Knight Blog

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

Knight Pulse / GOOD L.A. Community Leaders Tapped

March 31, 2009, 9 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Reposted from Knight Pulse:

Knight Pulse has partnered with GOOD Magazine to tap six community leaders in L.A. who are building community through five different projects (a recent LAist post on these projects gives more details).

The six community leaders, who will host events later this year (more information on Pulse and the GOOD blog soon) are:

Alissa Walker, Design LA (Pulse project page)

Eric Steuer, Communicating Creative Commons (Pulse project page)

Sonja Rasula, Community Service Fair (Pulse project page)

Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, Local Living Workshop Series (Pulse project page)

Edgar Arceneaux, Watts House Project (Pulse project page)

Thoughts on these projects and other ways to engage the L.A. community?

New Voices Plans to Fund at Least Eight Community News Incubators

March 21, 2009, 2:35 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Judges have recommended at least eight innovative community news projects, for a five-year total of 48, in the New Voices program. New Voices is a Knight Foundation-sponsored incubator for such ventures. Each project will receive a $17,000 start-up grant and may qualify for an $8,000 matching grant in the second year. Run by J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, New Voices 'spotlights independent, citizens media initiatives.' And it provides technical support with online training in creating, developing and sustaining web sites grounded in journalism ethics.'

Three hundred and four projects were reviewed. Discussion focused on the fact that four years ago, these local news projects were started by civic-minded people, often with no journalism experience, who thought their communities needed more information about community life, laws and problems. These early grantees often had no idea how to publish information on the web. But they were dedicated, so they taught themselves. Often, to great success. For example, The Forum, in Deerfield, N.H., noticed that after they started publishing in 2005, and became the only public source of local news, voter turnout rose, more people were challenging incumbents in elections and there were fewer uncontested political races.

Now, however, sites like,, St. Louis Beacon, Chi-Town Daily News and the New Haven Independent are staffed with professionally trained journalists, so the quality bar has been raised significantly. Local news sites staffed by professional journalists are showing more and more users what kind of sophistication to expect on local news sites. Judges discussed the need to better inform New Voices winners about training modules at J-Learning, Knight Citizen News Network, Knight Digital Media Center and NewsU.

The New Voices program has reached a critical mass where the concern no longer is finding good applicants ' there are plenty ' but, instead, is the sustainability of the projects, and learning what models work best. Some of the key models in the program now are projects 1) affiliated with university journalism schools, 2) from concerned citizens, 3) associated with libraries, library associations or community non-profits, 4) working with community cable access television, 5) working with local radio stations and 6) that are niche sites.

Lessons learned so far are that 1) frequent content updates are vital, 2) projects built on the backs of students don't work when the semester ends, 3) projects that outsource web development aren't sustainable because none of the principles knows how to fix things and 4) if the founder of the project for some reason has to stop working on it, that missing vision and drive often dooms the project.

Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, will announce the new winners.

-- Gary Kebbel, Journalism Program Director

Legal Structures for Digital Journalism

March 16, 2009, 12:32 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

Knight News Challenge winner, Tony Shawcross and the staff of Denver Open Media, had a session titled "NonProfit & Your Startup" at the SWSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX.

The main focus of the session was to discuss why they thought structuring projects as a 501(c)(3) was the best choice for anyone doing online publishing. The main reason for DOM was that a nonprofit organization is organized to achieve a purpose other than generating profit.

That is one good reason for structuring your enterprise as a nonprofit, but there are many more considerations that have to be made when deciding how to incorporate your online publishing project. The legal structure chosen will have an impact on the organization's liability for defamation and other legal claims. It will also have an impact on the organization's tax obligations, its assets and its management.

Many of today's digital journalism sites have structured their operation as a nonprofit. Examples of this are ProPublica,, Voice of San Diego, St. Louis Beacon and Chi-Town Daily News.

Choosing a legal structure for your online publishing site is important. You can learn more about how to set-up the legal framework for your organization on the Creating a Business page on the Citizen Media Law Project Web site.

If you prefer one business structure over another, please tell us why and comment below.

The graphic below is a visualization of this post. It was created using a program called many eyes.

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Customer Service & Core Values

March 15, 2009, 8:38 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

Tony Hsieh, CEO of, gave the opening remarks at the SWSW Interactive Festival at the Austin Convention Center.

Hsieh talked about how a genuine customer service culture and setting core values extended the reach and strengthened their brand.

How can Knight Foundation translate this into better grantmaking? Would our grantees improve the self-sustainability of their projects by developing a set of core values and focusing on customer service? We expect these two elements from every grantee and we ask questions that cover these elements in general, but are they something that we should specifically ask for in our application process?

The craft of journalism is all about core values and public service. How can core values and public/customer service improve the flow of news and information in communities and increase readership and civic engagement?

Please share your thoughts with us.

The graphic below is a visualization of this post. It was created using a program called many eyes.

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We're contacting the winners of the Knight News Challenge

March 13, 2009, 3:54 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

It's always difficult to run a contest where only 0.0047% of the applicants are singled out for a possible grant. That's the situation Knight Foundation is in, with the conclusion of the 2008-2009 Knight News Challenge.

We had 2,323 applications for this year's installation of our $25 million community news and innovation contest. Of the 2,323 applications, 260 (11.2%) were invited to submit a full proposal. The final panel of reviewers was given what the first panel thought was the best of the 260 proposals. That turned out to be 69 great ideas. The second panel selected what they thought were the best proposals that met the goals of expanding news for geographic communities in innovative ways. That turned out to be 11 projects. Nothing magical about any of these numbers. The reviewers always were asked to pick the best ideas at whatever stage they were working.

Now we start the negotiations with each of the 11 prospects, with a goal of announcing the winners in June. Year 4 of the Knight News Challenge opens the first week of September.

