Knight Blog

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

World Press Freedom Day Comes to the U.S. for first time

April 29, 2011, 11:06 a.m., Posted by Amy Starlight Lawrence

The timing -and location - is particularly important:  According to Freedom House, world press freedom has been declining since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.




World Press Freedom Day was established in 1993 by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Its purpose is to reaffirm the fundamentals of press freedom and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives.

World Press Freedom Day events this year will focus on media freedom in the digital age and is themed 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. This grant fits the goal of Knight’s freedom of information and expression work, which hopes to bring about greater public awareness of freedom as the underpinning of informed and engaged communities.

Watch Knight's senior adviser to the president Eric Newton's talk on Monday at 9:45 a.m. EST as part of World Press Freedom Day events which can be watched live at; and be sure to join the conversation: Tweet using the #wpfd hashtag, and like World Press Freedom Day 2011 on Facebook.

With a grant of $125,000 in matching funds, Knight is playing a leadership funding role by supporting the costs of hosting the event.

Akron's BioInnovation Institute gets new headquarters

April 28, 2011, 9:13 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Jennifer Thomas

The Austen BioInnovation Institute is making progress. The effort to create patient-centered innovation at the intersection of biomaterials and medicine will move into a new headquarters in the coming year. Leaders of the four centers for research gave updates to over 350 area leaders during an annual community update breakfast at the John S. Knight Center in Akron on April 18. 

According to a report in Crain's Cleveland, President and CEO Dr. Frank L. Douglas talked about

plans with city leaders to develop an incubator that will cater to startup biomedical companies. The BioInnovation Institute is preparing a proposal to submit to the Department of Commerce to help fund the project, he said. The institute also is continuing work to lead a national effort to develop quality medical devices that can be made more cost-effectively, he said.

Knight provided $20 million in seed funding for the institute, in an effort to help transform Northeast Ohio's economy.

Meanwhile, a new report says Akron’s University Park area has major economic potential.

The study showed that major anchor institutions located in or near University Park have a direct total economic impact of $2.5 billion within the area and an indirect impact of $3.5 billion within Ohio. The  University Park Alliance will hold a lunch on May 11 detailing new strategic and master plans for the 50-block area.

''When the numbers came out, it validated what most of us knew: these pieces combined really represent some significant economic horsepower for the city of Akron and the region,'' Eric Anthony Johnson, the alliance’s executive director, told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Read more in the Beacon Journal.

Connected Citizens: Bottom up and top down strategies for social networks

April 27, 2011, 8:37 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

By Diana Scearce, Monitor Institute

Diana Scearce

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a Knight Foundation webinar about the Connected Citizens report, which explores how  social networks - on and offline - affect the way people push for social change.

A number of interesting questions were raised about strategies for network connectivity and structure. The questions made me think about tensions inherent in network design: creating loose and tight groups, connecting with people who are like ourselves and across differences, designing for niche interests and scale.  The discussion led me to think about the nature of network-centric impact. Most often, when the power of networks is channeled toward meaningful impact, the path to get there combines qualities of healthy networks (e.g., resilience, self-organization, reach) with old-school planning and organizing principles (e.g., mission, vision, strategy).

Networks are people connected by relationships. They’re naturally occurring and all around us, like air. Strategy, on the other hand, is about intentionally charting a direction. It requires analysis, pattern recognition and making choices. Network-centric impact bring together the two: the bottom up potential of self-organization and top down intentionality.

Here are few of the questions about network connectivity and structure from the webinar:

What do you consider when drawing the boundaries of networks? Assuming your goal is to scale impact, the primary consideration is keeping the boundaries porous – so people can easily enter and exit. It’s helpful for people to make a clear choice to enter and affiliate with a social change network. This could mean becoming a formal member of a bricks and mortar network, like Lawrence Community Works a community development corporation in Massachusetts that is approaching community organizing with a network lens. It could also mean signing on to—an online network that provides free services to activists working to promote healthier living, and in the process connect these leaders. In both cases, people can enter easily and come in and out of the network depending on their interests and needs. When you’re drawing network boundaries, plan for fluidity.

How can networks support networks to achieve both niche customization and scale? I’m reminded of the quote from Clay Shirky, “We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia. Suddenly big things can be done for love." So, it’s possible to have niche customization and scale because people can find each other, connecting and coordinating using tools like Twitter hash tags and Facebook groups. To do this well, follow Beth Kanter’s first step in using social media, and listen to the surrounding conversation so you can find opportunities for scaling your niche and linking networks to networks.

