News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Knight Foundation

April 23, 2010

Philadelphia journalism collaborative effort spurred by J-Lab report

On April 21, the William Penn Foundation announced its plans to make investments to develop an independent journalism collaborative in Philadelphia. This was based on recommendations made in J-Lab’s new report, Exploring a Networked Journalism Collaborative in Philadelphia (a study commissioned by the foundation).

Philly’s daily papers have fallen on hard times—in fact, today is the deadline for opening bids to buy Philadelphia Newspapers Inc., which declared bankruptcy in February.

Nevertheless, J-Lab says the nation’s sixth-largest city is home to a diverse media ecosystem that could, with some coordination, help local residents stay informed about (and participate in) city life.

According to J-Lab, Philadelphia is “ripe for a networked journalism collaborative.” This could be “anchored by an independent news site that would both curate and aggregate some of the excellent reporting originating in many of the city’s new media sites as well as provide original reporting on a half-dozen key topics and serve as the connective tissue for the partners. This should be a supplemental, rather than comprehensive, news enterprise.”

Under the umbrella of a collaborative with a central web site, Philly-area independent journalists could generate original news and issues coverage on six to eight key issues where coverage currently lags. It also would enable city officials, agencies, community organizations, nonprofits, and others to share their information.

Read the full report.

May 17, 2010

BP oil spill: Ushahidi-powered crowdsourced map

Talk about amazing timing. Early in 2010, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (an environmental justice group) and a Tulane University GIS class were using Ushahidi (open-source software that collects and displays crowdsourced news submitted via mobile phone or internet) to build an interactive map about Louisiana’s frequent oil refinery accidents. According to the Ushahidi blog, “The same day as their final class presentation, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.”

Armed with their recent Ushahidi experience, LABB quickly used the platform to launch its Oil Spill Crisis Map to track how the BP oil spill is affecting the Gulf Coast and the people who live there…

As of May 15, 311 field reports (many with photos) were filed for this project—about 80% of which LABB lists as verified. These are displayed as points on a Google Map. Contributors can file reports online, via cell message (text or photo), or Twitter (hashtag #BPspillmap).

Community reporting examples include: Large dead turtle (Bay St. Louis, MS), Fire and chemical smells in the air (Dunedin, FL), and oil-tainted storm water discharge (Meraux, LA). The map also includes reports from environmental groups such as Greenpeace, and references to mainstream media coverage.

So far, Ushahidi has mainly been used by grassroots organizations—but clearly it’s also a useful tool for crowdsourcing unfolding news that affects a geographic area. But takes time to install and learn to use any new tool—and that learning ideally should happen before you have to cover a major breaking disaster.

On May 3, MobileActive published a detailed comparison of Ushahidi and a related tool, Managing News. The post covers installation, SMS integration, and mapping processes, and is a good starting point for any news organization considering map-based crowdsourcing or aggregation options.

Ushahidi originated in Kenya as a crisis reporting tool, but it (and tools like it) could be used for ongoing coverage of “creeping” rather than “breaking” news. It’s also an intriguing way to engage a mobile audience—contributors aren’t burdened with having to craft a complete packaged “story,” but rather can contribute pieces to a larger, visible whole. This lowers the perceived barrier of entry to crowdsourcing, and encourages contributors to promote the crowdsourcing effort (and the organization behind it) to their social and online circles.

If there’s a hard-to-cover but important issue unfolding in your region, experimenting with tools such as Ushahidi now might help you gain traction with mobile users. Meanwhile, you’ll also be better prepared to cover future crises. For more context, read Editors Weblog: What journalists should know about Ushahidi.

Also, Ushahidi was a 2009 Knight News Challenge winner, and this tool gained considerable public visibility for reporting the Haiti earthquake aftermath.

June 14, 2010

Knight to name 2010 News Challenge grantees this week

On June 16, the latest set of Knight News Challenge winners will be announced in a 2:30 pm ET event. This will kick off this year’s invitation-only Future of News and Civic Media conference at MIT in Cambridge, MA, which runs through June 18. Watch live video of the announcement, plus lightning-round presentations online from the fourth annual set of winners…

The two-day gathering, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media, brings together about 200 attendees. This group includes past and present News Challenge winners, media innovators and community leaders. I’m a 2007 News Challenge winner, and so will be attending this gathering and reporting for KDMC from there.

