,” said attorney Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center. “There is finally widespread national recognition that student media is worthy of meaningful legal protection, that existing legal safeguards are inadequate, and that a forceful response team is needed to advocate for student journalism. Jane is the perfect person to guide the SPLC through this time of growth. She is deeply invested in providing high-quality training for all journalists, students and professional alike, and we’re honored and thrilled that she is lending her expertise to this work as the SPLC continually modernizes to serve the evolving needs of digital storytellers.”

LoMonte said McDonnell’s experience in launching leadership-training initiatives for women in digital media will be especially valuable in the expansion of SPLC’s “Active Voice” project, which trains college undergraduate women to design “press freedom service projects” catering to the needs of teenage girls in their communities. Active Voice launched as a pilot in the fall of 2016 and its five inaugural fellows are about to complete their service projects, with a new class to follow starting in August. 

McDonnell succeeds journalism professor and media lawyer Geanne Rosenberg Belton of the City University of New York-Baruch College, who served the maximum two three-year terms. 

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