Any suggestions on how to encourage networks across social strata and interest groups while protecting space for people to find others like themselves? Our natural tendency as humans is to connect with others like ourselves (it’s the phenomenon known as ‘homophily’ in network speak). The handy thing about homophily is that its easy to build relationships with people who similar to you and once you’ve established a community with common experiences they can be a wonderful source of support (my moms’ group comes to mind). Connecting with people who are like ourselves is important for our well-being, but it’s unlikely to promote social change. Solving complex community problems requires engaging a range of perspectives that reflect the diversity of the system that needs to be changed. So, how to design for both homogeneity and heterogeneity? This is where network weavers come in. Network weavers are people who deliberately weave connections and bring in new perspectives while protecting space for the network to do its work. The Boston-based Barr Foundation has been a pioneer is supporting networks and network weaving. One of their many network-centric initiatives has focused on improving the local after school sector. Rather than funding individual organizations, Barr has channeled its resources toward weaving connections among the afterschool community in Boston. A core part of this strategy has been supporting a ‘weaver’ who introduces people and organizations throughout the sector with one another, shares information, and creates opportunities for afterschool leaders to come together. Over the years, there’s been a notable decrease in fragmentation, more awareness about what’s going on across the after school sector, better coordination and even collaborations catalyzed. (For a deeper dive, check out Barr’s report ‘Building a Field of Dreams.’)

Network weavers combine the bottom up and top down qualities of network-centric impact. Their work is about enabling bottom up action, and there is a clear intent and strategy driving the patterns they weave. They’re planning for emergence.

Listen to the webinar recording. Also participating were Mayur Patel (VP Strategy and Assessment, Knight Foundation), Dana Jackson (ED of the Making Connections Louisville Network) and Conor White-Sullivan  (Co-Founder of Localocracy), and about 75 attendees.

Crossposted from Working Wikily

Creative Commons' chairman Joi Ito selected as next director of MIT Media Lab

April 26, 2011, 2:54 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

MIT has announced that Joichi Ito has been selected as the next director of Knight grantee, MIT Media Lab.

In its statement, MIT recognizes Ito, 44, "as one of the world’s leading thinkers and writers on innovation, global technology policy, and the role of the Internet in transforming society."

Ito has been involved with Knight Foundation as a reviewer in the Knight News Challenge, the foundation’s media innovation contest. In that capacity he helped foundation staff winnow down a field of more than 2,000 applicants to less than two dozens finalists.

Ito is co-founder and board chair (and previously served as CEO) of Creative Commons, the basis for the intellectual property rules in the Knight News Challenge contest.

Economics of investigative reporting

April 21, 2011, 2:36 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Ken Doctor, who writes well about Newsonomics, has taken apart the economics of a single investigative story with this report on the Nieman Lab site.  He features a strong California Watch story about how state regulators have routinely failed to enforce earthquake safety laws for public schools, "allowing children and teachers to occupy buildings with structural flaws and potential safety hazards reported during construction." KnightBlog has written about this before because Knight Foundation gave a $1.32 million grant to the organization behind the stories as part of our Investigative Reporting Initiative.

Ken asked me why Knight Foundation supports investigative reporting. Here's what I said:

Eric Newton"No community can clean up a toxic dump, or remove a corrupt official, or fix dangerous schools, or right any other kind of wrong, if it doesn’t first know about it. Investigative reporting tells us what we need to know -- not what we want to hear -- what we need to know -- what good citizens need to run their communities and their lives. But today we seem to be in a weird kind of investigative reporting drought. Weird because the overall volume of news and information is exploding – but traditional news outlets, in their mad scramble to cope with the digital age, are producing less local accountability journalism.

"Without a lot of fanfare, Knight Foundation has been making investments in investigative reporting grant. Brant Houston’s web site explains some of them. We are interested in the development of new economic models for investigative reporting on digital platforms.  Recent national support has gone to the Center for Investigative Reporting, ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity. We’ve also supported the Sunlight Foundation and Sunshine Week, because you need freedom of information to investigate.

