Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Video From the Knight Journalism Advisory Committee Meeting 9.29.08

Sept. 30, 2008, 7 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Yesterday, the Knight Foundation Journalism Advisory Committee (JAC) and guests met at the Newseum.

knight foundation journalism advisory committee meeting

Video from the meeting is below; the full Flickr (a photo-sharing service) set of images and video is here.

Follow the conversational threads about broccoli, business models, and content markets with JAC members Marty Baron, Dianne Lynch, Rosental Alves, Michael Maness, Eduardo Hauser, Geneva Overholser, meeting guests, and Knight Foundation staff:

What do you think the JAC should discuss at their next meeting?

Knight News Challenge: Chicago meetup

Sept. 27, 2008, 5:11 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Last night was the fourth of the Knight News Challenge North American meetups, this one in Chicago, hosted by Columbia College's Barbara Iverson. (If you didn't know, the Knight News Challenge is in the third year of a program that gives away $5MM a year to digital innovations.)

With about 30 curious innovators attending last night, The Knight Foundation's Kristen Taylor led the BarCamp-style workshop, clarifying the Knight News Challenge mission, requirements and finally taking questions on the application process.

Past KNC project winner ChiTownDailyNews, represented by Community Manager Frank Edwards, showed up and shared an update on how that project is progressing--now ChiTownDailyNews has expanded to 75 reporters representing 45 Chicago neighborhoods and hosts workshops on video, radio and photo journalism in an ever-expanding training program.Frank

Also, Brian Boyer, who was recently awarded a Knight scholarship as part of a program to train software developers to become journalists, shared his experiences as a developer pursuing a Master's degree in journalism at Medill.

And there were a lot of questions! The group was highly engaged and ready to shape their own applications. A few of the questions that came up, with the answers:

How do you define "news," and how timely does it need to be?

Kristen pointed folks to the list of past winners for examples of what could be considered "news," including projects like Dan Pacheco's Printcasting and Alexander Zolotarev's Sochi Olympics Project; she also pointed out that if you're submitting a mobile application, the definition of "timeliness" might be different than, say, for a blogging idea.

How does activity in the Garage affect the application process or outcome?

The judges don't specifically consider activity in the Garage as criteria for winning the Knight News Challenge; you don't get points for page views.

Is participating in the Garage mandatory?

No, in fact, keep in mind that while the Garage is for incubating your application, remember that you must eventually apply directly from the News Challenge site. However, the benefits of participating in the Garage are still the same: you can sign up to have a mentor help you shape your application, you can get feedback from the community and other applicants, and you can network to fill any talent voids in your application through the job list.

Why can we only use 300 words?

In general, we've discovered that if you can't clearly explain your vision in 300 words, you probably need to spend some time honing it down. A clear elevator speech is the first step to a viable idea.

Is there overlap between judges and mentors? Who are the judges and what is their background?
Mentors are past winners who have been through the process and are putting their winning ideas into motion. Mentors aren't judges. There are about 15 Knight News Challenge screeners whose job is to take the approximately 3,000 applications to about 64, and those screeners are rock stars of digital innovtion and social media, like Andrew Hyde of StartupWeekend, Brian Oberkirch, Chris Messina, Mary Hodder, Debbie Mobile Jones and George Kelly. The judges are a smaller team that take the applications to the final round and make the final determination of winners, and they have similarly diverse backgrounds in digital innovation.

Thanks to all who attended and participated for making this a great interactive meetup!

Reminder: the deadline for application is November 1st, follow this link to apply now!

Communications Network Conference 2008 Begins in Chicago

Sept. 25, 2008, 9:19 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The 2008 Communications Network Conference, a group of philanthropy professionals who work in communications, began last night in Chicago.

Chair of the Network, Larry Meyer (pictured below at left) and Senior Communication Officer and Secretary at Knight Foundation, introduced Ira Glass, who explained how his wildly successful NPR (and Showtime) show This American Life uses narrative hooks to "cunningly" engage listeners around issues they might not otherwise care about.

bud meyer, chair of communications network

Everyone was still abuzz about his talk this morning at breakfast;

breakfast at the communications network conference 2008

to follow the events, the conference Twitter tag is #comnet08 and the conference blog has more details about sessions and speakers.