The conference program will be dominated by free-form barcamp-style sessions and technology demos. One plenary will spotlight “crowdbuilding” as a next-level approach to “crowdsourcing.” Another will examine how to design data to help communities pursue their interests.

Follow the proceedings on Twitter via the hasthtag #fncm. Also, MediaShift‘s Mark Glaser will be liveblogging the conference on the IdeaLab blog.

June 17, 2010

Is Data Viz Knight’s New Killer App?

Data visualization appears to be the new darling the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, judging from the new batch of Knight News Challenge winners named June 16 at the Future of News and Civic Media conference at MIT in Cambridge, MA.

Knight called data visualization “one of the most promising new areas of digital journalism,” as it handed out $2.74 million in the fourth round of the five-year award program, including several six-figure grants to data visualization proposals. Here are some of the winners…

  • Citytracking: This San Francisco-based project of Stamen Design (creators of Oakland Crimespotting) will get $400,000 (the biggest prize this year) to create embeddable data visualizations of municipal data.
  • The Cartoonist: An Atlanta-based venture by videogame designer Ian Bosog, was awarded $378,000 to develop a free tool to create cartoon-like current event games.
  • GoMap Riga: This Latvian initiative will receive $250,000 to develop a live user-generated online news map.
  • Tilemapping: This Washington DC-based hyperlocal map tool project will get $74,000.

Knight awarded grants to a dozen projects in total.  Some are designed to explore new funding mechanisms. For instance, a recent j-school grad from Chicago will get $250,000 to develop NowSpot, a real-time ad building tool using social media content. Another team will get $75,000 to pilot a story development and crowdfunding project in Kentucky (with media partner Louisville Public Media).

Other grantees will build and test new reader engagement tools. A $350,000 award will go to the San Francisco developers of LocalWiki, project to create a toolset for community wikis. And Arizona State’s CitySeed project will get $90,000 to develop an app to geotag story ideas which others can then debate and act upon.

Other winning projects include virtual collaborative video editing, a “pro-am” reporting project with US Marines in Afghanistan, the rollout of a hyperlocal news model in Vermont, and an open courtroom reporting project in Boston.

Here’s the full list of the 2010 Knight News Challenge winners, with details about their projects. You can also watch video of the announcement, including a lightning round of presentations by the grantees. More coverage can also be found on the PBS IdeaLab blog. Through June 18, follow the rest of the conference via the Twitter hashtag #fncm.

Learn more about the five-year history of the Knight News Challenge. On June 16, the Knight Foundation published a comprehensive report about this program.

Yesterday, Knight also announced that former MacArthur Foundation executive John Bracken will be the new News Challenge director. He’s taking over for Gary Kebbel, who is moving on to become dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln).

The News Challenge announcement was just one part of the first day of the three-day MIT gathering, which brings together past and present grantees with other news and technology experts. A plenary discussion on “crowdbuilding,” (or “collaborative co-production”) featured anthropologist Gabriella Coleman, who studied open-source communities and who emphasized the value of ethically stable communities with select, committed participants. Also speaking at this session was Harvard Business School professor Karim Lakhani, who stressed the value of unique rewards to drive community participation.

The first day of the conference wrapped with the first of many project demos from the MIT Center for Future Civic Media. Watch for additional coverage this week.

June 21, 2010

BookBrewer: from blogs to e-books

Imagine instantly converting your existing blog or hyperlocal content into e-books, earning $5 a pop on major online book stores? New software in development hopes to help you do just that.

The new BookBrewer initiative is one element of a for-profit FeedBrewer effort launched this spring by Dan Pacheco, the former Bakersfield Californian digital media executive. Pacheco was also behind the Printcasting project, which won a John L. and James S. Knight Foundation News Challenge grant of more than $800,000 in 2008 to develop software that turns web content in niche print publications.

I had a chance to experiment with a conceptual prototype of BookBrewer. It appears to require little, if any, technical or design skill as it walks users through a few simple steps to generate the end product, which the developer said should take just five minutes.