"We have funded university-based models at Boston University and through News 21 to explore how its 12-campus investigative reporting project might adopt a self-sustaining model. USC, the University of California at Berkeley, Nebraska, Arizona State, Missouri, Northwestern, Maryland, Syracuse, University of Texas, the University of North Carolina, Columbia and Harvard. In the past we’ve made two endowment grants that we count as part of our Investigative Reporting Initiative.  The training endowment we gave to the Investigative Reporters and Editors and we endowed a Knight Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Journalism at the University of Illinois.

"We believe non-profit investigative reporting is gaining momentum across the country. Its practioners are winning top journalism awards and more than that they are creating major social changes worth many times the cost of these reports. The key to the sustainability of these enterprises is that they develop multiple revenue streams to augment their launch support from foundations. Several of them are making major strides in that direction. Especially important is that the local projects win local support. It’s a fact of life that local news must have local support, and it’s heartening to see community foundations coming into this field as part of the Knight Community Information Challenge."

Ken then asked "a big question," which was whether California Watch can expect continued foundation support: "There really isn’t a foundation community that thinks with a common brain (same situation as in the news community). Each foundation makes its own decisions using different criteria. Some foundations see their role as launching new things and letting nature take its course. Other see their role as helping orgs develop business-savvy and capacity for sustainability. Others want to fund particular content channels. Others only want to fund high-impact content. Others want to fund innovative new forms of engagement. How California Watch does with each of the different types will depend on how it has done so far on the different issues they care about: web traffic, community engagement, social impact, particular beats or topics, fundraising from the community at large. California Watch is supposed to do a report to the news community explaining how it is doing and that will be helpful information to all the foundations following them."

Eric Newton is senior adviser to the president.

Center for Public Integrity launches new investigative reporting site

April 21, 2011, 11:09 a.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

A new website by The Center for Public Integrity will introduce an updated approach to the quality accountability reporting and long-form investigative journalism the organization has produced for the last 20 years.

Available in beta at, the site will serve as the center's primary news platform, providing readers with 10-12 reports each day at no cost.  A premium version will also be available for a tax-deductible annual fee of $50.

Some of the site's first stories include an investigation into the relationship between credit rating companies and the big banks lobbying for their protection in Washington, and coverage of a court hearing on the environmental impact of chemicals released by oil refineries in Pennsylvania.

Knight Foundation has invested more than $2 million  since 2008 to help the Center for Public Integrity transform itself into a news organization that uses the latest production and distribution tools.  The awards are part of Knight’s Investigative Reporting Initiative, which has committed $15 million to help develop new economic models for investigative reporting on digital platforms. summit series in San Jose gives new voice to community college students

April 20, 2011, 2:26 p.m., Posted by Damian Thorman, J.D.

Damian Thorman

The kick-off of the Knight-funded summit series, where young leaders get together to address pressing issues, was a rousing success.  The summit brought together more than 100 students from the San Jose area to sharpen their skills in becoming more active and engaged citizens. The topic, increasing college graduation rates, was selected by the students.

The students came to the summit with ideas that would increase graduation rates.  As they worked together from across several community colleges, it was exciting to see the students recognize the importance of creating a network of like-minded students to increase their impact.

Lisa M. Krieger, of the San Jose Mercury News wrote,

“The atmosphere felt electric at the conference, held at downtown San Jose's Hilton Hotel, attended by 100 students -- hand-picked by organizers -- from Northern California community colleges.”  She continued, saying, “At an elegant Saturday night dinner, they listened attentively to a dinner speech by California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott, and exchanged names, email addresses and phone numbers on business cards made for the event.”

On Sunday, five teams were presented with a Democracy 2.0 Award and will receive up to $7,500 to help establish original projects to address the challenges California students face in graduating from college.

One such projects is the Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) Student Outreach Team, which will train a network of undocumented students to reach out to each other, local schools, organizations, parents, faculty and staff to overcome the adversities keeping these youths from successfully pursuing a higher education degree.

You can view five of the six winning projects from this past weekend  here.  The last will be selected by the public. Learn about the finalists and cast your vote here.

Last week, Knight Foundation announced a $1 million grant to to help build a network of young leaders in five communities, part of Knight's efforts to promote informed and engaged communities.  Similar summits will take place soon in Charlotte, Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia.

Future of libraries? Improved search, content creation, panel says

April 20, 2011, 8:27 a.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

With an avalanche of changes in the information landscape over the past decade, libraries are looking at ways to redefine themselves.  But how?

reading light
Seattle Public Library

Harvard’s John Palfrey­ and MIT’s Chris Csikszentmihályi discussed the opportunities at Knight Foundation’s Library Conference earlier this year.

