News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Civic

March 09, 2010

Apps for Inclusion: New Knight contest to build the digital public square

On Tuesday the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a new contest to develop online and mobile applications that will help people improve their lives through better access to government/community info and services.

The Apps for Inclusion Challenge “encourages technology innovators to review government and community services and develop tools that will improve lives by making it easier for citizens to receive these services through mobile and online applications.”

This announcement came during an event co-hosted by the Knight Foundation in which the FCC previewed its forthcoming National Broadband Plan. The FCC will be “in partnership” with the Knight Foundation on Apps for Inclusion.

Contest entry criteria and deadlines have not yet been announced. However, the Knight Foundation will commit a total of $100,000 in prize money. A panel of experts will review applications and pick winners. The public will have a vote through several “people’s choice awards.”

Stay tuned for further details.

August 10, 2010

J-Lab’s new Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Fund

A new experimental fund will help journalists in the Greater Philadelphia region develop public affairs stories and demonstrate the possibilities for collaborative newsgathering and distribution.

The Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Fund will award ten $5,000 grants to support reporting projects. This program is funded by the William Penn Foundation and administered by J-Lab (a project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation). J-Lab recommended establishing this fund in an April 2010 report.

Here’s what’s eligible, and how to apply…

According to J-Lab, eligible projects must:

  • Focus on the City of Philadelphia and the eight-county Greater Philadelphia Region. (Harrisburg- and Trenton-based projects focused on the Philadelphia region also are eligible.)
  • Foster an open exchange of journalistically sound information.
  • Include enterprise reporting that involves investigative or explanatory journalism, watchdog or accountability journalism, or computer-assisted reporting.
  • Enhance public understanding of important city or regional issues
  • Engage in solutions around public affairs problems and/or reveal new information.
  • Be published/aired within six months of funding.


Learn more and apply now.

Application deadline: Sept. 16, 5pm ET

One rich resource of current data about Philadelphia that could aid these projects is Temple University’s Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators project, which released its most recent Where We Stand annual report in July.

Learn more about how reporters and news orgs interested in civic engagement could use such data to create a community dashboard—an approach that can complement traditional narrative storytelling.

September 01, 2010

OpenBlock launches demo site for Boston

On Aug. 26, the OpenBlock project launched its first demo site, serving the Boston area in partnership with the Boston Globe.

This project is the open-source successor to EveryBlock, a Knight News Challenge-funded project that was acquired by MSNBC one year ago. OpenBlock is “an open-source software initiative to bring hyperlocal news and data capabilities to news organizations of all sizes.”

Here’s how this project could benefit all news organizations…

OpenPlans (a nonprofit technology organization focused on civic engagement and open government) is developing OpenBlock. In June, Information Today reported: “Now, through three interrelated Knight-funded projects, OpenPlans is, according to Nick Grossman (the company’s director of civic works) aiming to ‘take [EveryBlock’s] source code and make it better and easier to use, so that other online news organizations can build similar sites in their towns.’”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded its OpenBlock Initiative through three grants totaling $458,625, to:

  • “Streamline and extend the EveryBlock code base and build a community of open source software developers and newspapers who can use and improve the software.”
  • “Install and test OpenBlock at The Columbia Tribune (Columbia, MO), and add new features in the context of a smaller newspaper.”
  • “Install and test OpenBlock at The Boston Globe, to add new features in the context of a larger newspaper.”

The Boston OpenBlock demo site is fairly minimal so far. The OpenBlock Project blog says that there are “plenty of known rough spots. The home page map doesn’t have popups yet, the theme could use work, and there are some broken pages. And there are no maps on pages other than the front page.”

News organizations of all sizes should keep an eye on this project, explore the test sites as they develop, and offer input to the development team. Such participation will help make make OpenBlock a more useful, practical tool for news organizations. And perhaps a lucrative tool, as well—OpenBlock is an example of a structured information service that could support the news business model through new kinds of data-supported products.

September 13, 2010

19 communities win Knight grants for local news, information

Local news and information will get a big boost in 19 communities thanks to $3.14 million in new grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge initiative.

These grants are matching funds in partnership with locally focused foundations in each community.

More about this year’s winning projects…

Among the winners and projects are:

Other winning communities and regions include Pittsburgh (PA), Dubuque (IA), the Black Hills region (SD), San Antonio (TX), El Paso (TX), Austin (TX), Seattle (WA), Alaska, Tulsa (OK), south Florida, Youngstown (OH), Boston (MA), Cleveland (OH), and West Anniston (AL). See project summaries.

Bring home one of these grants. The Knight Foundation will again accept applications for the Knight Community Information Challenge from Jan. 17 to March 7, 2011. So start talking now to local community foundations—you might find a partner foundation willing to contribute funds, and Knight will match their contribution.

