News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Knight Foundation

July 06, 2011

Page One: New book explores future of journalism

A new compilation of essays about the future of journalism has just been published. See Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism, by NPR’s David Folkenflik. This book includes an essay by Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibargüen listing several surprises that Knight encountered in its many programs to foster the future of news and community information…

Ibargüen’s full essay, Investing in the future of news, is available online. Here are a few highlights:

About the Knight News Challenge: “An amazing number of entries were appealing but ignored the geographic community focus of the contest. ...Our interest was in informing communities so they might determine their best interests, so we wanted to focus on ways to bend the World Wide Web to local use. It turned out to be harder than we first thought.”

Where’s the legacy media? “One of the biggest surprises has been the disappointing lack of interest and engagement displayed by newsrooms in legacy media outlets. NPR is an exception, as is American Public Media. We gave funds to aid APM’s Public Insight Network, which sought to establish a much wider range of expert voices in radio broadcasting.”

Contributed content is not enough. “Another lesson also became clear: disappointment awaits those media outlets that hope to rely on user-generated content to reproduce the scale and broad-based geographic coverage of traditional newspapers. At a very local level, it has proved too much to expect people with busy lives to contribute consequentially and consistently to citizen journalism or crowdsourcing projects.”

How can the crowd contribute? “Truthfully, few new ideas have surfaced which meaningfully include the reader in the news process. This seems ironic in a world where Wikipedia and blogs have become commonplace reference sources. Promising ideas and innovations predicated on audience engagement have not been adopted by traditional media. One such is Spot.us, which allows the audience to decide which story pitches to green-light by virtue of their financial contributions, leaving the reporting and editing to others. The financial backing is totally transparent but few news organizations have even tried it, though the innovation itself is available for free.”

Mobile represents a huge shift. “Mobile could be a kind of reset button for the industry, representing yet another seismic disruption -or another golden opportunity. ... We believe that finding new and effective ways to deliver content on mobile devices deserves the most serious attention. It surely isn’t a coincidence that Google is promoting Android and that the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the owner of a significant percentage of the telephone access in the hemisphere, is also a major investor in The New York Times.”

Ask the right questions: “The questions facing anyone interested in informing communities should be familiar. It boils down to something eminently simple but deceptively hard to execute: how do we inform people to encourage engagement in their community? There is no easy route to success in this emerging digital space. But I think, taken together, these questions hold the key:

  • Why do people need the information you provide?
  • Do you provide utility?
  • Do the things you cover matter to the community?
  • What is your point of view and how will you reflect it?
  • Where and how do people want the information?
  • How will you engage the audience?

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 08, 2011

Knight Foundation sponsors DEMO tech conference, scholarships available

Got a good tech idea you want to pitch to investors? This year the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is sponsoring DEMO, a leading technology investment conference, Sept. 12-14 in Silicon Valley…

Normally it costs about $1000 to attend DEMO, but this year there are 20 scholarships available for startups—including two for women and minority-led digital media companies.

Apply for scholarships

Deadline: July 15

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 08, 2011

Knight Community Arts Journalism Challenge: Apply by Aug. 18

Local arts journalism is evolving quickly, just like every other kind of news and information. To spur and guide this evolution, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts recently teamed up to launch an eight-city competition seeking new models for local arts journalism in the digital age…

A Knight press release explained that the new Knight Community Arts Journalism Challenge will award prizes up to $100,000 total for projects that “use the latest tools for storytelling and engaging readers to create model programs that could be replicated in other communities.”

Projects must focus on or directly benefit at least one of the following cities:

  • Akron, Ohio
  • Detroit, Mich.
  • Macon, Ga.
  • Charlotte, N.C.
  • Miami, Fla.
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • San Jose/ Silicon Valley, Calif.
  • St. Paul, Minn.

Applicants need not reside within a target city.

Apply now
Deadline: Midnight ET, Aug. 18

First round winners will receive up to $20,000 to create an action plan to develop their idea. These projects are eligible to win up to $80,000 for implementation in the contest’s second round.

Individuals, non-profits and businesses are eligible to apply. Partnerships between legacy and emerging media organizations are encouraged. There is no limit to the number of applications that you can submit.

“No idea is too unusual,” said Dennis Scholl, Knight’s vice president for arts.

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 10, 2011

Pseudonyms in comments: Reasons to allow them

Requiring people to give their real names when posting comments to a news site may encourage better behavior, deter sock puppeting, and increase accountability—but it also may silence voices which lack privilege. A recent blog post about legitimate uses of pseudonyms raises issues that news organizations should consider…

UPDATE January 2012: Data from the commenting platform Disqus shows that allowing pseudonyms leads to more and better comments.

People use pseudonyms online for lots of reasons, not just as cover for trollish behavior. Legal names can be a tool for marginalization, so requiring them may keep relevant voices out of the public discourse on a news site.