Throughout the discussion, Palfrey focused on the potential for libraries to modernize the role they play in our increasingly interconnected society, particularly when it comes to searching for and retrieving information.

Libraries tend to be the last step in a long process of research, he said.  Most of the time, we use Internet search engines like Google to find out which book or other form of media might interest us.  Once we hone in on the right title, we look to websites like Amazon to determine which version is most attractive or suitable.  We don’t actually visit our local library to check out what we want until long after we’ve exhausted a world of online tools.

To solve this problem, Harvard is currently developing a way to help libraries meet the sorting and evaluation functions now fulfilled by Google and Amazon, said Palfrey, professor of Law and vice dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School and a faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

He went on to demonstrate a Web app that virtualizes a library’s book stack, assigning specific colors according to how many times people have used each article.  Essentially, the tool meets the networking needs of online reviews by digitally displaying books in relation to their popularity.  It also recreates the serendipitous experience of perusing a library shelf.

An important innovation, the app is just one way to help satisfy the overwhelming need for libraries to integrate themselves in the network exchange of information.

Sharing a slightly different perspective, Csikszentmihályi took a step back to look at the larger role libraries might play in their communities.

Less costly, more effective communications technology are...

Pulitzer Prize Winning ProPublica is part of Knight's Investigative Reporting Initiative

April 19, 2011, 10:38 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

The nonprofit ProPublica has won its second Pulitzer Prize in as many years for a series on Wall Street bankers who sought to enrich themselves at the expense of clients and at times their own firms.  Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein uncovered the scandal, exposing some of the practices that ultimately worsened the financial crisis.

Paul Steiger
Paul Steiger

ProPublica is funded through Knight's Investigative Reporting Initiative, a $15 million effort to help develop new economic models for investigative reporting on digital platforms. Grantees include News21the Center for Investigative ReportingProPublicathe Center for Public Integrity and the Texas Tribune.

Paul Steiger, ProPublica editor-in-chief and CEO and a Knight trustee, said the point made by the series is critically important:

...the mores of Wall Street, at least in the period 2006-2008, were not consistent with the public interest or the national interest, and that greater oversight (and perhaps enforcement actions) may be in order. Our ultimate test for our work at ProPublica is impact, and we believe this reporting has helped spur activity by the SEC and the Congress -- activity we continue to cover, as recently as twice this past week.

Congrats to the ProPublica team!

Coming Monday: First Knight-Mozilla innovation challenge launches

April 19, 2011, 8:38 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

On Monday, the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership will launch its first innovation challenge. The contest (one of three running through May) aims to accelerate media innovation by solving technological challenges, developing new news products and services and - ultimately - embedding technologists in news organizations as Knight Mozilla News Fellows.

For the challenges, designers will be asked to enter ideas in response to these statements:

1. Unlock video: How can new web video tools transform news storytelling? (April 25th) 2. Beyond Comment Threads: How can the open web reinvent online interaction with news (May 9th) 3. Blow our minds: What's the next killer app for news?(May 23)

Ultimately, members of the Mozilla community will be chosen as Knight Mozilla News Fellows, working in newsrooms around the globe to help solve challenges.

Knight Mozilla Journalism Partnership from Graham Wheeler on Vimeo.

Here's the idea behind the partnership, from Mozilla's blog:

We believe that the open web can enable a new kind of journalism—through which people around the world are informed and engaged like never before. News should be delivered across languages, across platforms, across devices. News should put the reader at the center of the story, and stimulate real-time discussion about stories that matter.

Learn more and find out how to get involved here.

Insights on Innovation: Findings from the News Challenge coming soon

April 18, 2011, 4:25 p.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

Mayur Patel

In 2007, we launched the Knight News Challenge as a five-year $25m contest to support innovative digital experiments to transform the way communities gather, share and produce local news. The backdrop to the contest was the disruption happening in journalism, with the news industry in great flux. Since then, we have funded over 60 grantees, totaling more than $21m. With the future of journalism open, we made a deliberate effort to invest in a broad range of experiments from open-source publishing tools to journalism education, and from mobile news platforms to data visualization and mapping.

