News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Government

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.

March 31, 2010

Internet will probably conquer bureaucracy eventually, says new Pew report

Frustrated by slow, convoluted bureaucracies? Just watch the net and wait. And wait. New research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that the internet will make businesses and government agencies much more responsive and efficient—by 2020. That’s what 72% of nearly 900 “technology stakeholders and critics” surveyed by Pew believe…

Why will these improvements take so long, or maybe even longer? Powerful bureaucratic forces will push back against such transformation. Expect continuing tension in disruptive times.

In contrast, about one-fourth of respondents believe “By 2020, governments, businesses, non‐profits and other mainstream institutions will primarily retain familiar 20th century models for conduct of relationships with citizens and consumers online and offline.”

Read the survey results, including remarks from many respondents who chose to elaborate upon their answers.

April 27, 2010

Government Online: New Pew report

Increasingly, civic engagement means helping people interact effectively with government online. In the last year, 82% of US internet users (61% of all American adults) looked for information or completed a transaction on a government site.

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project, Government Online, examines how Americans use digital media to connect with government—what’s working, and what isn’t. This report could help news organizations and other community-building ventures spot opportunities to add value to (or fill gaps in) online civic engagement. Beyond web sites, it also discusses social media, mobile media, and e-mail.

...And, in case you missed it, KDMC’s recent civic engagement series suggested many specific ways that news orgs can help communities function better within a democracy.

May 26, 2010

Investigative Journos: What government data do you want? FCC wants to help

Investigative journalists: What government datasets would you really like to have? Someone from the government is here to help.

Dr. Irene Wu, a researcher at the Federal Communications Commission, is seeking feedback from journalists that would help with the agency’s Future of the Media project. (KDMC covered this project in January.)

Here’s how you can participate…

Wu is compiling a list of datasets that investigative reporters would like to have. This would be ideally be data that is supposed to be public, but in practice is difficult to get in searchable electronic format.

Wu wants to understand not just which types of government data are in demand but what kinds of problems reporters are encountering in trying to obtain data. FCC cannot compel the release of data, but the agency could make recommendation on how to improve the situation.

To submit your government data wish list and complaint list, e-mail Irene Wu.

June 08, 2010

AJR research: Which news orgs have reporters on agency beats?

The current issue of American Journalism Review includes an article by Jodie Enda which contends: “Watchdog reporting is at an alarming low at many federal agencies and departments whose actions have a huge impact on the lives of American citizens.”

AJR has some data to back this up…

The story, Capital Flight, features an interactive chart and table showing which key federal agencies are currently covered by full-time beat reporters at mainstream news orgs.

AJR’s data shows that in 2003, 23 news organizations had staff reporters based in Washington, DC who are assigned at least two-thirds time to cover the Dept. of Defense. By 2010, that number shrank to 10. Similarly, in 2003 10 news organizations had DC-based staffers covering the State Dept. at least two-thirds time; by 2010, only nine did.

However, in 2010 four federal agencies that previously had not been the main beat for any DC-based reporter (the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Consumer Products Safety Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) had been assigned beat reporters.

July 06, 2010

News (and Newsrooms) in the Networking Age

If you’re trying to wrap your head around the transformation of the media industry, a good place to start might be the idea of “perestroika”—the old Soviet term that described the dramatic restructuring of its most mature institutions. That, in fact, is the theme for an industry gathering in Philadelphia later this month that explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society in the Network Age, while asking the question: After everything is connected, “what’s next?”

The July 29-30 Supernova forum, co-hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is produced by Kevin Werbach, a former FCC technology official and organizer of the PC Forum with Esther Dyson. Technologists, entrepreneurs, business executives, investors, and policymakers will come together to discuss three overarching themes.—evolving digital infrastructure and platforms, models for networked business innovation, and transforming or replacing established institutions.

Tech policy forum participants include White House official Beth Noveck, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, Google’s Washington counsel Richard Whitt and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis. And other participants will also lead discussion at afternoon unconferences and “challenge sessions.”

Check out the agenda and register here.

If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to figure out the restructuring of your own newsroom, the gathering for you might be the International Newsroom Summit in London, Sept. 8-9.

Speakers and attendees include many European newspaper publishers, but Editor & Publisher reports The New York Time’s Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will be on the program, along with top Washington Post newsroom exec Raju Narisetti.

The key question: what does the new generation newsroom look like, and how does it operate? Discussions are around topics like newsroom synergies, smartphone publishing, innovative storytelling and paid content.  Register here.

