Knight Blog

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

Climate Change and Urban Planning: is there a connection?

May 28, 2010, 10:33 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

What if the 'best solution' for the climate change challenge is better land planning? That's the theory of architect/urban planner Peter Calthorpe, who presented his research at the recent 18th annual Congress for the New Urbanism, New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places.

Calthorpe, a founder of the 'transit-oriented development' idea, is seeking to prove his theory by using metrics and software that can measure the impact on carbon emissions of denser development near public transportation hubs. His work comes as California grapples with Assembly Bill 32, which mandates a statewide reduction in carbon emissions. The new software Calthorpe designed models the carbon consequences of land use planning, transportation and new technologies. It was funded by Vision California, a project of the California High Speed Rail Authority. You can read details about Calthorpe's work in an article in Fast Company magazine.

It's not easy stuff for laypeople to digest, so part of the challenge is informing and engaging citizens about these crucial issues. That's the goal of a related Knight-funded project, Envision Bay Area, which seeks to increase the involvement of Northern California residents in pressing land-use issues. The grant will help launch an Internet, public radio, television and community information campaign so residents can better understand the policy debate surrounding land use.

Envision Bay Area, also supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, was one of 24 grant winners in the second year of the Knight Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million contest that helps community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.

Mayur Patel To Help Develop Knight Foundation's Strategy as Assistant to the President

May 27, 2010, 3:37 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Mayur Patel, who joined Knight Foundation in 2009, has been promoted to assistant to the foundation's president, Alberto Ibarügen. He will also continue as director of strategic assessment and impact.

In his new role, Patel will help develop the foundation's strategy for fostering informed and engaged communities. His promotion also stems from Knight's increased emphasis on evaluation as a tool for learning and planning.

From today's release: 'Over the last year and a half, Knight Foundation has undergone a deep review of our mission and goals, seeking to remain true to our donors' intent and focused on their twin passions of journalism and communities,' Ibarügen said. 'At every step along the way, Mayur displayed insight and understanding of our mission and of our leadership opportunity in a changing and increasingly digital society. His tenacity, diplomacy and creativity helped craft our ultimate focus on informed and engaged communities, earning him this greater role in the general management of Knight Foundation.'

Communicating after a Disaster: Lessons from Haiti

May 27, 2010, 2:44 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Ushahidi Page for Haiti Quake
Ushahidi's page for the Haiti earthquake has become an important reference for government, aid workers and media.

On January 12, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. Five months on, it's time to look at how the media responded to the crisis and what role technology and communications played in helping address the information needs of Haitian communities in the aftermath of this tragedy. What worked, what didn't and what are the lessons we can learn to improve rapid response in the future?

Earlier this week, Knight Foundation and an interagency working group called Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) sponsored a meeting to consider these questions. The gathering brought together Haitian journalists, international media representatives, development and humanitarian groups, technologists and response teams. Participating groups included: Association of Independent Haitian Media, BBC World Service Trust, CDAC Haiti, Global Voices, Haitian Journalists Association, InSTEDD, International Media Support (IMS), Internews, Irish Red Cross Society, Microsoft, Quartier par Quartier (QpQ), Reporters Sans Frontieres, The Miami Herald, Thomson Reuters Foundation, U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and Ushahidi.

Participants reviewed the successes and challenges of digital and traditional media efforts following the earthquake to understand what can be done better next time the international community faces a similar humanitarian disaster. And, as Haiti rebuilds, how can international agencies further incorporate media development in their reconstruction plans?

Alongside traditional media efforts, in particular community radio, a new set of social media tools, citizen media efforts, and mapping systems were used to gather and disseminate information to individuals and media outlets. These tools ' which create both new possibilities and complex challenges ' largely did not exist following similar disasters, such as the catastrophic earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.

The emergence of new media applications in disaster-related communication efforts raises questions about the interaction among technology groups, humanitarian relief agencies and local media, and requires new partnerships and systems for open collaboration. Participants at the meeting discussed these and other challenges: how new tools and technologies can be better used to enable two-way communication between local communities and responders; and how these tools can be used to strengthen the role of local media during crises.

A series of recommendations generated from the discussion in Miami will be published later this summer as part of a Knight-supported report on Media, Information Systems and Communities: Lessons from Haiti. Today in Washington, D.C., the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) is conducting a follow-up panel discussion to the event in Miami, with some of the same participants, on the role of media in humanitarian crises.