Former Knight Journalism Advisory Committee Member Nancy Hicks Maynard Dies

Sept. 23, 2008, 9:40 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Editor's note: Senior Communications Officer and Secretary Larry Meyer details how Nancy Hicks Maynard was related to Knight Foundation's Journalism program and the Maynard Institute.

Nancy Hicks Maynard ' a significant pioneer in journalism ' was a long-time member of Knight Foundation's Journalism Advisory Committee. Along with John Dotson Jr. ' quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle obituary ' Maynard did much to ensure that our journalism grantees valued diversity.

Nancy and her husband Robert Maynard owned and co-published the Oakland Tribune starting in 1983. They practiced the diversity in staffing and coverage they had been preaching earlier in their careers. The paper remains the only major metropolitan daily to have ever been black-owned.

Knight's Eric Newton was the last managing editor under the Maynards. He recalled that Nancy Maynard successfully reoriented the circulation and advertising departments to focus on Oakland and Berkeley. As a result, circulation was growing in those urban areas even as financial problems forced a sale.

The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, now based in Oakland, has prepared thousands of graduates to enter the nation's newsrooms, including at the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. Nancy Maynard was the institute's first president and served on its board until 2002.

What are your memories of her?

Knight News Challenge--Meet ups in NYC and at ONA

Sept. 23, 2008, 3:04 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

So, we're trying to go out in the community, somewhat BarCamp style, and do more hands-on sessions with people interested in applying to the Knight News Challenge this year. We have a set of sessions planned around the country, and we're running them al in a similar way--Talking about the program, explaining the guidelines and key criteria (like having a geographic focus and being innovative), showing a couple of little seesmic videos.

Last week we did two sessions in New York, one at Coumbia Journalism School for faculty and students, and another, that evening, at CUNY (thank you, Professor Jarvis!) for the public and the school. We had about 40 people at each session, many of whom took part on the extensive and detailed Q&A after the brief talk (and that cute David Cohn seesmic video).

Questions ranged from "Can a project make money and be commercial?" (Yes), to "Will you fund something that might just exist for a year or two as an experiment?" (Yes) to "If it's something that will help all local communities, so I don't want to limit myself to one, will that fit your guidelines?"
(Probably not.) At the end of each session, I felt like many of the people in the room might apply.

We did another session a few days latter at the much revitalized ONA conference in DC. There Gary Kebbel, Kristen Taylor and myself shared program plans and detailed with about 75 conference attendees, including some past winners. he audience was focused and engaged, again with lots of questions and comments. I left that meeting feeling like perhaps half of the audience would apply,

If you're interested in a meet up for your area, check the schedule we're posting; if you need connection, come to the News Challenge garage and post and comment, just as you wish others would do for you.

Knight News Challenge--Sept 25th Chicago Meetup

Sept. 22, 2008, 10:35 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

If you're debating applying for the Knight News Challenge this year, but haven't done anything yet AND you live in the Chicago area, you might want to come to the meet up on Thursday of this week. We'll have two KNC team members and a local winner there to share info about the program, the mentoring program and peer review in the Garage and what kinds of projects KNC08 supports.
Check out the Facebook event invite for KNC's Chicago meetup!
Thursday, September 25th, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Columbia College, Room 219
33 E. Congress, Chicago, IL

Here's what the notice says:

The Knight News Challenge is in the third year of a program that gives away $5MM a year to digital innovations. Do you have a big idea for informing and inspiring a geographic community using social media, Web 2.0 tools or OpenID? How about exchanging information via video, photos or text messaging? A way to integrate game theory with web browsing to support local community engagement? Come on, push the edge - we're seeking true innovation!

Come to this meet up to find out how to apply, share ideas, and get a chance to talk to KNC evangelists to find out how to apply and improve your chances of winning funding for your great open source idea.

Check out for more information or to start your application now.

