Knight Blog

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

J-Lab Report: What Works For Hyperlocal News Sites

Sept. 30, 2010, 11:15 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Jan Shaffer

This entry, written by J-Lab's Jan Schaffer, was originally posted at

J-Lab has funded community news startups since 2005, when the movement to launch independent hyperlocal news websites began in earnest. To date, we've seeded the launch of 55 'New Voices' experiments - with encouraging support from Knight Foundation.

Now, it's time to report what we have learned - and it's a lot. Check it out in our new publication, 'New Voices: What Works.'

One of our biggest learning curves is this: It doesn't pay to train whole classes of 'citizen' journalists. While you'll be doing wonders for advancing digital media skills in your community, you won't end up with a reliable corps of contributors for your news site. Ordinary citizens, armed with good intentions, are just too busy.

Citizen journalism turns out to be a high-churn, high-touch enterprise - one that requires a full-time community manager. The most successful New Voices projects, like the Twin Cities Daily Planet, 'have advanced other ways to tease out and nurture good contributors, and these are profiled in the report.

While some studies have criticized hyperlocal news startups for not replacing journalism lost because of cutbacks in traditional newsrooms, we think these sites have done something else entirely.

One of the New Voices projects' most important contributions is not that they replaced news coverage that has been constricted - rather they added coverage that did not exist before, not even in the heyday of American journalism.

They've done a bunch of other things as well: They triggered other news stories, helped solve community problems, imparted a lot of political knowledge that empowered voters, and engendered a new level of accountability for municipal leaders.

In the last couple of years, we've been blown away by how quickly a site can launch and get noticed with a determined social media strategy. The Oakland Local New Voices project is scarcely a year old, and it already has nearly 310,000 unique visitors, more than 4,000 Facebook fans and nearly 2,500 Twitter followers.

The report focuses on 10 key takeaways. They include:

  • Engagement, not just content, is key: Robust and frequent content begets more content, but it's the engagement with users that make sites successful.
  • Sweat equity counts for a lot: Projects built on the grit and passion of the founders have created the most promising models for sustainability.
  • Community news sites are not a business yet. Income from grants, ads, events and other things falls short, in most cases, of paying staff salaries and operating expenses.
  • Demand for start-up funding is high. We had 1,433 applicants for the 55 projects that were funded.

The report focuses on the 46 grantees funded between 2005 and 2009. Nine other projects funded this year will launch over the next six months.

These 46 New Voices grantees launched 48 projects; 42 are still online. Of those sites, 32 - or 76 percent - are still actively updated. In the early years, the projects received a total of $17,000 from J-Lab, but had to raise some matching support. Recently they received $25,000. Our thanks to Knight for supporting these risky pilot projects.

See an electronic version of the report here.

To order a hard copy, email with your name and mailing address.

Why Contests in Philanthropy Work: Report on Innovation and Grant-making

Sept. 29, 2010, 2:24 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Michael Smith, Vice President, Social Innovation, Case Foundation, Tim McClimon, President and CEO, American Express Foundation, Jose Zamora, Journalism Program Associate, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Claire Lyons, Manager, Global Grant Portfolios, PepsiCo Foundation / Pepsi Refresh, Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, Department of Education

Earlier this year the White House and the Case Foundation organized a gathering of more than 200 professionals from government agencies, the private sector and nonprofit organizations to discuss the use of challenges and contests in grant-making.

If you missed the event ' the organizers released a 9-page report called Promoting Innovation:' Prizes, Challenges and Open Grantmaking.' It provides the highlights of the event and the five do's and don'ts of using prizes, and was written by Brad Rourke, an engagement advisor in Maryland.

Knight Foundation's Jose Zamora attended the event ' he's pictured right with Tim McClimon from the American Express Foundation.' The Knight Foundation runs a number of contests and challenges  including the Knight Arts Challenge, the Knight Community Information Challenge and the Knight News Challenge.

'At Knight Foundation we are excited about being part of the national discussion on promoting innovation through contests and open grant-making,' said Zamora. 'We want to learn from the great work others are doing and share lessons and strategies learned to help anyone entering this field.'

The Knight News Challenge, now in its fourth year, awards as much as $5 million a year for innovative ideas that inform and engage communities.' The 2010 contest will open this fall - for more news stay tuned!

Check Out Today's Stories on Transportation Safety from Unprecedented Reporting Project

Sept. 29, 2010, 1:32 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Check out today's Washington Post and student reporters and investigative journalists have teamed up for two new stories on transportation safety in an unprecedented national reporting project.

Federal recommendations on avoiding plane crashes often go ignored, according to one article. Another reports that America's highways are more dangerous due to lax medical certification for commercial truckers.

The students reporters, part of the Knight-funded News21 program, came from 11 universities to Arizona State University this summer to work with editors and reporters from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, as well as top university faculty.