Writing for the Geek Feminism blog, “Mary” explains:

“Wanting to and being able to use your legal name everywhere is associated with privilege. Non-exhaustive list of reasons you might not want to use it on social networks: ...online circles are the only place it’s safe to express some aspect of your identity, ever; your legal name marks you as a member of a group disproportionately targeted for harassment; you want to say things or make connections that you don’t want to share with colleagues, family or bosses; you hate your legal name because it is shared with an abusive family member; your legal name doesn’t match your gender identity; ...your legal name is imposed by a legal system that doesn’t match your culture.”

Nevertheless, many people (especially many news professionals) are quick to dismiss the legitimacy of pseudonyms. Their reasons are good—just check out the legions of hostile, insulting, offensive comments posted under made-on-the-spot pseudonyms on most news sites. It’s like graffiti on your office wall, and it discourages and angers people whose careers are devoted to public accountability.

But: Should the behavior of comment trolls justify further marginalizing voices that already have a hard time getting heard?

Mary proposed a tongue-in-cheek “Anti-Pseudonym Bingo” game to highlight the common arguments used to dismiss the use of pseudonyms. A few examples:

  • “If you don’t want your boss and family to see it, don’t say it online.”
  • “Refuse to live in fear.”
  • “Pseudonyms are only needed by men pretending to be women.”
  • “I asked my friends and none of us have any problem with it.”
  • “Harassment is illegal; use of legal names will let you report it to the cops.”


In an effort to improve comment quality through accountability, some news organizations are now disallowing anonymous comments. Others have begun requiring commenters to register with a real name, and confirm that with a real e-mail address, before they can post comments to the site. Still others, like the Contra Costa Times have begun using the Facebook comment plugin instead of hosting comments on their own site—partly since it’s harder to maintain a pseudonymous Facebook account.

Disqus, another popular commenting platform that can be integrated with news sites (CNN.com uses it), may offer a third way. Sites using Disqus can opt to require commenters to log in before commenting. However, users can create a pseudonymous Disqus profile, thus protecting their real identity.

While it’s possible that any profile-based commenting system can be spoofed (even the newly launched but fast growing Google+, which is drawing criticism for requiring real names), it takes effort to create a fake profile. Most casual comment trolls won’t bother to do that—and over time even “sock puppeteers” who use fake profiles might give themselves away via the breadcrumb trail of their profile.

If equitable access to your entire community is a core mission of your news organization, it’s important to not dismiss pseudonyms out of hand.

July 29, 2011

New mobile media toolkit from MobileActive

This week, the nonprofit group MobileActive launched its Mobile Media Toolkit—a great guide for anyone (including journalists) who want to learn how to create media using cell phones, or that works well on mobile devices…

This resource offers tips on tools and techniques, as well as case studies of projects from around the world that have used cell phones for journalism, broadcasting, and citizen media—on a variety of platforms and in a variety of circumstances. This project is funded by a 2009 Knight News Challenge award.

The guide is divided into sections for professional journalists, citizen journalists, media development organizations (groups that foster the development of free and independent media) and news organizations and other content publishers.

Although it’s not listed under the resources for professional journalists, don’t miss the guide to mobile security for citizen journalists—especially if you work with sensitive sources or topics, or are otherwise concerned about surveillance.

While this resource offers a lot of great information about smartphones, it also covers opportunities presented by feature phones (which still comprise the vast majority of phones currently in use in the US and elsewhere). For instance, there are tips on how to set up an SMS text messaging system, and how to do mobile polling.

Several of the cross-links between pages in this guide currently aren’t working. If you encounter one, search for the topic in the site search engine and you’ll probably find it.

Although this content is available on the web, it’s a great example of the kind of content that could—and should—be published as an e-book or as an app.

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

August 10, 2011

Knight News Challenge: key takeaways so far

The Knight News Challenge has been going for five years, and it’s gotten a lot of attention. But how much progress did it make toward its goal of spurring innovation in how local news and information is gathered, shared and used?

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently published some reflections and analysis about the program. Here are the key takeaways…

This week, Knight shared four insights about what makes media innovation projects successful:

  • Know your niche
  • Build community
  • Train for engagement
  • Earn income


This infographic and the slideshow below also communicate key points about the News Challenge and its impact, including insights from Knight’s interim assessment of the 2007-08 News Challenge winners.

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

August 24, 2011

New digital journalism scholarships from AP, Google

Are you a full-time graduate/undergraduate college student seeking funds to study digital journalism? The Associated Press and Google recently announced a new scholarship program for you…

This program will “provide $20,000 scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year to six promising undergraduate or graduate students pursuing or planning to pursue degrees at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media. The program is targeted to individual students creating innovative projects that further the ideals of digital journalism. A key goal is to promote geographic, gender and ethnic diversity, with an emphasis on rural and urban areas.”

Read the eligibility criteria. This program is administered by the Online News Association.