Note: You need to RSVP to be able to attend, via Facebook, phone (847-942-6732) or email (

This is a truly innovative program to push the edge of what digital democracy and discourse can look like and I hope to see online journalists, media folks, technologists, activists, educators and others I'm not naming here all apply.

(Cross posted to Susan Mernit' Blog)

Exploring the Akron Headquarters of the New Knight Center

Sept. 22, 2008, 4:01 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Editor's note: Scott Piepho is an Akron blogger; below, he walks us through the new Akron headquarters of the Knight Center of Digital Excellence. The video was shot by Knight V.P. of Communications Marc Fest and edited by webmaster Robertson Adams.

High tech gear and a fruit salad of furniture colors meet turn-of-last-century architecture as the staff of the Knight Center of Digital Excellence settle in to their Akron headquarters. Three weeks ago the center took over the seventh floor of renovated downtown office building, hosting a grand opening event that brought together Knight Foundation program officers from around the country.

Knight Center Banner

The Knight Center offices serve as work space for the staff of the online Resource Center and as a home base for the members of the Connected Communities Team (CCT). Two of the CCT Program Managers ' Todd Adams and Jim Nice -- work out of Akron. Team director Karen Archer Perry works from her home in New Jersey and Lynda Goff, the newest member of the team, works out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The center headquarters gives the team space to meet and collaborate. This week all four were in town to touch base and share ideas.

'We are doing something new; we are trying to create a new model,' explains Ms. Perry. In each community the team is trying to encourage connectivity projects developed and ultimately owned by the community. Team members take time to compare notes on how that model works in different communities with different needs, assets and cultures.

In any organization with a strong field staff, calling them home can be a challenge. The new Knight Center offers an appealing place to come home to. The building retains much of its classic interior. The elevator opens into a hallway wainscoted in marble ' complete with a built-in drinking fountain. Original wood-grained doors (metal as it turns out ' first of their kind in Akron) include textured glass and still-functioning transoms.


But beyond a hallway which could double as an Eddie Capra movie set, the office space is funky modern. Two-drawer filing cabinets on casters double as ottomans topped with brightly upholstered pads. Meeting room chairs and cabinet tops were ordered in each color offered ' a first, which prompted the manufacturer to visit and take pictures of the prismatic cheeriness.

Program Manager Todd Q. Adams at work in the Connected Communities Team office space

Most of all, the office is full of light, with gaping window offering views of northern downtown and beyond, across the Cuyahoga River valley. 'It's a big difference being in this building,' notes Perry. 'We had no windows in the Cleveland offices.'

The center continues settling in and melding the old and the new. The latest delivery is a state-of-the-art smart board that staff are now learning to use. The next should be a map cabinet ' Program Manager Jim Nice still likes paper maps.

Knight Winners at Charlotte Chamber Innovation Awards

Sept. 18, 2008, 9:02 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Editor's note: Susan Patterson is the Knight Program Director for Charlotte, North Carolina. Below, she details Knight winners at the inaugural Charlotte Chamber Innovation Awards.

The Charlotte Chamber launched its first ever Innovation Awards Tuesday night, and Knight grantees were winners.

The McColl Center for Visual Arts received the Innovative New Product or Service Award for its Innovation Institute, which received a million-dollar grant from Knight in June. Executive Director Suzanne Fetscher was quick to thank Knight for its investment, and Institute alumni scattered around the Westin ballroom cheered.

With more than 400 folks in the room, the Institute is likely to have a waiting list for its next class where artists help business folks tap into their creative side for more effective leadership on the job and in the community.

Michael Marsicano, CEO of the Foundation for the Carolinas (also a Knight grantee and often a partner with Knight in major initiatives), was named Innovator of the Year.

As he said, in this business town, having non-profit winners was remarkable. He's right.

3-D Road Rendering for Macon

Sept. 18, 2008, 6:23 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Tuesday, posted this story about future planning for Macon roads, mentioning Knight Program Director for Macon, Beverly Blake, and an e-mail she wrote to community leaders.