The package of 23 stories may well be the largest investigative reporting project ever produced by college journalism students, Kristin Gilger, an associate dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and executive editor of News21 wrote on Knight Blog earlier this week. Read more.

New Tools Will Help Communities Assess the Flow of Local News and Information

Sept. 28, 2010, 11:32 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

One year ago, a blue-ribbon Knight Commission presented 15 recommendations for helping to ensure America's communities are informed about the issues that shape them.

As part of its report, the Knight Commission created an eight-point checklist of ingredients of a healthy information community ' including high-speed Internet access for all, the availability of government services and information online and sources of quality local journalism.

Until now, though, there hasn't been a way to measure these elements across communities. That's why Knight Foundation, in partnership with the Monitor Institute and with advisory support from the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project,'is working to create a set of easy-to-use tools, so that communities can self-assess their local information flows and take steps to improve them.

The Community Information Scorecard is being pilot tested in three diverse Knight communities this fall: Philadelphia, San Jose and Macon.

The findings will be released in early 2011. In the meantime, we hope you'll visit to learn more about the project.

Knight Foundation, along with the Aspen Institute and others will gather tomorrow at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to mark the one-year anniversary of the Knight Commission report. A new white paper detailing the policy reforms needed to achieve universal broadband access in the United States also will be unveiled.

Tune in to the live webcast of the event at 10 a.m. tomorrow at, or on Twitter by following #knightcomm.

Knight FOI Fund Plays Role in Revealing Large Public Pension Fund Loss

Sept. 27, 2010, 8:37 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Revealing Large Public Pension Fund LossThe First Amendment Coalition won a major freedom of information victory in California earlier this month when it used the Knight FOI Fund to file a successful'freedom of information lawsuit that revealed'the details of how a huge public pension fund lost $100 million.

The suit against CalPERS, the biggest public pension in the country, resulted in an order to release documents related to their investment in a high-risk real estate development ' which the fund tried to classify as 'trade secrets.'

Not only was the investment a financial disaster, but the development also attracted negative attention when it allegedly displaced low-income tenants in rent-regulated apartments to increase rent levels.

The Knight FOI Fund supported the First Amendment Coalition in their pursuit of the documents in this case.' The fund was made possible by a $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation, and is managed by the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

Because of freedom of information law,'said Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, "state pension administrators didn't get away with hiding their dealings from citizens in the state of California.'

Student Journalists Publish Unprecedented National Investigation in Washington Post/MSNBC.COM

Sept. 27, 2010, 8:17 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

U.C. Berkeley student journalist Ryan Phillips interviews a trucker at a stop in Arizona while on assignment for News21.

School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and executive editor of News21. She was the lead editor on this summer's investigative project on transportation safety, and wrote this post for KnightBlog.

Five years ago, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Knight Foundation issued a challenge to the nation's top journalism schools: Take the best students, they said. Put them with expert editors and give them time and resources to report in-depth stories that are both multimedia-rich and journalistically excellent.

That challenge culminated this week with an unprecedented national reporting project on transportation safety in American that is appearing in two of the world's largest and most recognized media outlets -- The Washington Post and

The package of 23 stories may well be the largest investigative reporting project ever produced by college journalism students. It analyzes recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board over the past 40 years and calculates how many accidents have happened ' and how many Americans have died -- because agencies, states and industries have resisted safety measures. The safety issues range from reducing ice buildup on the wings of airplanes to cutting down on the dangers posed by fatigued operators.

The students came from 11 universities to the Cronkite School this summer to report, write and produce their stories. They worked with editors and reporters from the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization as well as top Cronkite faculty, including Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post.

The News21 reporters traveled across the country and to Canada and Mexico, interviewed hundreds of government officials, industry leaders, safety experts and accident victims and analyzed thousands of pages of documents, reports and accident and investigation data from the NTSB and federal regulatory agencies.

View their work at the news21 site, and'at' and at

Akron Institute Wins Federal Grant to Commercialize New Technology

Sept. 24, 2010, 12:59 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Dr. Frank Douglas, president and CEO of the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron

The Austen BioInnovation Institute together with the University of Akron Research Foundation has won a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. The funds will support a project that 'speeds the time required to take new technologies from the drawing board to commercial application.

The institute was launched in 2008 with $20 million in seed money from Knight, with the goal of encouraging research in biomedical commercialization and improving prevention, treatment and disease management. The institute, named for former Knight Board Chairman and trustee Dr. Gerald Austen, works out of a county-owned building in downtown Akron, Ohio as part of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's Hub of Innovation.

The Economic Development Administration awarded six grants in this round as part of the i6 Challenge, an effort to spur technological innovation around the country. The winners may be eligible for additional awards from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Chicago Community Trust assesses local news landscape

Sept. 23, 2010, 2 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

The Chicago Community Trust has conducted surveys of about 800 local residents and about 250 community leaders to get a better idea about whether Chicagoans believe their news and information needs are being met.