As with all experiments, the key is to learn from them. At the start of 2010, we put in place a multi-year evaluation to understand the impact of winners’ projects, highlight practices that are showing promise and assess the contest’s contribution to advancing media innovation. The initial results from this effort will be completed shortly and we’re excited to share them publicly with you in June! The findings will build on some of the earlier reviews we’ve done of news challenge winners and the contest itself.

Here’s some more detail: In 2010, we partnered with Lucy Bernholz and her team at Blueprint R&D (an evaluation and strategy firm on the West Coast), to put in place a framework for evaluating the news challenge. To date this has included:

  • An initial retrospective analysis to understand the progress winners have made in implementing their projects and the partnerships they have developed.
  • Profiles of individual winners and a set of papers exploring cross-cutting themes in the contest, e.g. news on mobile phone, civic media projects and news games. We started this by looking at the 2008 and 2009 winners, who are far enough along with their projects to examine outcomes. LFA Group, an evaluation firm, has been collecting this information by surveying and interviewing winners, their stakeholders and experts in the field.
  • We also recently put in place a system to help winners better track their progress and outcomes going forward by integrating web analytics and social media metrics into their work. John Lovett from Web Analytics Demystified has been supporting the 2010 winners with this. We’ll be demoing the platform they’re developing to track key performance indicators in the next few months.

It’s our hope that the insights gathered from the evaluation will help winners strengthen the implementation of their projects and help us refine our media innovation efforts. We also hope that the findings will be meaningful for your own work.

Others are also exploring the News Challenge contest independently of Knight Foundation. An example is Daniel Bachhuber’s recent post, which includes an interesting infographic. Check it out.

Stay tuned for Knight's findings in June!

Mayur Patel is VP for Strategy and Assessment at Knight Foundation. will develop networks of young leaders in five cities

April 15, 2011, 6:07 a.m., Posted by Damian Thorman, J.D.

Today, Knight Foundation is announcing a $1 million grant to, to help build a network of young leaders in five communities.

We’re making the announcement this afternoon in San Jose, where 100 students are gathered for a three-day summit to develop ways to help students overcome obstacles to obtaining their degree. Participants will pick the best ideas, and and partners will fund them – liked they’ve  funded 26 Millenial-led projects around the nation. The support is part of Knight’s efforts to involve youth in promoting informed and engaged communities.

Damian Thorman

Similar summits will be coming soon to Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Charlotte, and a team will be in place in each city to make sure projects are successful.

Here’s Founder Maya Enista in her own words about the work is trying to accomplish: was founded nine years ago, on the campus of UC Berkeley by a visionary student, David B. Smith, who believed that young people had an important role to play in building campuses, communities, and a democracy that they would be proud to lead. Nine years later, has touched tens of thousands of Millennials across the country, investing over $130,000 in Millennial-led solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time; from the task of increasing financial literacy for our generation, to addressing the challenges that Millennials veterans face when returning from combat. The solutions lie within this collaborative, diverse, technologically-savvy and entrepreneurial generation and I know I speak on behalf of the amazing team when I say it’s a true honor to go to work for and with our generation every day.

Five projects that emerge from this weekend will be among the 26 that has already invested in, including Team Rubicon, which deploys teams during natural disasters, and the One Percent Foundation.


Recently, we invited a group of leaders – including Maya – to talk about the best ways to engage youth in helping their communities. You can read about, or listen to that conversation here.

Maya Enista Discusses Youth Engagement from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, is asking:

Do you know an inspiring young people who may be a great addition to the team? Do you know organizations in the cities above that are doing truly empowering, Millennial-led work? Do you have a solution for your community that needs support to get off the ground?

If you do, email the team at

Helping foundations get past their “fear of fire” when it comes to media grantmaking

April 14, 2011, 9:22 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

Written by Mary Lou Fulton & cross-posted from The Media Optimist

Mary Lou Fulton

What will it take to get more foundations to give money to support news and information projects?

This was the subject of a standing-room-only panel (see archived chat) at this week’s Council on Foundations annual meeting, where funders from across the country gathered to learn and talk about a new Knight Foundation guideoffering ideas and inspiration for how to get started in journalism and media grant-making.

The guide highlights a range of media grant-making examples, and I’m honored that work of The California Endowment was featured.   But the questions and conversation at the panel discussion, ably moderated by Eric Newton,  made me think that another guide may be needed:  “How I talked my board of directors into making media grants and lived to tell about it.”