From the article:

With funding from the Knight Foundation, a disinterested third party, Georgia Tech's College of Architecture IMAGINE Lab ( is being employed to look at the proposed project and present a 3-D rendering that should show the community what the project will actually look like. There are all sorts of rumors of the project's height and width and how it will interact with the Ocmulgee River. In the letter informing community leaders about the Tech project, Beverly Blake, the Knight Foundation program director, said, "Will it (the I-16/I-75 interchange) provide an orderly set of feeder streets to bring more folks into downtown/intown Macon? Will the time for construction effectively choke off all life to downtown? Are the alternatives worse than the proposed plan?"


The computer generated visuals, she said, will let us "see just exactly what the proposed interchange will look like when completed from different perspectives..."


Blake's original letter concluded:


They [Georgia Tech's College of Architecture IMAGINE Lab] are pleased to provide us with a proposal for their work to bring to us the three dimensional view of the proposed interchange; they will need info from Bibb/Macon and also DOT. If the scope is within the financial parameters of the grantmaking of the Knight Fund for Macon at the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, we will ask the Board of CFCG to consider funding of this visual presentation.


I wish to be clear that Knight Foundation does not have a position on this plan-our only position is to support projects and ideas that move forward Macon as a vibrant, progressive community. Our goal is to assist in providing accurate information to our citizens and policy makers.

I welcome your comments and ideas. Kindly respond to all so that we can each be a part of this conversation.


Do you have comments or ideas? Please leave them in the comments below.

Celebrate Constitution Day By Learning About the First Amendment

Sept. 17, 2008, 4:47 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Today, celebrate Constitution Day by learning more about the First Amendment.

Take the quiz, find ways to protect student journalists, and nominate a school for the First Amendment Press Freedom Award (deadline December 1st).

How else might we celebrate Constitution Day?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee Announces the World Wide Web Foundation and a $5 Million Knight Seed Investment

Sept. 14, 2008, 9:39 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Tonight at the Newseum, Sir Tim Berners-Lee announced the creation of the World Wide Web Foundation.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee talking about naming the Web at the Knight dinner at the Newseum

The new foundation's mission as articulated by Berners-Lee:

-to advance One Web that is free and open,
-to expand the Web's capability and robustness,
-to extend the Web's benefits to all people on the planet.

The Knight Foundation is funding a $5 million seed grant over five years. Sir Tim Berners-Lee:

Knight CEO and president Alberto Ibarügen announcing the $5 million seed grant to the World Wide Web Foundation:

More details in the press release, tonight's speech and on the World Wide Web Foundation site.

Knight-Batten Awards, First Amendment, Games, and Innovation

Sept. 12, 2008, 7:02 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

On Wednesday, J-Lab (the Institute for Interactive Journalism) announced the winner of this year's Knight-Batten Innovation Award:'s Wikiscanner coverage "which helped readers investigate and expose ego-editing and corporate whitewashing of Wikipedia entries.", with its "Truth-o-Meter" for 2008 presidential campaign statements, and Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information, a site to report incidents of political violence from mobile devices, email, and the Web, won Special Distinction Awards.


Yesterday, Patricia Martin of the Culture Scout Blog posted about teens and the Knight Future of the First Amendment survey and research.


"It seems that when First Amendment rights are made relevant through self-expressive technologies, kids grasp it. It makes the case for why information privacy needs to become part of the First Amendment freedoms."



At the 2008 Online News Association Conference (follow the conference Twitter updates) that continues until Saturday, sessions and pre-conference workshops on media included a workshop on news games; Kurt Greenbaum of STL Social Media Guy blogged about how journalists are embracing news games. The Knight News Challenge winner Gotham Gazette is mentioned.


And Heidi Williamson, who helps promote the Knight News Challenge (the $5 million yearly contest to fund innovative digital news delivery), has posted a new Seesmic video "What are the obstacles for innovation?" More than two dozen video responses have been posted, and you can join the discussion with your response here.

Knight Commission Webcast and News Challenge Event

Sept. 9, 2008, 4:49 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Until 5 PST today, you can watch the live webcast of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy from Google HQ in Mountain View, CA. Videos from yesterday's Knight Commission Community Forum are on Flickr here.