The survey found that internet access is widespread and, in general, 87 percent of Chicagoans feel adequately or well informed. Libraries are playing a significant role in meeting information needs, according to the survey.

Despite the positives in general, those surveyed cited these shortcomings in the news ecosystem:

Survey: Chicago Residents Feel Informed, But Lacking Coverage of Politics, Diverse Views

Sept. 23, 2010, 1:36 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The Chicago Community Trust has conducted surveys of about 800 local residents and about 250 community leaders to get a better idea about whether Chicagoans believe their news and information needs are being met.

The survey found that'internet access is widespread and, in general, 87 percent of Chicagoans feel adequately or well informed. Libraries are playing a significant role in meeting information needs, according to the survey.

Despite the positives in general, those surveyed cited these shortcomings in the news ecosystem:

- Inadequate political information. Just over half said they don't have enough information to know how to vote. Nearly half think the news media does not do a good enough job of covering state and local government.

- Lack of relevance of news media coverage. Half say news media "does not cover issues I care about very well."

-'News overload. People feel overwhelmed by the volume of news.

- Digital and class divide. Some Chicagoans are better served than others. While leaders and more affluent white residents' have access to news and information, those who are less affluent and educated, Latino and African-American and those for whom English is a second language are less well served. They tend to be less engaged in civic affairs and less empowered by technology.

-'Need for more diverse views. Two-thirds say they want more opportunities to hear the views of others.

Results of the survey and other research by the Trust will be released Thursday afternoon. Reports will be posted at' and there will be a live feed of the announcements'here or follow #cnm2010 on Twitter.

The Trust project is a two-time Knight Community Information Challenge winner. In addition to its research, the Trust makes small grants to local news start ups and organizations to strengthen the news ecosystem in Chicago.

Sustainability Beyond the Grant Cycle: Experimenting With Funding Models for Nonprofit News Sites

Sept. 23, 2010, 10:38 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Ben Wirz

Having funded more than 200 local news and information experiments, Knight Foundation is invested in helping to ensure nonprofit news sites become sustainable after our financial support ends.

With that in mind, this week we shared a host of monetization options with our journalism grantees, and highlighted two pay systems in particular: Press Plus and Kachingle.

Knight is not endorsing these companies. However, we do believe they provide interesting ways to experiment with generating revenue. To that end, we have given the two some support to let grantees learn more and test them out.

Some details:

Press Plus is a flexible, web-based payment platform that enables publishers to charge for content or ask for donations in a variety of ways, including metering based on volume of content accessed, segmented content and reader's geographical location'. It is currently being used by Global Post, Commercial Dispatch, Chico Enterprise Record and Lancaster Online among others. Press+ accounts are universal, which mean that readers who come to a site and already have a Press+ account are able to buy or donate without re-entering their payment information. Also, publishers can present readers with custom pop up messages as they navigate a site and can tailor messages to their specific interest.

Knight's support will allow up to 10 grantees 'to install and test the Press Plus service 'at no cost for 12 months, and pay a reduced rate thereafter.

Kachingle aims to make it easy to give small donations online. Users, or Kachinglers, make a fixed donation of $5/month. Publishers who want access to these donations need to incorporate a Kachingle medallion on their site. When Kachinglers visit a site they want to support that is part of the Kachingle network, they click once to turn 'on' the medallion.' Kachingle then distributes users' monthly contribution across the sites that they have selected based on daily usage.' Kachinglers can share organizations that they support through Twitter and Facebook, spurring more donations. Publishers already using this format include Center for Investigative Reporting, Chicago Talks and DailyCamera.

Knight's support will allow Kachingle to make tailored webinar presentations for Knight grantees interested in learning more.

There are plenty of other payment systems out there, including Media Pass, SubHub, Flattr, PayPal and Razoo. Google is developing its own payment systems, and Spot.Us is a proven, innovative model for funding investigative pieces (and a Knight grantee!). Grantees may benefit from all, or none of these ideas. But we'd like to facilitate learning about and experimenting with as many as possible to see if there is a fit.

Part of my role at Knight is to help develop and hone these types of initiatives. If you'd like to share your experience with the payment systems mentioned here (or others), please feel free to leave a comment.

Ben Wirz

Director of Business Consulting

Can Games Change Attitudes and Behavior?

Sept. 22, 2010, 8:43 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation today announced a grant to Area/Code Entertainment to develop two games that bring together the communities of Macon and Biloxi. Trabian Shorters, Knight Foundation's vice president for communities, explains why.

I'm a member of the first generation in human history to play video games.

"Pong" was a hideously simple video game that ushered in the era of mind-grabbing, time-stealing, life-changing games that I grew up on. But not just me. Nearly all of my friends poured thousands of dollars into video arcade games, 25 cents at a time, in the hopes of being immortalized on "high score" boards.

