News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Knight News Challenge

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.

August 03, 2010 Sponsored survey on objectivity in journalism

Do you think objectivity is crucial to journalism? Or is transparency the new objectivity? The journalism crowdfunding service has launched another sponsored survey exploring ideas and attitudes about objectivity in journalism.

Currently, Clay Shirky (author of Cognitive Surplus and other books about the net) is sponsoring this survey. Questions include: “Is objectivity in journalism even possible?” And: “Is striving for objectivity in journalism a good thing?”...

In these surveys, an organization or brand donates $5 to a story pitch designated by each user who takes a 1-minute survey.

To take this survey, select an open story pitch you’d like to fund. Then click “Earn Credits” at the top of the right-hand sidebar. You’ll be asked to register or log in to, and then you can take the survey.

According to founder David Cohn, “Shirky was given the opportunity to direct funds from a foundation to the nonprofit of his choice. We are truly humbled that he chose Spot.Us. The answers to this survey will be made public but anonymous.”

These sponsored surveys (which Cohn calls community-focused sponsorships) are a unique business-model experiment to help organizations connect with the public about issues—while financially supporting journalism—in a way that’s quite different from traditional advertising or marketing.

Cohn will be developing this model further in his upcoming Reynolds Journalism Institute fellowship. This concept also was deemed a “notable entry” in this year’s Knight-Batten awards.

ALSO: goes national. In his July 27 PBS Mediashift post, Cohn explained the site’s recent shift from a regional to a national focus.

“It makes little sense for me to tell a good pitch from Illinois or Texas that they can’t put their pitch up until we find a handful of other pitches in their region,” wrote Cohn. “So, as of last week, the subdomains at Spot.Us have been removed. Trying to convince people in a specific region to use the site—while stopping others from using it because they aren’t in the right region—is not the best use of our time or energy.” was launched with a 2008 Knight News Challenge grant.

August 20, 2010

Knight News Challenge: Dissertation probes contest’s impact

he Knight News Challenge is a flagship program to spur innovation in journalism, now entering its fifth year. But what is it accomplishing?

Recently Seth Lewis, who just earned his PhD in journalism from the University of Texas-Austin, published his dissertation exploring exactly that question…

Here are some highlights from Journalism Innovation and the Ethic of Participation: A Case Study of the Knight Foundation and its News Challenge:

“I found that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation altered the rhetorical and actual boundaries of journalism jurisdiction. Knight moved away from ‘journalism’ and toward ‘information’ as a way of seeking the wisdom of the crowd to solve journalism’s problems. This opening up of journalism’s boundaries created crucial space in which innovators, from inside and outside journalism, could step in and bring change to the field.

“The result of these efforts has been the emergence of a new rendering of journalism—one that straddles the professional-participatory tension by attempting to ‘ferry the values’ of professional ideals even while embracing new practices more suited to a digital environment. Ultimately, this case study matters for what it suggests about professions in turbulent times.”

The dissertation features both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the News Challenge, including lengthy excerpts from discussions with grantees and other key players in the contest.

Lewis lists three key takeaways from his research:

  1. “The Knight Foundation, to accomplish innovation, backed away from journalism, but these innovators [the News Challenge winners] brought journalism back in.”
  2. “In seeking to reform journalism, news innovators are not de-professionalizing journalism so much as re-energizing its ideals.”
  3. “It used to be hard to start a news organization but relatively easier to sustain one. Now that the equation has flipped—news innovators are struggling to institutionalize.”


August 31, 2010

Is transparency the new objectivity? community speaks out

Objectivity, once viewed as the key attribute of mainstream journalism, is increasingly seen as unlikely or at best secondary in importance to journalistic transparency, according to a survey of the online community for open-source crowdfunded reporting project Spot.Us...

In an Aug. 31 post, “What the Spot.Us Community Thinks of Objectivity,” published in the IdeaLab blog, Spot.Us contributor Sameer Bhuchar writes that of 500 users asked their views of objectivity (in an admittedly unscientific poll) only 13.5 percent identified “objectivity” as what journalism is about.

By contrast, the largest group of respondents (roughly 45 percent) suggested objectivity was really about honest, factual reporting. And nearly 28 percent answered that “transparency is the new objectivity,” which he said implied “it is the reporting of truth that is most important, rather than a detached account. ...”

Bhuchar went on to write: “One thing the respondents did uniformly agree upon is that reporters should unabashedly seek truth. While pure objectivity may be impossible, being honest isn’t.”

The IdeaLab blog post also includes a selection of some three dozen comments on objectivity from Spot.Us community members, including NewsTrust Executive Director Fabrice Florin, DocumentCloud’s Amanda Hickman, and InvestigateWest correspondent Robert McClure.

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.