Beyond Bullets: Knight grantee deploys young filmmakers to help quell gun violence

May 21, 2010, 2:30 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

In her graduation picture, Samantha Guzman is wearing a purple feathered dress clutching a diploma. Her mom picked up the framed portrait the day after she was shot and killed on a Bronx street corner while walking to catch a bus.

'I lost my child on Mother's Day,' her mom Diana Rodriguez said in a video shown to close to 500 New York City students this week.

The video, produced by young filmmakers, is part of the Beyond Bullets campaign. Funded by the Knight Community Information Challenge and the New York Community Trust, the effort aims to use the power of the media to quell America's gun violence epidemic. Young filmmakers have been chronicling the effects of the violence, and their works will be shown to students and posted at

The project's 'Cybercar,' a bus equipped with a TV production studio and viewing area, traveled to New York schools this week to show the video about Samantha Guzman and host town hall meetings on how to prevent the bloodshed.

After one forum, organizers asked people in the audience to raise their hands if they knew someone who died from gun violence, the Wall Street Journal reported. Every hand went up.

Knight grantee spearheads Freedom of Information training tour for journalists

May 21, 2010, 12:27 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Access Across America, which is presented by Society of Professional Journalists, is a national Freedom of Information training tour for journalists being conducted throughout the month of May.

Freedom of Information Committee Chair David Cuiller is traveling the country in an attempt to spread training in acquiring public records.

Cuiller blogs daily, offering tips and newsroom updates. In his most recent blog, Cuillier offers some ideas for spreading freedom of information in your community.

  • Put together an annual access project for national Sunshine Week, held each March
  • Create a coalition for open government in your state, if you don't have one. If you do, get involved and keep it strong. See the list of state coalitions at the National Freedom of Information Coalition (a co-sponsor for this tour)

Sunshine Week and the National Freedom of Information Coalition are Knight Foundation grantees.


For the remaining ideas, read the Access Across America post about spreading freedom in your community.

--Marly Falcon, Knight Foundation contributing blogger

Knight and "The Future of Investigative Reporting"

May 19, 2010, 1:49 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan and Eric Newton

Knight Chair Brant Houston posted'"The Future of Investigative Journalism" on his web site, a comprehensive look at this important form of reporting.

In it,'he explains the rise of investigative nonprofits and the Knight Foundation's leadership role.

Last summer, we announced our Investigative Reporting Initiative, a $15 million effort to create and grow these nonprofit projects.

As the economics of the digital age have caused cutbacks in investigative reporting in traditional media, these groups are taking on an important role.

Here's the "future of investigative journalism" article, including Knight's role.

Here's a sidebar listing Knight grantees.

--Eric Newton, Vice President of journalism program at the Knight Foundation

How could your community use $15,000 to help people be healthy?

May 19, 2010, 9 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Implicit in many news stories about local problems is the need for someone to address them, leaders of the Minnesota Community Foundation thought. So they create a way to encourage the public to do just that. With funding from the Knight Community Information Challenge, the foundation created a statewide contest to bring the state's residents together to solve critical issues.

Launched in March, the Minnesota Idea Open asked its first question: How could your community use $15,000 to help people eat smart and be active? The topic ' the obesity epidemic ' struck a nerve. More than 400 people submitted ideas at, and close to 4,800 voted for one of three finalists.

The foundation announced its first winner this week: Kids Lead the Way, which enables kids to design and create their own field days and activities for their classmates, with the help of volunteer personal trainers and other partners. The key component is having the kids be the active decision makers in the program, winner Christine Tubbs says.

'This generation has a shorter life expectancy than preceding generations,' Tubbs said. 'They need to know how to do this, how to lead healthy lives. It has to be instinctive, and they have to be given the opportunity to really make it their own.

NJ Spotlight is off to a remarkable, muckraking start

May 18, 2010, 4:59 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Here's some impressive journalism ' and proof of the potential for hard-hitting public service reporting in new media ventures.

During its first week of operation, NJ Spotlight ' a grant winner in the second year of the Knight Community Information Challenge ' published a report revealing that PSE&G Power, an unregulated affiliate of Power Service Electric & Gas, has failed for years to pay a state-mandated energy surcharge. In 2009 alone, PS&G Power should have paid an estimated $47 million into the societal benefits charge (SBC) fund, according to one estimate.