We know how difficult it is to receive a rejection letter after you have worked so hard on shaping an idea into what you are proud of. For that reason we always are looking for better ways to run this contest.

Please comment here or send me' your thoughts at

-- Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation Journalism Program Director

Ashoka awards 13 'news and knowledge' entrepreneurs

March 13, 2009, 1:52 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Ashoka has announced its first set of News Entrepreneurs, in an experiment funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The group of 13 innovators includes Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Sandy Close, founder of New American Media, which has created a network of ethnic news sites; and Sasa Vucinic, managing director of the Media Development Loan Fund, an investment fund for independent news outlets.

Others come from Sri Lanka, Germany, Senegal, Nepal, Pakistan, France, Venezuela and Slovakia.

Ashoka's announcement says the fellowship program "operates at the nexus of news, knowledge and social innovation."

Knight Foundation is interested approaching the news industry's problems from a variety of directions, including learning what a social entrepreneur can teach about starting and sustaining a news site or product.

What do you think about entrepreneurs and the future of journalism?

-- Gary Kebbel, Journalism Program Director, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Pulse SxSWi Badge Giveaway

March 12, 2009, 1:31 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Congratulations to Justin Ellis, who won the SxSWi badge for the popular media conference in Austin this week.

Knight Foundation's community site, Knight Pulse, gave the badge away in an effort to increase the number of bookmarks with the tag 'futureofnews', a tag Pulse will be promoting in coming months.

The giveaway was announced through a Twitter update ("tweet"):

Twitter Knight Foundation: @knightpulse Giveaway! 1 S ...

You can read Justin's updates from the conference through his Twitter stream.

Rising Voices Announces Five New Projects

March 10, 2009, 1:52 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

From Rising Voices Director David Sasaki's post on Idea Lab, the group blog for all Knight News Challenge (the $5 million yearly contest about innovative news delivery ideas) winners:

In January we received over 270 proposals from activists, bloggers, and NGO's all wanting to use citizen media tools to bring new communities - long ignored by both traditional and new media - to the conversational web. It was, by far, the highest number of proposals Rising Voices has ever received in its two-year history of supporting citizen media training projects. The growing interest in citizen media from civil society shows that we truly are undergoing a major transformation in how we inform ourselves about the rest of the world and who is able to contribute that information.

Of the 270 project proposals, the following five are most representative of the innovation, purpose and goodwill that Rising Voices aims to support...

Congratulations to the new Rising Voices projects; find out more about these five projects on the original post.

Knight Pulse: Can online comments encourage reader action and support?

March 9, 2009, 11:59 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

From the Knight Foundation community site Knight Pulse:

At last week's DrupalCon in Washington, D.C., Pulse talked with Nick Aster about how the new Mother Jones site encourages reader action and support.

Find out what "reader-supported journalism" means to Mother Jones, and what they hope to do in future iterations of the site.

How do you think a journalism site can best encourage reader actions?

PBS Engage and SxSWi

March 7, 2009, 1:10 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

PBS Engage (a project funded by Knight) gives an update on their hashtag (#PBS) and what they'll be up to in Austin this week at the SxSW Interactive Festival in the video below, taken on Friday at the PBS Interactive Open House.

PBS Engage is hosting events, including music from David Kitchen and Alejandro Escovedo, at the Mooseknuckle Bar during the SxSWi. During the day, video bloggers Zadi Diaz and Steve Woolf will be conducting interviews. (Full Schedule) The venue is open to everyone, more details in the video:

Thoughts for the PBS Engage team? Come join them in Austin---

Knight Drupal Initiative Announces Six Winners

March 4, 2009, 11:15 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Drupal Initiative logo

Just announced from the DrupalCon stage:

The Knight Drupal (an open source content management system) Initiative's winners (background on this project), announced at the DrupalCon DC Conference, will receive a total of $485,380 to:

* Create concise, up-to-date instructions for Drupal software packages so that tech novices can use the tools; (Winner: Programmer Addison Berry/ add1sun)

Drupal Voicebox Module by Bill Fitzgerald: Create a free publishing system to make it easier for several geographic communities to share local news with each other; (Winner: Oregon-based (billfitzgerald)

Drupal for Facebook by Dave Cohen: Allow anyone, anywhere to easily create a Drupal online news site whose content can be published on Facebook in order to reach an extended social network; (Winner: Software developer Dave Cohen)

Instant Syndicating Standards by Nick Vidal: Develop software that allows people to create and share a personalized stream of information within their social network, helping them to filter and recommend articles to others interested in the same issues; (Winner: Instant Syndicating Standards, a Brazilian non-profit)

Open MicroBlogging for Drupal by Rob Loach: Add a micro-blogging function to Drupal that will allow users to transmit brief text updates on their Web sites (Winner: Web developer Rob Loach)

Managing News by Developmentseed: Create a tool that will help residents better communicate and understand information about their community by allowing them to geo-tag ' or add a geographical identification ' to stories so they can be displayed on a map; (DevelopmentSeed, a Washington D.C. firm)



The Knight Drupal Initiative tapped into a massive network of programmers, to get their recommendations for how to hasten media innovation for the common good.

The Drupal Community, a group of about 350,000 programmers who write free software collaboratively on the Web, solicited, reviewed and recommended the projects for funding. The Drupal Community also includes the more than 1.4 million users worldwide who rely on Drupal to manage the content of their Web sites. The application process was open, meaning anyone could submit or vote on an idea. Knight Foundation made the final selection.

Congratulations to the winners; we welcome your thoughts on the KDI, the process, (and congratulations to the winners!) below---

p.s. Knight Foundation staff Jose Zamora and Kristen Taylor are attending DrupalCon and look forward to talking with Drupalers.