25 years later, that matters in ways that we would have never imagined.' Games are more than a pastime.' In fact, I'd argue that when it comes to changing people's behavior, games can be more useful than typical social science.

Take the web site Couchsurfing, which lets strangers from all over the world visit each other and sleep on the sofa or in the spare room. Of the millions of times that people have done this through the site, the ratio of positive to negative experiences is not 50:50, not even an impressive 10:1. The ratio of good experiences to bad ones is something like 10,000:1.

If that doesn't blow your socks off then consider that, according to Joe Edelman of Citizen Logistics, the "typical" host greets their guest at the airport. Often times, they take their 'guests' to dinner and to visit local sites.

Why are they so exceedingly kind to total strangers?

Because the site is set up on game concepts. The visitors "rate" their hosts. The hosts "rate" their visitors. Scores are cumulative and visible on the scoreboard. The better your scores, the more privileges you earn from the system. These simple ideas that let people compete is often all that it takes to get them to change consistent behaviors.

Why does any of this matter to us 'nonprofity' types?

We look at issues like disaster readiness, and the lack of a sense of community ' issues that have garnered millions to help solve them ' and yet they remain. In Biloxi, Miss., even after Katrina, the 2008 National Mason-Dixon Hurricane Poll found that 67 percent of the respondents did not have a hurricane survival kit. In Macon, Ga. people appear to get along just fine. However, students and the townies and the blacks and the whites may not know each other that well ' even 'though they walk the same streets.

Today, Knight Foundation announced it has given a grant to'Area/Code Entertainment, a game developer, to work with community folks on designing real-time, real-life games for addressing these persistent problems.

As a nerdy guy, its relatively easy for me to accept that games and game concepts are powerful motivators. I literally learned how to put a computer together because the more powerful computers could play the more powerful games.

All game design is about figuring out what you want the player to do and then creating incentives for them to do it of their own free will. If you must twist a player's arm in order to get them to play your game, then the game will fail.

Conversely if we look at changes we want a person to make in their behavior, and we then apply the rules of game design, we come up with elegant solutions like Couchsurfing, Wikipedia, eBay or in our case a game in Biloxi called "BattleStorm" and a game in Macon called "Macon Money."

Macon Money launches next month, though you can get a preview by watching our video about it above. BattleStorm, meanwhile, will launch in 2011.

I'm looking forward to sharing how it all plays out.

Texas News Site Uses Raw Data to Attract, Keep Audience

Sept. 20, 2010, 12:32 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune has figured out one way to draw and keep readers on their site. The state-focused news source publishes on average one database a week. Combined, the data pages get two and a half times the traffic of the narrative journalism pages, helping to draw the 200,000 unique monthly visitors to their site.

Topics vary. But the most popular one provides salary information for the more than 600,000 public employees of the state government.' The site also has a directory of the 160,000 inmates in Texas prisons including their names and crimes and a database for red-light cameras, with maps and statistics about revenue earned at each intersection.


In a similar vein, Sunlight Foundation also publishes data for the public, using new technology to make the information accessible.' In the run up to the November elections, their creation PolitiWidgets allows any blogger or website to include a widget that graphically displays information on any lawmaker in a number of different ways.

Transparency Data, another Sunlight application in beta testing, provides information on federal fiscal transactions like candidate campaign contributions and federal agency contracts awarded.

National Security Archive

Likewise, the National Security Archive at The George Washington University 'collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act' among other publicly available sources, making government data easily available to the public.

While news audiences clearly have an appetite for raw government data and apps that make it useful, The Texas Tribune has demonstrated that usable databases enhance website traffic and the number of return visitors.

CUNY Launches Entrepreneurial Journalism Program with Knight Support

Sept. 20, 2010, 9:28 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

The City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism announced today it will establish the nation's most intensive program in entrepreneurial journalism with the creation of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and the nation's first Master of Arts degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism.

The $10 million Tow-Knight Center will receive $3 million from Knight Foundation and $3 million from The Tow Foundation, supplemented by additional foundation grants and in-kind contributions of staff and technology from the CUNY J-School.

From today's release: 'Everyone knows the economics of journalism are changing,' said Eric Newton, vice president of Knight Foundation's journalism program. 'Not everyone has good ideas about how to cope with this. CUNY does. It wants to lead the emerging field of entrepreneurial journalism, to give students skill sets in the fields of both journalism and business.'

Read more from the New York Times.

Great Video Wins First Amendment Campaign Contest

Sept. 17, 2010, 11:11 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Oxfam has won the 1ForAll campaign's first video contest for a piece that touts the freedoms of the First Amendment.

Only 1 in 25 Americans can name the First Amendment's five freedoms and the majority can only come up with one.'That's why the'1 For All campaign was founded ' to remind Americans about how they use these freedoms daily. The campaign kicked off this summer with concurrent ads in more than 1,000 media outlets, an embeddable video with LL Cool J andSandra Day O'Connor, and classroom materials for teachers.