October 26, 2010

Google puts up $5M for journalism innovation; $2M goes to Knight

For months, Google has been talking about how it wants to aid an ailing journalism business. Now, in a move some are characterizing as a “multi-million-dollar olive branch” the search giant is putting big money on the table to support grassroots digital journalism innovation - $5 million to be exact.

Google announced the funding Oct. 26. The first recipient of its largesse will be the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which will get $2 million for grant making, including $1 million for its ongoing Knight News Challenge, which has just opened its latest contest, deadlined Dec. 1.

Another $3 million will go to journalism projects in other countries, with a separate partnership to be announced next year, said Google’s Nikesh Arora, president of global sales operations and business development.

Mashable‘s Vadim Lavrusik suggested a rationale for the sizeable contribution to digital journalism—“In part, it is policy for Google to donate 1% of profits toward charity, but it’s also a peace offering of sorts to news organizations that have often blamed their woes on the technology giant.”

Knight President Alberto IbargŁen called Google “the right partner” in the foundation’s ongoing efforts to foster experiments for providing news and information via digital platforms. In a video statement, IbargŁen called the move by Google to support Knight’s efforts “huge ... The Google contribution brings this to a whole other level. It’s not just the size of it, which is considerable. But it’s the endorsement from the industry leader.”

Added Knight’s Director of New Media John Bracken, on a Knightblog post: “It’s a good day when the biggest company on the Internet tells you that they admire your work. The only thing better is when they tell you they back up the compliment with millions of dollars to help expand your work.”

November 11, 2010

Knight News Challenge: Deadline is Dec. 1

If you’re planning to enter this year’s Knight News Challenge, you may have a little more time than you thought…

Earlier information about this contest indicated a deadline of Nov. 30. However, the Knight Foundation has clarified that the deadline is in fact Dec. 1, 2010. (Apply now)

Also, the Knight News Challenge blog has been publishing lots of useful tips for entrants—most recently on how to build your project’s budget and the basic breakdown of a successful entry.

November 23, 2010

News site correction practices are “a mess,” says MediaBugs

It’s never fun to admit that you got something wrong, but corrections are something that news organizations are honor-bound to do. Unfortunately, most of the news sites examined in recent MediaBugs research do an inadequate job of making corrections easy to find—and sometimes of making them at all.

Earlier this month, MediaBugs published the results of its survey of national media correction practices…

MediaBugs examined the web sites of 40 major newsrooms, including for five leading cable TV news networks, from across the US. They also examined the sites of a dozen leading national magazines.

Founder Scott Rosenberg wrote: “We found that of the web sites of 35 leading daily newspapers we examined, 25 provide no link to a corrections page or archive of current and past corrections on their sites’ home pages and article pages. Only about half, 17 of the 35, provide a corrections policy of any kind (which we define broadly as any explicit statement regarding corrections practices).

“Sixty percent of the newspaper sites (21 of 35) do provide an explicit channel (email, phone, or Web form) for the public to report an error to the newsroom. However, in most cases this information isn’t prominent or easy to find. The sites that do offer corrections-related content frequently bury it, in many cases requiring visitors to use the site’s search function. If you can find it, this information is often poorly organized and not easily navigated.”

Cable TV news fared somewhat better. “MSNBC, CNBC, and ESPN all provide more thorough corrections content,” wrote Rosenberg. However: “CNN has an e-mail form for reporting errors, but no corrections page or policy.”

And: “Apparently the Fox network never makes errors. We found no corrections content at all on its site.”

And for the 12 sites of national magazines studied, “None provided a corrections policy.”

How your news site can do corrections right: MediaBugs has published a guide, Best Practices in Error Reporting and Corrections. Here’s the short version:

  • Make it easy for readers to report mistakes to you.
  • Review and respond to all error reports.
  • Make corrections forthright and accessible.
  • Make fixing mistakes a priority.

MediaBugs is a service for reporting specific, correctable errors and problems in media coverage. Its development was funded by a Knight News Challenge grant. More from Rosenberg on why news corrections are so hard.

March 09, 2011

Knight names new VP of Journalism and Media Innovation: Michael Maness

Today the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced that Michael Maness will become the vice president of the Journalism and Media Innovation program…

Maness recently spent more than three years as Gannett’s vice president of innovation and design. While there, he launched several new brands and local sites. He also developed the news industry’s first daily web video newscast done without a television partner. And he was included in the Newspaper Association of America’s 20 under 40 list for 2006.

During the last five years, Knight has invested more than $100 million in a multi-faceted Media Innovation Initiative, which includes programs such as the Knight News Challenge and the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

In his new role, Maness will succeed Eric Newton, who will become senior advisor to Knight president Alberto Ibargüen. “Knight Foundation and the journalism field have benefitted enormously from Eric Newton’s leadership,” said Ibargüen. “Moving forward he will play a key role in pursuing strategic partnerships and attracting new ideas.”

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

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