The very next day, NJ Spotlight published a follow-up report detailing a call by a powerful state senator for an investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. Under the state's deregulation law, passed in 1999, all gas and electric customers are required supposed to pay the surcharge to support clean energy and energy assistance programs for low-income customer. A spokeswoman for PS&G Power, which is PSE&G's largest customer, told NJ Spotlight that the arrangement was 'was approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in a number of open, on-the-record proceedings.'

The original NJ Spotlight story was referenced and linked in a report by The Star-Ledger, highlighting NJ Spotlight's credibility (its founding editorial team is made up of veteran, award-winning New Jersey journalists) and the innovative partnerships that are emerging between new and traditional media.

In 2009, the Community Foundation of New Jersey received a $352,000 matching grant from Knight Foundation to create a public interest news service providing online news, continuously updated, as well as online discussion forums. NJ Spotlight describes itself as 'non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.'

The grant was part of Knight's Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative. The matching grants are awarded to community foundations to support creative ways to use new media and technology to keep communities informed and engaged about the issues that affect their lives.

Knight grantees providing "depth, context and resources" for investigative reporting of Gulf oil spill

May 17, 2010, 4:26 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The ongoing coverage of the developing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was bound to stir new-media investigations like the one the Center for Public Integrity, a Knight Foundation grantee, is carrying out. The Center, a nonprofit dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern, is using newly developed Web-based tools to deliver and share material with readers.

For example, the Center created an online library using a platform developed by another Knight grantee, DocumentCloud, to make available government documents its reporters are uncovering as part of their investigation into the oil spill. The Center, partnering with ABC News, posted exclusively obtained reports by the U.S. Coast Guard about past oil spill training exercises, which revealed weaknesses in the federal and industry response plan years before the BP disaster in the Gulf.

The Center credited DocumentCloud, which won a Knight News Challenge grant in 2009, in its use of the online tool: 'It's an emerging platform that we're pleased to use, giving our readers more depth, context, and resources as part of the Center for Public Integrity's brand of investigative journalism.'

DocumentCloud is an index of primary source documents and a tool for annotating, organizing and publishing them on the Web. Documents are contributed by journalists, researchers and archivists.

Currently in its fourth year, Knight News Challenge is open to community-minded innovators worldwide. Projects must use digital, open-source technology, distribute news in the public interest and be tested in a local community. Winners for 2010 will be announced in June.

Brown bag discussion tackles the shifting media landscape

May 13, 2010, 3:57 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Yesterday I attended the most recent of a lunch series organized by the Public Policy Communicators of NYC (PPC-NYC). The luncheon was focused on 'Navigating the Shifting Media Landscape' and its aim was to discuss several major recent developments that are contributing to the fractured media landscape and how media policy affects these issues. The group of approximately 30 or so experts discussed several topics including the importance of preserving network neutrality, how major media corporations are attempting to dominate public discourse, and how to best focus the efforts of all our organizations in light of current and future media policy.

The discussion started off with Knight Foundation consultant Vince Stehle highlighting some of the key elements from the Knight Commission report 'Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.' He talked briefly about the specific recommendations to maximize the availability of relevant and credible information to all Americans and their communities, the importance of strengthening the capacity of individuals to engage with information, and the necessity to promote individual engagement with information and the public life of the community.

Because PPC-NYC's members consist primarily of foundation communication professionals and leaders from progressive non-profit organizations, there is an inherent understanding about the importance of having free and open information in a society. And as Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibarügen remarked earlier this week to a group at the 2010 Free Press Summit in Washington DC, "Information is at the heart of democracy."

Because of that inherent understanding, it was hardly surprising that the recommendations of the Knight Commission seemed to strongly resonate with the goals and efforts of this group. In fact, the group proved to be natural audience for this kind of thinking. Furthermore, there was also understanding and appreciation that without sound media policies that speak to the need for a clear and open flow of information, the basic tenets of not just the Internet are at risk, but so are the tenets of a democracy.

What I found most encouraging is that there seemed to be an agreement that no matter what area foundations and non-profit organizations are engaged in, whether it is health, environment, or other social justice issues, that the importance of sound media policy resonates with everyone. Without access to a free and open Internet, there are invariable restrictions on the capacity of individuals to engage with information. Without an open Internet, the ability to promote individual engagement with information becomes limited, threatening the work that is the heart of all of what we do. The need for an open Internet and access to technology is an issue that people can engage with, coalesce around and begin to integrate it into their everyday thinking and work. The importance of having information and strengthening the capacity of people to engage with information cuts across sectors.