Knight Foundation, which supports campaigns for freedom of expression and information worldwide, is a lead sponsor.

Happy Birthday, The Rapidian!

Sept. 16, 2010, 3:34 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

By Roberta F. King, Vice President PR & Marketing, Grand Rapids Community Foundation

A year ago, The Rapidian was launched in Grand Rapids, Michigan with much fanfare. Seriously, we held a launch party with about 100 supporters and counted down the seconds until the site went live at 4 p.m. Sept. 15, 2009.

The fanfare was only the beginning of what has been a successful venture in nonprofit citizen journalism and an amazing leadership opportunity for the Community Foundation. The success of year rests squarely on the shoulders of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center, which spearheaded site design and instituted the values of The Rapidian. The numbers show that The Rapidian is a solid source for hyperlocal news in Grand Rapids. The site has 206 reporters, 13 editorial mentors and 128 active nonprofit users with hundreds more registered users, several who comment often.

Newseum Event Highlights Exhibit on Reporters Who Covered Katrina

Sept. 16, 2010, 8:56 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Knight staff and trustees participated in the 2008 Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity build.

Tonight, the Newseum marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by showcasing a new exhibit focusing on the reporters who covered the storm.

The exhibit highlights the challenges that two newspapers - The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and the Sun Herald of Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss. – faced in providing continuous information amid devastation. It also includes moving footage of broadcast reporters trying to balance their emotions and their jobs, along with a wall map from the Sun Herald’s newsroom, with pins that represented location of the confirmed dead.

Knight Foundation CEO and Newseum Chair Alberto Ibargüen will attend, along with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and former Sun Herald Publisher Ricky Mathews.

Ibargüen flew to Mississippi in the days following the storm. In an op-ed in the Sun Herald last month, he applauded the paper’s coverage and sense of mission:

“As someone who spent most of his adult life working in newspapers, few moments have ever made me feel better about what a newspaper could do than those mornings when I woke up in the parking lot of the Sun Herald. Power was only partially restored and gasoline was scarce, so television, radio or Internet news was hard to come by. Early every morning, I saw people coming from all over the area to get a copy of the Sun Herald, given out free during those weeks. They were coming to a kind of town meeting; a town meeting in print, where information was shared, ideas were exchanged and plans for the future began to take hold.


The Sun Herald was just like the people for whom it was written. It was a triumph over the adversity of the storm, the embodiment of hard work and determination, hope for a better tomorrow and an unshakable belief in themselves.”

After the storm, Knight Foundation invested $1 million in the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal. The funding was critical in allowing Gov. Barbour to appoint the commission he needed to begin a long-term recovery led by local governments and fueled by the private sector.

In addition, Knight has been a major supporter of other local groups, including the  Gulf Coast Business Council’s regional recovery efforts, the Biloxi Housing Authority and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. In 2008, trustees and staff  joined former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as volunteers in Habitat for Humanity’s 25th annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in the Gulf Coast.

Knight Arts Challenge Miami Winners Named as Up-And-Comers

Sept. 15, 2010, 9:12 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Lauren "Lolo" Reskin

The Miami Herald dedicated its Sunday arts section to profiling '20 under 40,' a group of up-and-coming South Florida artists who have helped transform the local arts scene.

Three are winners of the Knight Arts Challenge Miami. They are:

Patrick Dupre Quigley, whose choral group Seraphic Fire's chamber version of Monteverdi's Vespers of the Blessed Virgin topped the iTunes classical chart and was recently featured on NPR's All Things Considered. Seraphic Fire is busy creating a little league-like network of children's choirs in underserved neighborhoods.

Visual artist and Naomi Fisher, a Miami native who is currently working on a performance art piece filmed at Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota. Her gallery, Bas Fisher Invitational, also a challenge winner, is looking to feature artists who have grown up in Miami, she says.

Lauren 'Lolo' Reskin, who owns indie music store Sweat Records, which provides community programming and is a haven for music lovers.

Said Herald Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal: 'Behind much of the energy and creativity in South Florida arts is a new generation of players, many of whom have passed up national opportunities to stay here and work in the region's unique arts landscape.

Today, Knight Foundation announced it will bring the Knight Arts Challenge to Philadelphia, where it will invest $9 million over three years to projects that inspire and enrich Philadelphia's communities. For more, visit

Knight Foundation Creates "Unique" Philadelphia Arts Program

Sept. 15, 2010, 8:11 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer includes a story on the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia, a newly launched contest that will bring $9 million in new funding to the city over three years. The Challenge will look for the most innovative ideas in the arts that both inspire and enrich Philadelphia's communities. Applications will be accepted beginning Oct. 5 at

"We're saying, 'What's your best idea?'" Dennis Scholl, Knight Foundation's vice president/arts, told the Inquirer. "We're looking for the best ideas for the arts in Philadelphia. Come one, come all."