If you're in the NYC area this evening, there is an informational event tonight from 7 - 9pm at CUNY Journalism School, Room 308, about the $5 million this year in the News Challenge, a yearly contest about innovative digital news delivery. The Facebook invite has more details. Future News Challenge events will be listed on this blog soon.

Questions? Thoughts? Let us know in the comments--

Journalism Business Models and Information Snacking Video from Knight Commission Forum

Sept. 8, 2008, 5:53 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Until 5 PST this afternoon, you can watch the live webcast of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy Community Forum at Google.

Archived video will live on the Knight Commission site, and smaller clips are in a Flickr set and below, some highlights from the media panel that just finished a few minutes ago:

Linda O'Bryon, Chief Content Officer, KQED Public Television talks about QUEST content collaboration:

Knight Commissioner Andrew Mooney asked about journalism business models:

And Jim Bettinger, director of the Knight Stanford Fellows answered:

Knight Commissioner Michael K. Powell brought up "information snacking":

And Raj Jayadev, Founder, Silicon Valley De-Bug talked about the internet as a gateway:

Posts on the speakers are on the new Knight Commission blog.

What do you think about journalism business models and information snacking based on the videos above?

danah boyd Asks the Knight Commission Forum Panel About Push/Pull

Sept. 8, 2008, 1:50 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Commissioner danah boyd asked the distinguished guests of first community forum panel at the Knight Commission meeting at Google about push/pull strategies:

How do you think push/pull works in local news and information dissemination?

Knight Commission Community Forum at Google

Sept. 8, 2008, 12:51 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Today is the Knight Commission Community Forum at Google, the third meeting of the Knight Commission, a group of "luminaries assembled to recommend both public and private measures that would help American communities better meet their information needs."

The day is just beginning here:

To follow along, the discussion is being webcast live here and the proceedings are being blogged by Kristie Wells of Social Media Club and Josh Wilson.

badges for the Knight Commission Forum at Google HQ

The Knight Twitter account will also have updates throughout the day; ask questions in the comments below and on Twitter.

News Challenge Screener Training Day

Sept. 6, 2008, 8:35 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Part of the yearly News Challenge contest (the $5 million Knight initiative to fund digitally innovative ideas in local news delivery) is to train the esteemed panel of screeners, who will vet applications for the contest.

This year, leading digital innovation thinkers such as Chris Messina, Debi (Mobile) Jones, Jay Dedman, Ryanne Hodson, Brian Oberkirch, Beth Kanter, George Kelly, and Andrew Hyde (smiling gamely below, between David Cohn and Ross Settles) will serve as screeners.

Andrew Hyde gamely smiles during Knight News Challenge screener training day

Led by Susan Mernit, yesterday was a full day of training in San Francisco on the online screening tool, the history of the contest and of Knight Foundation, and intense discussion about the role of screener in the contest; now, the News Challenge screening team is ready to begin their work finding the best applications in year three of the News Challenge.

You can submit your application to the News Challenge here. Before submitting, you can work through your idea with expert mentors in the News Challenge Garage, a special site to help applicants refine answers to the application questions before applying to the contest.

As screener Chris Messina Twittered (read: used microblogging service Twitter to ask); "If you had a portion of $5M to promote geo-bounded digital tech to innovate journalism, what would you support?"

Leading social application thinker Clay Shirky responded by Twittering; "I'd spend $5M on raw tech-apache modules, processing libraries etc. give people geo-tools, they'll find the uses."

What would you support? Let us know in the comments, and thanks to the News Challenge screeners for helping Knight find the next big ideas in local news delivery.

p.s. The first News Challenge Meetup is at CUNY in NYC next Tuesday. More details in the Facebook invite.

Video of Palin on Paul, Party Machinery, and Natural Resources

Sept. 4, 2008, 2:24 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

One of the News Challenge projects (the Knight contest that funds $5 million a year in innovative digital news delivery ideas) is the MTV News Street Team, where young journalists publish mobile phone video about the 2008 presidential election cycle.

