June 13, 2023

Belonging in journalism: Q&A with Manori Wijesekera

Recipient of the 2022 ONA Community Award shares perspectives on the importance of building a sense of belonging and community

The ONA Community Award honors behind-the-scenes colleagues who have had an extraordinary impact on journalism by creating a sense of belonging and space for digital journalists to push innovative work. Over the past six years ONA has honored change makers and connectors in the field for their work in building a safe space and community for journalists of color, mentoring and catapulting careers for countless young journalists, and creating a global forum for journalists to rely on during the COVID-19 crisis.

We recently asked the 2022 recipient Manori Wijesekera a few questions about community building and her hopes for the future of journalism. Based in Sri Lanka, Manori is the Training Manager at Global Press. She was recognized for her work managing a complex initiative to provide training to women journalists living in some of the world’s least covered regions.

Headshot of Manori Wijesekera

Manori Wijesekera was honored with the 2022 ONA Community Award.

What does the word “community” mean to you?

MANORI: A community is often defined as a group of people who share a common interest or live in one specific geographical area.

But I see community as a place where people with shared values can create something together. And in journalism — this community can grow beyond the reporters and the newsroom to also include our audience and the local community whose stories we tell.

When values like dignity, diversity, a commitment to accuracy and to ethical standards of practice are shared, we create not only a newsroom where journalists feel seen and valued, but also an extended community of news consumers who are making more informed decisions that impact the world around them.

Why is building a sense of belonging so important in journalism?

So often, different groups of people are excluded from truly belonging to a community — because of their gender, their religion, ethnicity, where they live or a hundred other reasons.

For example, in Sri Lanka, where I live and work, language can limit access to information — the majority of people in Sri Lanka work in the Sinhala language, and if you are not fluent in Sinhala, it can restrict the information you access, and the opportunities that usually follow.

As creators of the information that supports a just and informed world, journalists, too, need a community where they are included, valued and where they can thrive.

Creating inclusive spaces that offer opportunities to everyone can lead to representation in news coverage and produce world-changing stories. Diversity is a strength in journalism, and we see that every day at Global Press where local, women reporters from Mexico to Mongolia with widely different social and education experiences create powerful journalism that is truly representative of our audiences.

But inclusive newsrooms don’t just appear overnight. They’re created when you intentionally remove common barriers of entry into journalism, from race and gender to socioeconomic status. They’re strengthened when you create opportunities for everyone, offer strong employment and trajectories for growth within the industry.

What is your hope or vision for the future of journalism?

My vision of journalism in years ahead will be one without any parachute journalists! Where local reporters will tell powerful stories of significance from their own community, and where audiences will value and seek out this journalism.

At Global Press, we’re reimagining the future of journalism where ethical, accurate and inclusive journalism is the norm, not the exception. I would hope for this to spread to other newsrooms, too.

2023 call for award nominations

Nominations for the 2023 award are due June 22, 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Who in journalism do you think of when you hear “community builder” or “changemaker”? We want to know who has impacted your and others’ careers through their outstanding leadership and ability to create a sense of community, inclusivity and belonging.

All active ONA members are eligible to nominate peers —a person, small team or community — for consideration. If you have any questions about your membership status, contact

Submit a nomination to the 2023 ONA Community Award