We know the challenges we face, the digital divide, a lack of media literacy in certain communities, and an uphill battle against corporate interests. But more importantly we know what is as stake. Together we can figure out how to best implement the recommendations of the Knight Commission. It is up to each of us to do what we can in our own ways to make these tenets a reality.

-- Elizabeth Miller is a Senior Program Associate with The Overbrook Foundation.

2010-11 Knight Journalism Fellows named at Stanford

May 13, 2010, 12:07 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Stanford University has announced the newest group of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows and only the second class chosen under the program's new emphasis on journalism innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.

Knight Foundation spoke with Program Director Jim Bettinger about how the changes to the program, announced in 2008, have impacted the fellows and their work.

The 2010-11 John S. Knight fellows will study a range of topics facing the future of news, civic engagement, developing new multimedia storytelling approaches, as well as creating tools to broaden information about immigrant populations and promote freedom of speech. The twenty journalists in this year's program will include, for the first time, professionals from Cuba and Armenia.

You can find a complete list of the 2010-11 fellows and more about the Knight Fellowships for Professional Journalists at

Stanford's Knight Fellowship program is funded by the'Knight Foundation.

--Marly Falcon, Knight Foundation contributing blogger

Knight CEO kicks off Free Press Summit: What policies do we need to create informed and engaged communities?

May 11, 2010, 1:40 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Alberto Ibarügen gave the kickoff talk this morning at the second annual Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action, held at the Newseum in Washington D.C. Alberto wore two hats, at least ' one as president and CEO of Miami-based Knight Foundation, the summit sponsor, and another as chairman of the board of the Newseum. The daylong summit, which is being streamed live over the Internet and includes a lively real-time online chat, features a mix of speeches from Washington's top media policymakers; commentary from panels of journalists, innovators and community leaders; and interactive breakout sessions about the future of journalism, public media and the Internet.

Alberto told the crowd that Knight sponsors this summit because of the foundation's key beliefs ' that information is a core need in a democracy, which thrives on 'informed and engaged communities,' and that every American needs universal broadband access as a matter of basic equality.

He also referred to the universal access recommendations in a report by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. 'The central goal is for a broadband plan. Our attention and energy must turn to the structure, laws and incentives to achieve that goal.'

Rather than focus on the policy controversies, Alberto said, everyone must work together in an open debate and be guided by three principles: (1) Competition and innovation must be encouraged; (2) The Internet must remain open and neutral and; (3) Broadband access must be universal and affordable.

Alberto shared a hopeful sign ' that other foundations across America are beginning to understand the crucial role broadband plays in the nation's vitality and are turning their resources toward this issue. He applauded Ford Foundation for committing $50 million over the next few years to support broadband access.

He concluded his talk by highlighting Knight Foundation's partnership with community foundations across the country, which also are coming to understand the necessity of promoting informed, engaged communities through the free flow of information. Knight awards matching grants to community foundations through its Community Information Challenge, now in its third year. The goal, Alberto explained, is to fund creative projects that inform and engage residents about important issues in their community.

He urged summit participants to seek out support and input from all people ' because everyone is part of this information challenge in the digital age. 'Don't just look at people interested in media and information to find allies in this fight.'

You can follow Alberto Ibarügen on twitter at @Ibarügen, and the live conversation at the Free Press Summit at #fpsummit.

2010 Knight Arts Challenge Finalists Announced

May 6, 2010, 9:39 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Today, Knight Foundation is announcing the 41 finalists in the 2010 Knight Arts Challenge, a contest to bring South Florida together through the arts. Check out their exciting ideas, which include nurturing new writers, enriching the local music scene and introducing young minds to the arts.

This year?'s finalists were clearly inspired by the winners in rounds one and two, and stepped it up a notch to offer a great depth of quality and creativity.

We'll announce the winners in the fall. Find out more about the contest and the impact of our previous winners at - Dennis Scholl

Two Knight Center projects win national SPJ awards

May 5, 2010, 1:10 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


The Society of Professional Journalists announced its national finalists for the 2009 Mark of Excellence awards competition. Among the winners are two entries from students at the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University.

One of the entries won in the category of online in-depth reporting for its project 'Cleaning Coal.'

The other entry won in the category of television in-dept reporting for its project 'The Night Shift.'

This year alone, Knight Center students have won 11 regional and national journalism awards.

The Knight Center was founded in 1999 with a grant from the Knight Foundation. The center is the nation's leading center for educating students and professional journalists to report and write about environmental issues.

''' --Marly Falcon, Knight Foundation contributing blogger