In addition, foundation leaders can register for Knight’s fourth annual Media Learning Seminar—a gathering to discuss how foundations can support local news and information needs and opportunities. Feb. 28 - March 1, 2011, Miami.

December 01, 2010

Could Chicago-based mobile civic engagement experiment be model for news organizations?

A project that invites Chicagoans into a cell phone text message-based dialogue about alternative forms of transportation offers an intriguing glimpse into how news organizations could engage their communities…

The “Give a Minute” initiative now underway in Chicago describes itself as offering citizens an “opportunity to think out loud…and to enter into dialogue with change-making community leaders.” The idea is to raise a simple challenge (in this case, what would encourage residents to walk, bike or take public transportation more) and then invite users to text in their suggestions or enter them on a web site. Community leaders then review and respond to the best of them.

The effort reportedly garnered 1,000 responses in its first two weeks. And now the Give a Minute initiative, which was created by the media design firm Local Projects as part of CEOs for Cities US initiative, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and others, is planning similar projects for New York, Memphis and San Jose.

In a detailed writeup in an online-only N.Y. Times column, writer Allison Arieff describes what she sees as the project’s potential to build community activism around this simple technology—raising the all-too familiar art of civic complaints into actionable, crowdsourced ideas that can be leveraged into consensus-driven solutions.

What could news organizations learn from or do with this kind of effort? For one thing, the potential benefits of using basic, widespread technology, such as text messaging, to better engage communities.

But more than that, could news organizations use an approach like this to serve as much-needed focal points for civic conversations around important community issues? Could they help build better communication between citizens and their local government and other civic leaders? Or foster networking between engaged citizenry and those local organizations that are already trying to do something about local problems?

Notes Arieff: “People are turning inward to their own communities ... people increasingly understand that they can effect change in their own backyard, block, and neighborhood.” Perhaps news organizations can tap into this impulse as well, fostering not only civic engagement but a newly recharged role for themselves in the lives of their communities.

December 21, 2010

$3 million Knight grant to fund civic engagement at Univ. of Florida

In Florida, civic engagement hasn’t been doing so well. The state has been ranked 34th nationally in average voter turnout, 48th in public meeting attendance and 49th in volunteering.

To help reverse this dire trend, today the John S. and James L. Knight foundation announced it’s awarding a $3 million grant to encourage civic commitment among students at the University of Florida with the help of digital media…

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the university will use the fund to launch “novel programs” including:

  • Knight Effective Citizenship Fellows, who will do research to develop best practices in encouraging a lifelong civic engagement.
  • Civil Debate Wall, a high-tech media center that will allow students to instantly engage in debate and conversation on issues. The wall will anchor a series of interactive kiosks both on and off campus that will poll students on their views, and present them with opposing opinions on issues.
  • Rethinking Citizenship, an interactive online course that will teach students civic engagement on the local, state and national levels. The curriculum will be reviewed by a panel of experts and scholars.
  • Series of live forums and panel discussions that will use live streaming, multimedia imagery, and social media tools to link students and scholars in public policy discussions around the world.

News organizations also can play a strong role in fostering local civic engagements. For ideas and resources on how to accomplish this (even with limited time or means), see KDMC’s civic engagement series.

September 12, 2011

Code for America partners with cities: Detroit, Macon, Philadelphia

This week the Code for America program announced its first 2012 partner cities: Detroit; Macon, GA; and Philadelphia. Teams of three CFA fellows will be deployed in each city to help local government officials “brainstorm and implement innovative applications to engage citizens…”

Each team will include a software developer, a designer, and a product manager. Here’s what they’ll be doing while deployed:

This effort is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Technology for Engagement initiative. Additional 2012 partner cities will be announced later.

These initiatives represent an opportunity for news organizations and info/community venues in the partner cities to assist with, and amplify, civic engagement efforts. This can not only help your community—it also can speed your own digital learning process and help build awareness of the local news and information you offer.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

July 25, 2012

Civic Data Challenge: Apply by July 29

The Civic Data Challenge, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, seeks to turn existing data on civic/community issues, health, safety, education, and the economy into beautiful, useful applications and visualizations…

Participants will choose datasets provided by the Challenge, and analyze them in conjunction with at least one additional dataset. They will identify connections and correlations and create visual representations and interactive products to showcase their findings. These may include infographics, apps, animations, videos, or other products.

Learn more and enter now.

Deadline: July 29, 11:59 pm EST on July 29.

On Twitter, follow @CivicData.

Winners will be notified in mid-August and publicly announced at the 67th Annual National Conference on Citizenship. (Sept. 14, Philadelphia)

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.