Apply now
Deadline: Jan. 27, 2012, 11:59 pm ET

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

August 25, 2011

ASNE to host weekly Twitter chat

Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 30 at noon EDT, ASNE will begin hosting a weekly Twitter chat on journalism and leadership issues.

The hourlong chats will be held every Tuesday at noon Eastern/ 9 a.m. Pacific, using the hashtag #ASNEchat. I’ll cohost, joined by Carole Tarrant, editor of The Roanoke (Va.) Times. Steve Buttry, director of community engagement and social media for Journal Register Co, will also host occasionally. We hope other ASNE members will cohost future chats, and welcome suggestions for topics and guests via @newseditors or @ASNEChat.

The weekly chats will feature guests who’ll address questions and interact with hosts and participants. ASNE’s choice of guests and topics will aim to prompt discussion, connection and a lively sharing of ideas and views. Given the medium and the times, we’ll have a tilt toward digital journalism, but we expect to talk about a variety of journalism issues of interest to newsrooms of all sizes and the many people who share ASNE’s interests in training, First Amendment and open government, diversity and best practices for coverage.

“The Twitter chats are a way for ASNE to reach out to journalism leaders outside of the newspaper business,” noted board member and ASNE’s Web Strategies Committee chair Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of Journal Register. “We hope they’ll also help ASNE’s core members get more comfortable with the medium.”

Follow user @ASNEChat or hashtag #ASNEchat.

August 31, 2011

Online Journalism Award finalists announced

Today the Online News Association announced finalists for the 2011 Online Journalism Awards.

This list features many established print/broadcast media brands and their digital offshoots as well as a variety of large and small nonprofits and startups…

Looking over the award categories, may seem surprising to see some fairly well-funded organizations like ProPublica (which is backed by the New York Times) and the Texas Tribune (which has received over $3 million in grant funding) listed as “small” organization finalists. However ONA defines “small” in terms of site traffic—not in terms of funding, or the geographic area/community served.

According to ONA: “Eight awards come with a total of $33,000 in prize money, courtesy of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Gannett Foundation, which also is supporting innovative investigative work with two $2,500 awards.”

Winners will be announced Sept. 24 at the 2011 ONA conference in Boston.

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

September 02, 2011

Smartphones probably not a majority for about a year

Smartphones are gradually taking over the U.S. mobile market—just not nearly as quickly as many news organizations and other digital publishers anticipated. Recent statistics indicate that smartphones probably won’t comprise the majority of the U.S. mobile market until approximately Q3 2012. Meanwhile, feature phone web browser options have improved substantially.

These are strong reasons to make sure that your mobile web site is robust and lean, since that’s still how you can reach the largest possible mobile audience…

According to comScore, as of July smartphones comprised only 35% of the U.S. mobile market. They’ve been showing a fairly steady gain of 1% per month for the last year, which means that it by Sept. or October of 2012 smartphones may finally comprise 50% of the U.S. mobile market.




Projection based on comScore data. Chart courtesy BusinessKnowHow.com

In March 2010 Nielsen Company predicted that smartphones would take over the U.S. market right about now. This prediction was widely circulated in digital media circles, and it’s still being used in presentations and strategy documents. But this week Nielsen estimated the current smartphone market share at 40%—in a post that omitted any mention of their earlier prediction.

The future pace of U.S. smartphone market penetration could vary substantially according to how the general economy fares. In addition to costing much more up front, in the U.S. smartphones are sold mainly with pricey two-year carrier contracts that include hefty early termination fees. This makes them a substantial and challenging financial commitment for people who are either out of work or concerned about their job or income security.

Simpler, cheaper feature phones remain popular probably because they’re more affordable and flexible. They can generally be purchased for $50 or less (even free), and no-contract or prepaid options are fairly easy to find from discount carriers.

Also, feature phone web browser options have improved considerably. According to NetMarketshare, over the last year Opera Mini has kept up as the second most popular mobile browser behind Safari, even surpassing Android. Opera Mini offers a much faster, easier, and prettier mobile browsing experience compared to the typical feature phone web browser of a couple of years ago. It’s now coming preinstalled on many U.S. feature phones—and most feature phone owners can download and install it for free, even if it doesn’t come bundled with their phone.

As more feature phone owners get better browsers, chances are they’ll use the mobile web more. So test your mobile site to make sure it “plays nice” with Opera Mini and other better browsers that run on feature phones. Make sure your online production team has a feature phone equipped with Opera Mini for testing, or use the Opera Mini simulator.

Note that Opera Mini is a “proxy browser” which pre-renders web pages before downloading them as images to the phone, to keep data usage low. This can break more advanced interactive or navigation features, so make sure your mobile site works well enough with simple navigation.

Offering a good-enough mobile web experience for users with low-end handsets or slow data connections doesn’t have to consume much of your time or budget. However, having this baseline can help you build awareness and loyalty among a vast and mostly underserved potential news audience. If you’re at least moderately considerate of their needs now, then when they eventually get smartphones they’ll probably remember your news brand.

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