From the Inquirer story: The Challenge "in effect provides risk capital to arts groups, helping them to move in new directions that they might otherwise be cautious about," said Gary Steuer, the city's cultural officer. '"By being structured as a matching program, it will also help leverage new local support for the arts."

"We need to be open to supporting the best work and the best ideas, wherever they may come from," Steuer said.

"It's a unique invitation to Philadelphia," said Tom Kaiden, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Sign up for updates on the Knight Arts Challenge at

Knight Foundation Launches $9 million Philadelphia Arts Contest

Sept. 14, 2010, 5:16 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Knight Foundation is bringing new support for the Philadelphia arts through a community-wide contest that funds the best ideas for the arts in the city.

Applications for the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia will be accepted beginning Oct. 5 at

Anyone can enter the Knight Arts Challenge Philadelphia ' established arts institutions, independent artists of all types, businesses, service organizations, and any individual who has a great idea for the arts. The initial two-question application' is designed to be simple to encourage applicants who aren't traditional grant seekers.

We're looking for the most innovative ideas in the arts that both inspire and enrich Philadelphia's communities.

There are only three rules for the Challenge: 1) The idea must be about the arts. 2) The project must take place in or benefit Philadelphia. 3) The grant recipients must find funds to match Knight's commitment.

The Knight Arts Challenge began in 2008 in Miami, where the initiative is now in its third year.' Philadelphia is only the second city in which Knight is offering this program. Knight Foundation will offer up to $9 million there over three years.

Learn more by reading the news release. Sign up for updates at, and follow us on Facebook.

Knight Foundation CEO Makes Case for Funding Local News and Information Projects

Sept. 14, 2010, 1:52 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen Monday made the case for why community foundations should fund news and information projects, in a speech at the Council on Foundations' fall conference in Charlotte.

"The need for information is critical to each and every one of your communities.' It is important to our democracy; it is important to every area of your work. And, if you take away nothing else from today's luncheon, the best part is that you can do something about it," Ibarügen told the crowd of more than 700 leaders in philanthropy.

He also announced the 19 new winners of the Knight Community Information Challenge, a matching grant program that encourages community and place-based foundations to fund in this area.

He noted that many already have, moving to the "frontline of a movement to improve the information health of America's communities."

Read more of Ibargüen's address, and a Q and A with Ibargüen in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Four Innovation and Collaboration Trends in Journalism Education

Sept. 14, 2010, 9:03 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

U.S. Universities and Media Development

The Center for International Media Assistance recently released the report 'U.S. Universities and Media Development.' 'Written by journalist and journalism educator, Anne Nelson, the report analyzes the role U.S. universities play in the international media arena.' According to Nelson, educators are responding to the shifting media landscape by either pulling back to focus on domestic programs, or reaching out to international partners.

The paper calls for more international collaboration.

While costs can be saved by cutting international programs, there is also money to be made by working internationally.' The report points out that some journalism programs are 'seeking new international partnerships to increase revenue through grants and tuition,' which includes money from international students, foreign and domestic governments and foundations.

There's no shortage of partners, either.

Knight Foundation supported WJEC in the creation of a global census of journalism programs.' There are nearly 2,500 programs worldwide that are identified in that database, three quarters of which are based outside of the U.S.

The census sorts information by country, and provides contact details for each institution including web site, phone number, email and physical address.' Want an institutional partner in Somalia?' The census offers two options, Mogadishu University and Somali National University, with phone numbers for each.

Partners don't need to be institutions ' they can be projects.

Ushahidi is a mapping platform and Knight News Challenge winner. 'It was developed in the aftermath of the 2007-8 Kenyan election and allowed citizens to report incidents of violence and map them on the Web using mobile devices.' The tool has also been used in the wake of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and in the aftermath of the gulf oil crisis.

The platform was developed by Kenyan journalists, and the CIMA report writes that the platform is 'nurtured by its relations with many different academic institutions,' including U.S. schools and students, an example of an international and innovative grassroots collaboration.

The report notes that 'much of the most dynamic activity is taking place in university departments that are new to the field of media development.'

The report quotes Knight Foundation's Eric Newton who outlined the four transformational trends in journalism education at last month's Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's 94th annual conference.

In a nutshell, here's what they are:

-- Connecting with the whole university

-- Innovating content and technology

-- Teaching open, collaborative models

-- Providing digital news in new engaging ways

These goals are being achieved now, and not only by educators.' 'It's not a question of journalism schools versus non-journalism schools,' Newton says about the Knight News Challenge grants in the report 'It's innovators versus non-innovators.'

Community Foundations Increase Support for News and Information Projects

Sept. 13, 2010, 12:35 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Representatives of the community foundations who won grants through the Knight Community Information Challenge speak briefly about why they decided to get involved in funding their news and information projects.

