Knight Blog

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

Center for Investigative Reporting hires 11 journalists for California watchdog site

Aug. 25, 2009, 11:30 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Funded in part by a grant from the Knight Foundation, the Center for Investigative Reporting recently announced the hiring of 11 reporters, multimedia producers and editors for the creation of a new watchdog initiative called California Watch:


'This dynamic and accomplished group of journalists will drive our latest entrepreneurial venture and focus on solutions to improve the quality of life in the state,' said CIR Executive Director Robert J. Rosenthal.


California Watch is being launched at a time when the state is confronting one of the worst budget crises in its history, the recession is inflicting pain and hardship on millions of Californians, and the need for oversight is greater than ever. ...

California Watch is a response to the diminished capacity of newsrooms in the state to cover critically important issues affecting all Californians. These include the state of our public schools and community colleges, the impact of budget cuts on the health and welfare of individuals and communities, and the influence of money on politics. Other beats will be added within the coming year.

'Working collaboratively with news organizations around the state, our reporting team will help Californians become engaged and participate more fully in the democratic process,' said California Watch Director Louis Freedberg.


Take a look at the team CIR has assembled. It's a very impressive group. sale highlights open-source projects' potential for market success

Aug. 20, 2009, 6:46 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Gary Kebbel is Knight Foundation's Journalism program director

The sale of to is significant for EveryBlock and for Knight Foundation, EveryBlock's original funder through a $1.1 million Knight News Challenge grant in 2007.
At the end of a grant period, Knight grantees are as free as anyone to make entrepreneurial decisions regarding the future of their projects. Founder Adrian Holovaty's decision to sell EveryBlock was his. The sale is an important validation from the marketplace. EveryBlock's code will remain publicly available so that anyone may use it (download the code here). Everyone wins.
Everything we do at Knight Foundation connects to our mission: advancing journalism excellence in the digital age and investing in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.
Our News Challenge projects create open-source software that anyone -- and anyone includes businesses -- can use to speed the digital transition of news to benefit communities. The open source aspect is very important. The private sector will be among those that also will develop that open source code.
Knight Foundation's role could' include additional grants for further development, technology lab projects to help create community around the open-source code and grant agreement terms that might provide revenue streams for continued open-source development. We are working on new ideas and will have more to say in coming months.


Watch the 2009 Forum on Communications and Society

Aug. 18, 2009, 10:39 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation is sponsoring a three-day forum at the Aspen Institute this week focusing on new models to sustain enterprise journalism. The first day of the forum included a presentation of the City University of New York's revenue models for local news organizations, as well as a discussion of the forthcoming report from the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. You can watch the entire conference below - both archived clips and a live stream of the event. Just hit play to start the video.

J-Lab partners with five local news orgs to foster networked journalism

Aug. 17, 2009, 4:09 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

There's a dawning understanding that the future of local news will probably include fewer monolithic news outlets, and more nodes contributing to a robust local journalism ecosystem. Today, J-Lab announced a pilot project with five local news organizations to start developing lessons on how such ecosystems might function, funded by the Knight Foundation. From the press release:


Five news organizations around the country have each agreed to work with at least five hyperlocal news sites or producers in their communities in a Networked Journalism pilot project to gather ideas and lessons for future content collaborations, American University's J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism announced today.


The one-year project is funded with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The funds will support a liaison at the newspaper and provide small stipends to local partners.


Journalism program director Gary Kebbel said, "In these days where anyone can publish local information, we hope that a guided partnership between local newspapers and local bloggers or citizen journalists can increase the amount of local information available in a community and raise its quality. We see this as a win/win for the community."

Read more about the project at J-Lab.

MSNBC buys Knight News Challege project

Aug. 17, 2009, 12:34 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Gary Kebbel is Knight Foundation's Journalism Program Director

After Knight Foundation's grant to ended, has bought the Knight News Challenge project that makes neighborhood-level news and information easy to find and use.

We always hope that innovations Knight Foundation funds are supported by the marketplace. As founder Adrian Holovaty says in his blog post announcing the sale, "it means that we'll have resources to expand EveryBlock profoundly."

A requirement of the grant was that publicly release the code that powers the site, so that others could use it free for their communities. That code is posted at

and at lists information like, crime reports, zoning changes, street closings, restaurant inspections or business openings. It currently has sites in 15 cities.

Apply to this year's Knight News Challenge

Aug. 13, 2009, 5:10 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

The Knight News Challenge begins September 1, 2009. Start preparing your application today. To learn more about the contest, sign-up for updates and learn about past winning projects please visit:

Free Code for News Games

Aug. 11, 2009, 1:06 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

The code for the "Balance Game" developed by Gotham Gazette is ready and available for everyone to use. Now you can replicate the game in your city or town. Download the free open-source code and allow engaged citizens in your community to balance the city's budget.