August 24, 2010

Knight Launches Tech Initiative; Funds $2M-Plus in Projects

More millions go into the pot for community technology with a new effort aimed at engaging citizens on local issues.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Technology for Engagement Initiative August 24 in an effort to “help residents take action to strengthen their communities.” Knight quickly put some large amounts behind the effort, with $2.23 million in funding going to five projects, including one with a co-founder of Facebook and another involving Craigslist.

The biggest grants - of $750,000 apiece - go to and to the Craigslist Foundation. The Jumo site, started by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, matches individuals interested in fostering social change with organizations that can help them do it (Hughes explains the project in a video). The Craigslist Foundation project would create an idea-sharing website.

Additional grants of $250,000 apiece will go to two other efforts. One, called Code For America, is based on the Teach for America approach and will enlist promising web developers to foster more transparent, participatory and efficient city governments. Knight funding will bring the project to Philadelphia and Boulder, CO.

The second project to receive $250,000, dubbed Community PlanIt, will use an interactive gaming platform to help community stakeholders improve planning and problem solving, initially in four communities supported by other Knight grants.

A fifth grant of $235,000 will go to a project called CEOs for Cities. The proposed effort will test a crowd-sourcing platform in San Jose, CA and Grand Rapids, MI, in order to encourage residents to work with city hall to solve local problems.

Watch a video clip for more detail on the Knight initiative, or visit the initiative site to submit your own proposal for funding.

February 14, 2011

Sunshine Week shows how to call for open government

Journalists usually shy away from direct activism, but many are willing to advocate proudly for greater government transparency. The American Society of News Editors (ASNE), which organizes the annual Sunshine Week awareness campaign, recently published a tool that news organizations can use to get government agencies and officials to commit to specific types of openness…

On Feb. 11, ASNE published a model open government proclamation which can be used to push for greater transparency in government. This document goes beyond encouraging broad statements of support, and calls for specific pledges and plans of action to enhance the public’s right to know.

How to use this document: Customize it, publish it, and during Sunshine Week (March 13-19) challenge specific government officials or agencies to adopt to it. Then hold them accountable for progress.

Perhaps a coalition of national news organizations might challenge the US Senate to adopt to this proclamation—especially since the Federal Whistleblower Protection Act was killed by a secret Senate hold in December.

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

February 25, 2011

White papers push broadband, local online hubs as key to government transparency

Better broadband access for core community institutions and smarter models for local online information hubs - those are among the keys to greater government transparency and accountability, according to two new white papers released today by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

The white papers, fourth and fifth in a series from Knight and the Aspen Institute, are designed to help implement recommendations made by the commission in its “Informed Communities” report issued in 2009.

In Six Strategies for More Open and Participatory Government, the authors call for expanding efforts to support greater adoption of broadband Internet access services and devices, creating opportunities for developing public goods apps, and educating citizens about e-government tools, among other proposals.

Another white paper, Creating Local Online Hubs: Three Models for Action, explores an array of successful existing online hubs and suggests three general approaches to such services that best offer citizen access to government and community information.

A three-hour roundtable discussion with the authors and two-dozen high-level participants accompanied the release of the report; an archived video of the roundtable is to be made available. You can also follow discussion on Twitter via hashtag #knightcomm.

For more insight on the Knight Foundation “Informed Communities” report, also check out a special series on civic engagement by Amy Gahran in our News Leadership 3.0 blog.

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

April 12, 2011

Budget cuts slash federal government online transparency programs

Getting online information about the federal government probably may soon get much harder, thanks to budget cuts approved April 11 by Congress…

Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation reports that six project areas appear to be affected by the cuts: ” The electronic government fund will be cut to $8 million from the $34 million appropriated in FY2010—a reduction to on fourth of its previous funding. ...Some projects facing defunding include the information repository, the government-spending reporting site, the recently-launched cloud computing initiative, citizen engagement tools, and online collaboration tools.

Transparency is taking a relatively hard hit in the new budget agreement. Schuman notes: “By comparison, other programs in the ‘financial services and government sector,’ which includes the e-gov fund, were cut by a (comparatively slight) 10% from their FY2010 levels.”

These cuts are likely to make several data-focused and investigative reporting projects difficult. If your work relies on the affected sites or programs, it’s probably wise to get as much done with those resources sooner rather than later, before these cuts take effect.

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