Ian Rowe, vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Public Affairs for MTV, recently blogged about a February video by Dani Carlson with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin:

Back in February, on Super Tuesday, MTV News/Knight Foundation Street Teamer Dani Carlson did a Flixwagon mobile phone interview with Alaska Governor -- and now presumptive Republican vice-presidential candidate -- Sarah Palin, who had some interesting things to say about energy policy and the "party machinery."

In this interview, Palin calls controversial Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul "cool." "He's a good guy," she added. "He's so independent. He's independent of the party machine. I'm like, 'Right on, so am I.' "


She also spoke about Alaska's natural resources, and urged the next president to look to her state for relief from the country's reliance on foreign oil. "We have so much oil we are just sitting on," she said. "We would be less reliant on foreign sources of energy [if we utilized that] -- we need to have the ability to tap into it and produce for rest of the United States."

Watch the entire video here.

You can receive updates from the Street Team on your mobile device by texting ST to 84465 or browsing on your device.

What do you think about this Governor Palin video about party machinery and using Alaska's natural resources?

News Challenge Mentors and First Meetup in NYC Announced

Sept. 2, 2008, 2:08 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Today, the Knight News Challenge, a $5 million annual contest funding innovative digital ideas for local news delivery, begins officially accepting applications. You can apply here.

If you would like to work through your idea before applying and have expert mentors help, the News Challenge Garage is a new site dedicated to improving your idea before you apply. The Garage remains open until November 1, 2008, when contest submissions close.

To learn more and receive help in person from the News Challenge team, plan to attend one of the upcoming meetup events (entire schedule soon). Mark your calendar for September 9th at CUNY in NYC; details on the Upcoming invitation; please RSVP on the Facebook event page.

Still unsure whether to apply? Marika Lynch has profiled a few of the teams matched with mentors in the News Challenge Garage. Below, past winner Lisa Williams of
Lisa Williams, mentor in News Challenge Garage

and contest hopeful Danielle Gaines:

Danielle Gaines, being mentored in News Challenge Garage by Lisa Williams

Reason No. 1 to seek out a Knight News Challenge mentor, according to software developer Lisa Williams: they'll actually know what you're talking about.


Sounds simple. But in an at-times isolating profession like hers, only a finite number of people with a similar knowledge base can offer informed opinions, Williams said.

"It's a way to take the heat off family and friends tired of you talking about online communities," Williams, a 2007 Knight winner said, only half-joking. "I'm sure my family and friends are sick of me saying 'hyperlocal.'"

Williams, who founded, the largest live site of local weblogs, is one of 50 mentors offering insight on the News Challenge. She and placeblogger's Tish Grier have been paired with applicant Danielle Gaines, who wants to create a platform for Native American kids to share their stories using video and other forms of media.

The two have just started to correspond about the project, but Williams and Grier have already given Gaines much to think about.

"It was like we were speaking the same language," Gaines said. "We went for over an hour on our first call, and it was just like everything made sense. I felt like I was being guided, and these are the next steps I have to take."

The best piece of advice Williams gave her was to write a short essay focusing on two words: why bother. Instead of talking about what makes her project unique, Williams told Gaines she should tailor her essay and then her application to explain why the project is so important that it should be funded.

"It is helping me to consider what the value is here," Gaines said. "It's going to help me tell a compelling story and hopefully persuade Knight Foundation to sponsor us."

Good mentors were essential to Williams when she created, which she launched before winning the Challenge with a lot of passion and $3,000 of "sell-all-your-posessions-on-eBay" money. The Knight grant allowed her to expand it exponentially, she said.

In the early days of a project, she often needed an outside ear to bend, she said.

"The pernicious thing is you are always comparing your project, and its flaws'to other people's finished projects. That can be very demotivating," Williams said. By talking to others, software creators are reminded that kinks are part of the creative process.

Williams urges everyone who feels strongly about their idea to apply ' whether or not they consider themselves someone who would typically seek out foundation grant money.

"The Knight Foundation has both the scale and the sort of insight to actually change how people get information, particulary civic information, and news online in the next decade," Williams. "If that sounds good to you and you want to be a part of that, you should apply."


Questions? Let us know in the comments.