I say that because while foundation representatives clearly understood the media industry crisis and the need for high-quality news and information, there is still much anxiety about supporting independent journalism that a foundation can’t control.   There is fear of what they see as the worst-case scenario, such as...

New FCC and Knight Foundation contest helps bridge digital divide

April 14, 2011, 11:32 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Can a mobile app improve the quality of life for a farmer in America's heartland? Can a web app help school children in Detroit? The Little Businessman


That’s the fundamental idea behind the Apps for Communities Challenge, a new contest sponsored by Knight Foundation and the FCC. We’re offering up to $100,000 in prizes for software applications (apps) that deliver personalized, actionable information to people least likely to be online. The goals of the contest:

●    make local public information more personalized, usable, and accessible for all Americans;

●    promote broadband adoption, particularly among Americans who are less likely to be regular Internet users (including low-income, rural, seniors, people with disabilities and the low digital/English literacy communities); and

●    create better links between Americans and services provided by local, state, Tribal, and federal governments.

This fits in with Knight’s mission to promote informed and engaged communities, which includes promoting universal broadband access. Learn more and apply by July 11 at

Journalists from nine countries selected for Knight International Fellowship at Stanford University

April 14, 2011, 9:37 a.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

Stanford University has selected nine journalists from a total of 222 applications to participate in the 2011-2012 John S. Knight International Fellowships.  They will be joined by 12 U.S. fellows, to be announced early next month.

Judith Torrea, momentos antes de la charla
Judith Torrea, one of nine John S. Knight International Fellows for Professional Journalism
"The projects this year's Fellows will undertake include making data mining tools more accessible to journalists, developing an online platform for the sharing of Freedom of Information documents and using technology to make Arab governments more accessible and U.S. Mideast policy more transparent," stated a Stanford press release.

A more detailed account of each of their proposals is available here.

Funding in media and journalism: A discussion on opportunities and challenges

April 12, 2011, 12:55 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

With 15,000 journalism jobs cut in recent years, hurting the in-depth local news that helps sustain our democracy, more funders are making journalism and media grants.  And many of them attended a Monday morning session on the topic at the Council on Foundations conference in Philadelphia for a robust discussion on the opportunities and challenges of media grant making.

The session, “Informed and Engaged Communities through Journalism and Media Grant Making,” was designed to provoke questions from the foundations thinking about making such work and answers from the foundations making media grants. Here’s a sample of the conversation:

  • How does media grant making fit into overall foundation strategy? Media funding can help reach any strategic goal. Good urban planning is important to The William Penn Foundation, so it funds an informative site called Plan Philly; another funder interested in homelessness supports coverage of the topic area on a Connecticut news site.
  • How do you go about producing content that is relevant to your audience? Stay close to your audience, said Knight Foundation’s Paula Ellis. They will guide you so that you don’t overbuild a site that solves a problem nobody has.
  • How do you sustain news sites once foundation funding ends? Diversify funding sources, between ad sales and public radio type funding models and others. Also, make sure the people who run the site have business sense, and that slices of the budget are spent on marketing and other business areas. Said one audience member:  We had two experiences with fine journalists, one of them after three years barely knows he has to hire someone to work on sustainability. In the other case the person transformed himself into a fabulous entrepreneur. You have to build it in to how you think about the project.
  • How do you go about making partnerships with traditional media: The California Endowment, which promotes community health, works with local newspapers to create and fund community health beats. Mary Lou Fulton said while the Endowment respects journalists’ independence, they do negotiate the scope of coverage so that it goes far beyond the typical coverage of health care reform, weight loss and yoga.

Read through the entire conversation on the session’s liveblog here.

For more tips on funding in this area, download the booklet “Journalism and Media Grant Making, Five Things You Need to Know, Five Ways to Get Started.”


Have a good idea for local change? Share it at

April 12, 2011, 8:38 a.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

INSPIRE OAKLAND Billboard Contest Finalists! - Whole Foods Market Oakland - 4/6/10

Today, the Craigslist Foundation launches a new site called LikeMinded, where people can share stories about what's working to help improve communities.

Often those stories go untold, or are only shared locally. The site is meant to be a resource, so that those successes end up where they need to go - whether that's to community activists, potential collaborators, or the media, the foundation says:

Ever wanted to change something in your community but didn’t know where to start? Ever done something awesome in your community and wanted to see other towns do similar things? Have you hit a dead end fixing local problems and need new ideas?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, you'll want to check out The site is funded through Knight Foundation's Technology for Engagement Initiative, which funds projects that use technology to help people take action in their communities. The initiative also funds, Code for America, and others.

