News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Knight News Challenge

March 25, 2011

Everyblock shifts direction, adds local discussion to data

Earlier this week Adrian Holovaty announced the first major redesign of his local data service Everyblock. This site is shifting from being a one-way news feed of local data, to becoming “a platform for discussion around neighborhood news.”

More about these new features…

In addition to adding a big “post” button to pages, Holovaty notes: “We’ve unveiled several new features to encourage positive community behavior. Each user contribution to our site has a ‘thank’ button next to it that lets you give positive reinforcement to the original poster for sharing information. We’ve built a lightweight neighborhood honors reputation system that rewards people for making contributions, as determined by their neighbors’ thanks and a number of other factors.”

Also, intriguingly, Everyblock now allows users to “follow” places, much the way Twitter users can follow other Twitter users.

GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram observed: “I think EveryBlock’s change of heart was a necessary one. I’ve argued in the past that whatever value local news sites have comes not from the data, but from the people at the heart of that community—which is why even poorly designed services that are built by the people in a town or neighborhood are almost always better than services that are set up by companies with a one-size-fits-all approach. History is littered with examples of well-meaning services such as Backfence and Bayosphere that never really connected with the communities they were supposed to serve.”

It seems to me that Everyblock might want to try to integrate more fully with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and Flickr, since those services are where so much discussion about community happens. But it would be hard to do that in an automated way. Once a service moves toward hosting public discussion, it really seems to need the hand of a community manager to get the posts flowing, and to keep the flames down. Everyblock will also have to guard against inevitable spamming of its system.

Because of the need of human staff effort to support thriving community engagement services, I’m skeptical whether these new discussion features will last at Everyblock.  But a strategy more based on curating conversations that happen on other sites and bringing that content into Everyblock might be at least partially automatable and thus more sustainable. And there’s room for Everyblock to move in that direction.

Of all these new Everyblock features, I think the most promising is the ability to follow places, and to receive that information as a feed or via e-mail. I live in Oakland, CA—which is just across the bay from San Francisco. SF is an Everyblock city; Oakland is not. But Oakland does have the lovely Oakland Crimespotting interactive map by Stamen Design. I would love to be able to “follow” a neighborhood or area on that map and have it update me with new incidents.

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 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 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.

February 09, 2012

Knight News Challenge 2.0: applications open Feb. 27

For five years the original Knight News Challenge stimulated innovation in news, information, and community engagement. Today the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation unveiled the revamped program…

The new Knight News Challenge will comprise three smaller, more focused competitions. Each Challenge will last 8-10 weeks, beginning to end.

  1. The first Challenge opens for applications Feb. 27, deadline March 17. First-round winners will be announced in June 18 at MIT.
  2. The second contest (an open competition, casting a wide net for new ideas) will launch later this spring.
  3. The dates and topic of the third contest have not yet been determined.


This year’s first News Challenge will focus on the concept of networks. John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation for the Knight Foundation, explained what Knight means by networks:

“In the course of our work, we often come across proposals to ‘build a Facebook that connects X and Y.’ We want to move away from that. There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.”

Knight News Challenge 2012 from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.


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 27, 2012

Knight News Challenge 2012: To apply, answer 7 questions on networks

Today the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation began accepting applications for the first part of the revamped Knight News Challenge. To apply, explain your idea on the theme of “networks” by answering seven questions on a special Tumblr site…

This year the News Challenge will comprise three smaller, more focused competitions. Each Challenge will last 8-10 weeks, beginning to end. The application deadline for the first Challenge is March 17. First-round winners will be announced June 18 at MIT.

By “networks,” Knight means “ideas that build on the rise of existing network events and tools that deliver news and information and extend our understanding.”

In this video, Michael Maness (Knight VP of Journalism and Media Innovation) elaborated on the “networks” theme. For example: “Storify didn’t invent Twitter,” he said, “they just found a new way of using it.”

Knight News Challenge 2012 from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Later this spring, Knight will launch the second Challenge (an open competition, casting a wide net for new ideas). The dates and topic of the third contest have not yet been determined.

Learn more and apply now
Deadline: March 17

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

May 23, 2012

Knight News Challenge on data: applications open May 31

On May 31, this year’s second Knight News Challenge will begin accepting applications. This time the focus is on data—specifically “ideas that help unlock the power of data by collecting, processing, visualizing or otherwise making it available, understandable and actionable…”

Data about just about everything in our world is being generated at a breakneck pace, and we need better tools to make sense of it and put it to use to help individuals and communities.

Knight asks: “What are the implications—ethically, economically, socially—of having access to so much information? How can the flood of data best be channeled to make us better citizens? What stories can we tell? How will we act differently based on what we learn? What tools and products can we create out of this raw material? How do we consume data responsibly and healthily?”

This contest is open to anyone, anywhere. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding plus support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas.

Deadline: June 20, 2012. Learn more

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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