Today, Knight Foundation announced the third-round winners of the Knight Community Information Challenge grants program, which helps community and place-based foundations support news and information projects.

The winning ideas are from foundations large and small, urban and rural. As I looked over them, I was struck by the vast variety of information needs these foundations are helping to meet.

I'll share just a few.

-'''''' The New York Community Trust is working to strengthen the city's ethnic media so that immigrants' voices are heard more broadly;

-'''''' The Hawaii Community Foundation is funding a student news network to be broadcast on PBS Hawaii, the only free signal for many in the state;

-'''''' The Greater New Orleans Foundation is supporting an online news site, so that it can more powerfully tell the story of the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

-'''''' The Tulsa Community Foundation is helping to create reports on women's issues,' including Oklahoma's high female incarceration rates.

All 19 winners are part of a growing movement of community and place-based foundations funding news and information projects.

Knight Foundation will again accept applications for the challenge, beginning in January.

Find out more about how you can help meet your community's information needs by visiting

Trabian Shorters Vice President for Communities Knight Foundation Read the full release here.

Queens University of Charlotte to Become Digital and Media Literacy Leader

Sept. 12, 2010, 8:30 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan and Eric Newton

James L. Knight

A year ago, a high level Knight Commission spelled out 15 recommendations for ensuring Americans get the information they need on important issues. Front and center: making sure digital and media literacy are built into education at all levels, from kindergarten through college.

Today, we're pleased'to announce that Queens University of Charlotte will become a national leader in this area.

With Knight Foundation's support, the newly renamed James L. Knight School of Communication will teach digital and media literacy to its students, and create outreach programs that will help these students spread digital and media literacy in the community at large.' As part of this service, Queens students could, for example, become literacy volunteers at libraries, teaching digital skills to seniors or leading workshops for parents on age-appropriate uses for social media.

In addition, Queens will teach digital and media literacy to all of its students, through core classes - helping to ensure they have the skills to evaluate ever-exploding content for accuracy and bias, and understand new technologies and their impact on our lives.

As Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen, who announced the grant tonight in Charlotte said: 'It's pioneering for a university to take responsibility for teaching digital and media literacy not only to its own students, but in the community at large. In the 21st century, successful communities will be those who can best connect with each other and the world using digital media. Queens is uniquely positioned to help Charlotte do that.

We're proud the School of Communication will bear the name of James L. Knight, founder of the national newspaper chain that became Knight Ridder, a former Charlotte Observer publisher, and a firm believer in community prosperity. His daughter Marjorie Knight Crane, a Knight Foundation trustee and Charlotte resident, was integral to making this happen.

We look forward to Queens University tackling this challenge, and finding ways to replicate their success in other communities.

Eric Newton

Vice President for Journalism

Susan Patterson

Program Director, Charlotte

Northeastern University's Initiative for Investigative Reporting Files First Story

Sept. 9, 2010, 12:30 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The Initiative for Investigative Reporting was launched at Northeastern University earlier this summer and its first story just got published.

It's a public spending piece featured in the Dorchester Reporter:' A theatre in Massachusetts that cost the city of Boston $8m in renovations, yet sits unused for 10 months of the year.

Boston's National Public Radio affiliate WBUR aired a segment on the article and project on their daily show, Radio Boston.

The program at Northeastern is directed by Professor Walter V. Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and editor with 34 years of experience at The Boston Globe.

The project expands investigative journalism into the community through partnerships with local newsrooms, and is funded by Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

The program's first Reporting Fellow is Stephen Kurkjian, a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winner at the Globe. Kurkjian and Pat Tarantino, a student reporter for the initiative coauthored the article.

The university-hosted web site, Watchdog New England, is currently under development and could be live next month. The initiative recently began working with its second partner, Cambridge Day.

Protecting the Press: CPJ's New Report Exposes Violence in Mexico

Sept. 8, 2010, 4:30 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Mexico is a dangerous place for journalists:' More than 30 have disappeared or been murdered since 2006.' As the drug war intensifies, violence, corruption, and threats escalate.' In response, the press self-censor and 'publish the minimum' to survive.

The Committee to Protect Journalists' September 2010 report is 'Silence or Death in Mexico's Press: Crime, Violence, and Corruption Are Destroying the Country's Journalism.'

The report makes clear that the bloodshed, impunity and self-censorship will undermine freedom of expression in the country.' It warns that 'unless the Mexican government takes bold action, the narcos will continue to define what is news and what is not.'

The Committee to Protect Journalists' Global Campaign Against Impunity is supported by Knight Foundation.' Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation's President and CEO has worked to protect journalists in Latin America as part of the'Inter American Press Association. He received a Maria Moors Cabot citation from'Columbia University, and'an honorary Doctor of Letters from George Washington University'for his efforts.