So far, LikeMinded is populated with a bunch of inspiring neighborhood stories, including that of a group of young girls in Atlanta who tired of cat calls in the streets and decided to rap about it; and  that of the city of Oakland, which is trying to remake its image by asking local artists to design inspiring billboards.

Check out the tutorial below to get started.

Investigative series on earthquake regulations in California's public schools rocks state's foundations

April 11, 2011, 2:18 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman


A comprehensive investigative reporting series on earthquake regulations in California’s public school system is rocking the state’s foundations.

Over the past few days, California Watch, the collaborative multimedia news project backed by the Center for Investigative Reporting, has been breaking a myriad of stories about the faulty certification, unqualified inspectors and budget blockades affecting seismic safety in California’s K-12 public schools.

Dubbed On Shaky Grounds, the series offers everything from a smart phone app that maps the nearest fault line relative to your location, an earthquake safety coloring book for kids called “Ready to Rumble,” some fantastic maps and interactive info-graphics, a score of audio, videos and other interesting images – all in the public interest.

Cherilyn Parsons, Director of Development, California Watch / Center for Investigative Reporting, commented in an e-mail,

“This is the most ambitious investigation we have done thus far.  It may be the most complex story release that any journalism nonprofit has done: a 19-month original investigation, multiple stories, every possible format, dozens of outlets, a database, interactives, timelines, a grassroots engagement campaign, and an app...”

Knight Foundation awarded the Center for Investigative Reporting more than $1,250,000 in 2009 to focus its considerable investigative expertise on California and create a new model for a collaborative multimedia newsroom.

Read more about Knight’s Investigative Reporting Initiative here, or see how Knight invests in journalism to promote informed and engaged communities at

Minnesota contest receives Council on Foundations’ recognition

April 11, 2011, 1:53 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

A Community Information Challenge winner, the Minnesota Community Foundation, has been named a Silver award winner for excellence in communications by the 2011 Wilmer Shields Rich Awards Program.

Sponsored by the Council on Foundations, the awards program recognizes effective communication efforts to increase public awareness of foundations and corporate giving programs. Minnesota Community Foundation received the award in the category of public policy campaigns for Minnesota Idea Open.

The award was presented Monday during the Council on Foundations’ Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

Minnesota Idea Open is a fun and engaging way for Minnesotans to come together and tackle tough issues facing their state. Anyone can find and share innovative ideas that inspire them to act. In its first challenge—for which it was recognized with the...

Ten resources on news business models

April 11, 2011, 12:08 p.m., Posted by Benoit Wirz

Benoit Wirz, Director of Business Consulting at Knight Foundation

Recently, a colleague circulated a request for good fact-and-research-based sources examining the business model of traditional newspapers in comparison to 21st century digital alternatives.

With the pace of change in media being as formidable as it is, there is no single source for this kind of information.  But as people increasingly look online for information and newspaper print revenues continue to decline (-8% in 2010), the question remains open and vital.

What follows are some of the sources which Knight staff and University of North Carolina Knight Journalism Chair Penelope Abernathy look to in thinking about this topic. Professor Abernathy’s 2009 paper on the rise and fall of mass media is appended here and an update is expected shortly.

Media Focused Books:

Media Ownership and Concentration in America (2009, Eli M. Noam) is a classic economist's look at 10 industry segments.  Chapter 1, 8 and 20 all deal with historic and changing newspaper economics.

Managing Media Companies 2nd Ed. (2009, Annet Aris & Jacques Bughin) has great global case studies of media companies making the transition to digital. The Welt Group and Schibsted cases are most relevant.

All the News That's Fit to Sell (2006, James Hamilton) is one of the few books to look at supply and demand for news that has historically been covered by newspapers.  Chapters 5 and 7 are most relevant.

Penelope Abernathy, University of North Carolina Knight Journalism Chair

The Curse of the Media Mogul (2009, Jonathan Knee) gives a Wall Street view of newspapers (tucked inside a long missive on the perils of media conglomerates).  Chapters 4, 5 and 10 are worth reading.

Media Economics: Applying Economics to New and Traditional Media (2004, Colin Hoskins, Stuart M. McFadyen, Adam Finn) is somewhat outdated and dense.  But Chapter 10, on pricing and market segmentation, is still relevant -- especially as newspapers look to new pricing models.