Do you have an idea for meeting your community's information needs?

Aug. 11, 2009, 8 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The 2009 Knight Community Information Challenge has begun, and we're looking for your best ideas on meeting the information needs of your community. The challenge is a "five-year, $24 million effort to help place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to engage and inform citizens."

If you represent a community foundation (or another foundation with a local, geographical focus), check out the challenge website ( for FAQs about the challenge, a webinar on applying to the challenge, and videos from local civic leaders talking about their community information projects.

If you're not a part of a place-based foundation, but you have a great idea, you might be able to partner with your local foundation to apply for the challenge.

ProPublica releases new tools to track the stimulus

Aug. 6, 2009, 11:19 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

ProPublicas tools make it easy for anyone to track the stimulus.

Knight Foundation grantee ProPublica has been watching closely how money from the federal government's stimulus package is being disbursed to communities all across the US. And now, they've made it easier for non-journalists to track this data as well.

Yesterday, the team at ProPublica unveiled the Stimulus Progress Bar, a user-friendly, at-a-glance look at how much of the stimulus money has been spent, how much is left, and where it's going. They plan to update the progress bar every week.

This is part of a suite of tools ProPublica's released that have made it extremely easy to track stimulus spending down to the county level. Here's what's been committed so far in my home county in Minnesota.

This week, they used these databases to unearth two key findings in assessing the progress of the stimulus:

  • Only 12 percent of the stimulus money has made it out so far.

  • That money hasn't necessarily been spent in the communities that are suffering the worst from unemployment and poverty. (Their analysis found that stimulus spending so far has no relationship to either unemployment or poverty.)


ProPublica targets these tools not just to everyday citizens, but also to other journalists, whether in established news organizations or in emerging ones. At the top of every page is an injunction to "Steal our stories." (All of ProPublica's work is licensed under Creative Commons.)

Take a look. You might just get inspired to do some investigative reporting.

New Online Journalism Program

Aug. 5, 2009, 6:12 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

A new online journalism program will be launched by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and The Poynter Institute. The partnership will provide better journalism education around the world.

The initiative makes the most out of ICFJ's global reach and experience in training journalists around the world and Poynter's e-learning experience through NewsU.

Read more here:' News University International.

Pardoned journalists return from North Korea; Knight grantees react

Aug. 5, 2009, 10:58 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

While they were detained in North Korea, many vigils were held for the two journalists. Image courtesy of Keith Kamisugi on Flickr. While they were detained in North Korea, many vigils were held for the two journalists. Image licensed under Creative Commons by Keith Kamisugi on Flickr.

A plane carrying Laura Ling and Euna Lee touched down this morning at Burbank Airport, where the two journalists had a tearful reunion with their families. The women had been arrested in March for trespassing in North Korea while working on a report for Current TV, detained for months and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. After a visit yesterday between former US President Bill Clinton and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il, Ling and Lee were issued a pardon, and have now returned home.

A few grantees of the Knight Foundation have been monitoring the situation closely. Here are some of their reactions:

Stacy Woelfel, chairman of the Radio and Television News Directors Association:

We are pleased that North Korean officials have recognized that journalists'including RTNDA members'covering important international issues are working for people across the globe and deserve the freedom to pursue their stories free of government interference. I have hope the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee means the government of North Korea understands the basic right of journalists to investigate and report as they see fit.

Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists:

We welcome the news that Euna Lee and Laura Ling will be pardoned and released after more than four months in detention. This has been a long and complex process given the situation on the Korean peninsula. We thank former President Clinton for his intervention and we are grateful that the North Korean authorities have responded to appeals for clemency. We know that the families of these two reporters will be relieved to have their loved ones back home.

Liza Gross, interim director of the International Women's Media Foundation:

We are very grateful for the release of these two American journalists. As a worldwide network dedicated to press freedom, we spoke out on their behalf and our supporters advocated for their release by signing petitions that were then forwarded to the North Korean government. We are grateful for former President Clinton for his involvement and we welcome them home.

Also, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas has more on the journalists' release.


Leading Journalists into the Digital Age

Aug. 4, 2009, 6:18 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas enrolled its 2,000th student. The center offers online training classes in Spanish, Portuguese and English. Courses range from Mathematics for Journalists, to Journalism 2.0, and Advanced Digital Tools for Investigative Reporting.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is leading journalists into the digital age. The center teaches journalists the latest digital techniques, and uses the latest digital techniques to teach great journalism throughout the Americas.

To learn more about the Knight Center click here.