In an e-mail, Pacheco added that unlike Printcasting (which was free) BookBrewer will probably charge a $70 setup fee, with subsequent revenues coming from money made by book sales. An e-book author could expect to make around $5 per sale on a $9.99 cover price, with about $3 going to a book seller, and $2 to BookBrewer, Pacheco added.

UPDATE: Pacheco says he hopes BookBrewer will have software in testing phase in 30 days and launched in 60 days.

Meanwhile, Printcasting earlier this month released its first open-source version of the Drupal-based Printcasting code, based on Drupal 5 (kinks are still being worked out on a Drupal 6 version).

UPDATE: FeedBrewer says it plans to donate 6 percent of its corporate stock to a brand new Knight Media Innovation Fund; Pacheco explains why.

June 22, 2010

KDMC Names 2010 Leadership Institute Fellows

A group of innovative news leaders representing 20 diverse organizations has been selected for the 2010 Knight-McCormick Leadership Institute hosted by the Knight Digital Media Center at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism…

The 20 fellows will benefit from a unique, six-month curriculum “tailored” to meet their individual needs as primary digital news leaders in their organizations, according to Vikki Porter, director of the Knight Digital Media Center. 

“We consider these to be among the best people positioned to make their organizations viable in the changing digital media landscape,” Porter said. “We want to provide them with expertise and resources that can make them even better. To do so we surveyed fellows and interviewed each one to determine their priority development areas.”

The fellows represent a diverse cross-section of the media organization landscape - major nonprofit broadcasters such as PBS, NPR and CBC,  newspapers such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Wichita Eagle, new startups like the St. Louis Beacon and the New Haven Independent, and new models for investigative journalism including the Center for Investigative Reporting and Investigate West.

2010 Fellows (in alphabetical order):

  • Melissa Bailey, Managing Editor of the New Haven Independent.
  • David Watts Barton, Editor in Chief of The Sacramento (CA) Press.
  • Dan Cates, News Director at Media General’s WSPA-WYCW.
  • Sherry Chisenhall, Editor and Vice President/News of The Wichita Eagle.
  • Jonathan Cooper, Vice President of Content for the Journal Register Company.
  • Julian Do, Director of Southern California for New America Media (NAM), a national association of ethnic media.
  • Arturo Duran, former Chief Executive Officer of ImpreMedia Digital, LLC. and digital consultant.
  • Brian Farnham, a founding executive of Patch Media and Editor-in-Chief of
  • Susan Goldberg, Editor of The (Cleveland, OH) Plain Dealer.
  • Rita Hibbard, Executive Director and Editor of InvestigateWest.
  • Nicole Hollway, General Manager of the St. Louis Beacon.
  • Holly Kernan, News Director at San Francisco-based KALW public radio.
  • Damon Kiesow, Managing Editor/Online at The Telegraph in Nashua, NH.
  • Christine Montgomery, Managing Editor of Public Broadcasting Service’s
  • Rachel Nixon, Director of Digital Media for CBC News in Canada.
  • Loren Omoto, Managing Editor for, the news portal in Tampa Bay, FL.
  • Robert Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting in California.
  • Michael Skoler, Vice President of Interactive Media for Public Radio International.
  • Jane Stevens, Director of Media Strategies at The World Company in Lawrence, KS.
  • Matt Thompson, Editorial Product Manager at National Public Radio.

The Institute is structured to provide several layers of development opportunities for the fellows beginning with a July 29-31 convening in Los Angeles for an intensive foundation in such areas as audience engagement and growth, partnership and collaboration, revenue models and strategic modeling.

After the July sessions, the fellows will participate in ongoing monthly virtual learning sessions and one-on-one mentoring with leading experts in their specific areas of interest. The group will return to LA in January for final sessions.

The KDMC is a partnership of USC Annenberg and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism funded by the James L. and John S. Knight Foundation. In addition to Knight Foundation’s funding, the Institute will be supported by a generous grant from the McCormick Foundation.

June 24, 2010

From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information

Three U.S. newspaper trade groups and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute are teaming up to seed ideas and a possible solution to how news and other information can be managed and sold online.  Live coverage Thursday and Friday.