Map Tools Help International Aid Workers - and DC Residents Seeking a Safe Way Home to Stumble Home

Sept. 8, 2010, 5:35 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Stumble Safely helps D.C. residents find a safe walk home.'s Gadget Lab blog recently featured Knight News Challenge winner Development Seed, after the company developed customized maps showing areas that might be dangerous for drunken pedestrians in Washington, D.C.

The Stumble Safely site lets users plot a safe way to stumble home after an excessive evening by combining freely-available government data on liquor licenses, crime reports and subway stations.

The map, and others to help bikers and late night pedestrians in D.C. find safe routes, were built with Tilemill, an open source program Development Seed created to help users easily craft 'maps using a variety of data sources. The maps were overlaid with information like bike shop locations and cross walks, expanding a basic street map to the much more specific needs of the night owls, bikers and pub crawlers in the nation's capital.

While the Stumble Safely site may seem light-hearted, 'Development Seed is working on all kinds of new ways to put mapped data into the hands ' and onto the smart phones ' of people who need it. The company's News Challenge project promises to help local media outlets easily map data.

'We want to put these tools in the hands of the subject-matter experts and see what they can do,' Development Seed president Eric Gunderson told

Gadget Lab noted that Development Seed has already released Maps on a Stick, a program that allows users to put data-rich maps on USB sticks, so that people like aid workers in countries with spotty data bandwidth coverage can access mapping information.

Development Seed also put its expertise to work to help aid workers after the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, providing map tiles on its site that showed collapsed buildings, roads and seismic data.

Students Collaborate with Inventors and Innovators at New Akron School

Sept. 7, 2010, 10:39 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

When Jim West visited the National Inventors Hall of Fame School in Akron last year, the inventor was handed a very practical task: to work with fifth graders to lessen the amount of sound traveling into the school's new library.

"Believe it or not, these students understood the acoustics and behavior of sound to the extent that they were able to come up with some extremely novel solutions to the problem they faced," West, who himself co-invented the microphone used in most cellphones, recalled.

West was on hand at the school to celebrate the grand opening of its new building, which included the library that was the subject of the students' work.

The inventor worked with students as the first participant in the school's visiting inventor program, which Knight Foundation funded in addition to supporting the National Invention Gallery.

The middle school selects its students through a lottery on the belief that - if given the chance - any child can succeed in the fields of science, technology, engineer and math, The new building is located next to Invent Now, which honors inventors and inventions.

Knight Foundation Board Chair Rob Briggs also spoke at the school's grand opening.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Joins World Wide Web Foundation's Board of Directors

Sept. 2, 2010, 11:11 a.m., Posted by Marc Fest

Gordon Brown (Photo: World Economic Forum)

The World Wide Web Foundation (Web Foundation) today announced that it appointed former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to serve on its Board of Directors. Throughout the world, the Web Foundation leads programs that empower people to use the Web to nurture local economies and improve access to education and information. As a Board member, Brown will primarily advise the Web Foundation on ways to involve African communities and leaders in the development of sustainable programs that connect humanity and affect positive change.

The World Wide Web Foundation was created by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. In June 2008 Berners-Lee discussed the concept of the foundation with Gary Kebbel, then Knight Foundation's Journalism Program Director. On September 14, 2008, Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation President and CEO, announced a decision to award a grant of $5 million over 5 years to seed the creation of the World Wide Web Foundation.

Knight CEO Alberto Ibarügen serves as the Web Foundation's chairman of the board.

For more, visit the Web Foundation's Web site.

New Data Visualization Tool for Journalists Created by Knight Professor

Sept. 1, 2010, 8:55 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Sarah Cohen, the Knight Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, figured there had to be an easier way for journalists to organize their notes on chronological events.

'Time and place are two of the most important aspects in stories,' Cohen said. 'Most reporters I know are still keeping a 40-page chronology in Word for long running stories.'

So, with a grant from Duke, Cohen hired two research scientists, Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg, to design a visual tool to allow reporters to not just organize their notes more effectively, but to also see the results of their research over time.

In this image, the tool tracked President Obama's first 100 days in office, by his location.

Viegas' and Wattenberg were the brains behind the IBM Many Eyes project and now work for Google. The tool they came up with, an open source program that is free to download and use, makes it possible for journalists to look at the reams of data that went into those old 40-page text chronologies or multisheet spreadsheets in new and more useful ways.

'Say you're working on the BP story, you can say, 'I only want to see what happened in May having to do with birds,''' Cohen explained.

You can also look at how often President Barack Obama talked about the disaster in May, drill down into how when the president mentioned Gulf wildlife or any number of other functions. But the program doesn't just making searching data easier ' it's a visual tool that makes understanding data points over time easier.

'The way journalism is going, as there are fewer boots on the ground. It's important that they're spending their time efficiently,' Cohen explained.