The “action congress” to discuss issues of trust, identity and Internet information commerce is in session Thursday and Friday, June 24 and 25. Find more information and links to live coverage here.

June 28, 2010

Crowdsourcing your business: Financial Times idea contest to boost subscriptions

Here’s an intriguing notion—ask the crowd you’d like to have pay for your product for ideas on how to get more of them to pay for it. That’s the approach legendary pink business broadsheet Financial Times has taken by using a “social think tank” called Idea Bounty to help find digital marketing ideas to boost new subscriptions to

The crowdsourcing contest has an actual bounty—it carries a top prize of $5,000 and offers 10 short-listers full-year subscriptions to the paper. It’s a pretty simple process: register, submit an idea, then wait to hear back. In this case, you’d know after the July 25 deadline if yours was the plan to win the paper gobs of new online readers.

Idea Bounty, part of Cape Town, South Africa-based Quirk eMarketing, has run such crowd-sourcing contests since late 2008 for Levi’s, Red Bull, BMW, Unilever and others, but this appears to be its first news project. Winning ideas end up belonging to the client, so it’s not so apparent what they are or how well they worked. But the site is reported by technology site Memeburn to have generated 6,000 ideas for 11 projects so far.

Financial Times, meanwhile, already has 140,000 digital subscribers using the site via metered paywall, and according to a long writeup in the Los Angeles Times, has been seeing subscription revenues grow, with 15% more subscribers than a year ago.

Hat tip to Matt Buckland of Creative Spark, which runs the Memeburn site that reported the contest.

July 12, 2010

Investigate West, InvestigateNY: Nonprofit News from KDMC Alums

An intensive examination into the risks of chemotherapy drugs for health workers is the most extensive output so far for a nonprofit journalism outfit that hopes to be a future model for regional investigative reporting.

InvestigateWest, the nonprofit formed a year ago by ex-Seattle Post-Intelligencer  editors and reporters - including Rita Hibbard, an alum of a 2009 Knight Digital Media Center News Entrepreneurship Bootcamp - launched this first major investigation July 9 with project partner public TV station KCTS in Seattle, and later published it on MSNBC, the Seattle Times and other regional print partners.

The nonprofit has previously conducted smaller investigations into family homelessness, and public health and the urban environment. The latest project, said Hibbard, in a press statement, “demonstrates how effectively the work of independent, nonprofit media can link the eyes and ears of many audiences with important, public service journalism.” Similar regional nonprofit investigative projects include the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Wisconsin Watch.

Other KDMC news entrepreneurship fellows have been hard at work on similar projects as well. Another upcoming effort conceived at KDMC by an alum of the 2010 News Entrepreneurship Bootcamp is the soon-to-be-launched InvestigateNY, to be helmed by Polly Kreisman, an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalism in New York, who’s currently running theLoop, a hyperlocal news site in Westchester, N.Y. The InvestigateNY site says it hopes to partner with television, radio, print and digital media, which will receive exclusive access to its reports in exchange for in-kind contributions of services, such as personnel and equipment, or a financial commitment.

July 27, 2010

Study: Internet Users Won’t Pay for Free Services Like Twitter

Amid debate about news paywalls, a bit of not-so-good news for those hoping to get consumers to pony up. A new study shows that despite the enormous popularity of Internet services like Twitter, no one seems actually willing to pay for them.

The annual Digital Future report just out from USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism found, for instance, that while 49 percent of Internet users use free microblogging tools like Twitter, not one of those surveyed said they’d be willing to pay for them.

Jeffrey Cole, director of the school’s Center for the Digital Future, which has been conducting the study since 2000, noted that “Twitter has no plans to charge its users, but this result illustrates, beyond any doubt, the tremendous problem of transforming free users into paying users.”

And it’s not like users see online advertising as a good alternative for funding the media they use. The study found half never click on web advertising, and 70 percent found it “annoying.” In the end, though, 55 percent would rather see online advertising than pay for content.  Added Cole: “Consumers really want free content without advertising, but ultimately they understand that content has to be paid for - one way or another.”

The study also showed ever-greater use of online services paired with a continued decline in use of print newspapers, along with a rising perception that online information is unreliable. See highlights of the report (PDF).

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