C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today (2010, Larry Kramer) is written by a journalist turned entrepreneur about how to deal with change in the media landscape and beyond.

The Elements of Journalism (2001, Bill Kovach) offers a look at the fundamentals of  journalism.

Business Books:

Seven Strategy Questions, (2010, Robert Simons) poses...



Pando Projects, Stable Renters bring home the WeMedia gold

April 8, 2011, 1:40 p.m., Posted by John Bracken

On Wednesday, Knight Foundation participated in We Media's NYC conference. (The day's Twitter archive here.) Along with the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, we sponsored  We Media's PitchIt challenge. Eight projects competed for two $25,000 awards:

Milena Arciszewski of Pando Projects and Ben Stacks of Stable Renters

Clear Health Costs


Longshot Media

Meridian Stories

Neighborhood Pages


Pando Projects

Stable Renters

I spent part of last Friday in a public speaking training session, so I kept a sharp eye on the presenters' approach and style. I was impressed by all eight. In part, the quality pitches were the result of a coaching session WeMedia conducted the day before that matched each applicant with a mentor.

The day's winners day were Milena Arciszewski with Pando Projects and Ben Stacks with Stable Renters. Congratulations to both.

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee reveals true birthday of World Wide Web

April 8, 2011, 11:25 a.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

Not everything you read online is true, Sir Tim Berners-Lee jested recently, referring to a Wikipedia article about the Web being launched on Christmas day, 1990 (that is, if it hasn’t been edited already… wink, wink).

While version #1990-12-25 of the world’s first ever web software was in fact developed in the late fall of 1990, Berners-Lee said on a panel this week that it was actually completed well before Christmas Eve:

Alberto Ibargüen asks Tim Berners-Lee about exact birthday of World Wide Web from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Watch the full panel session featuring Berners-Lee discussing...

Archived chat: 'Journalism and Media Grant Making'

April 7, 2011, 7:19 p.m., Posted by Robertson Adams

Thanks for joining our live chat Monday morning. We discussed Knight's new guide to journalism and media grant making. The guide offers five things you need to know, and five ways to get started funding in the area.

If you have difficulty with the above, the following link should work: Click Here to view the live web chat on Monday when it goes live.

Journalism and Media Grant Making: Five Things You Need to Know, Five Ways to Get Started was created by Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation and was written by Newton and journalism consultant Michele McLellan. It is written for foundations with little or no experience in this area. Read more about the Primer.

Council on Foundations provides new opportunity to learn how to invest in journalism and media

April 7, 2011, 9:03 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

This post is by Michele McLellan, journalist and consultant, and Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

We’ll be at the Council on Foundations Conference at 9:30 a.m. Monday to launch a new guide, “Journalism and Media Grant Making: Five Things You Need to Know, Five Ways to Get Started.”

It is a basic how-to, from the foundations that are making media and journalism grants, for the foundations that are thinking about making them.

More foundations are getting involved.  About 15,000 newspaper journalists have been cut from newsrooms in recent years. As news organizations cut back, community leaders find they must strengthen the news and information flow in order to accomplish their strategic goals of civic engagement and community betterment.

There are lots of ways to get involved and they don’t all cost a lot of money.  Some foundations have established independent public affairs journalism outlets, others have trained citizens to create digital media, and others have created awareness campaigns about education, the environment and civic participation.

The booklet describes many efforts, from grants to support professional journalism about health care by the California Endowment to a contest sponsored by the Minnesota Community Foundation to bring new voices into civic conversations about important state issues.

The booklet features...

Random Act of Culture proves pleasant surprise for museum-goers in Philadelphia

April 6, 2011, 11:42 a.m., Posted by Valerie Nahmad Schimel

On Saturday, April 2, 2011, 45 members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia’s official children’s choir, the Keystone State Boychoir, spontaneously performed “Avec la garde montante” from Georges Bizet’s Carmen for delighted children and parents at the Please Touch Museum, a favorite Philadelphia destination for children of all ages.

Why Does Knight Foundation Fund Random Acts of Culture? Knight Foundation, like its founders Jack and Jim Knight, focuses on promoting informed and engaged communities. To that end, we strongly believe in the potential of the arts to engage residents, and bring a community together. Hearing Handel, or seeing the tango in an unexpected place provides a deeply felt reminder of how the classics can enrich our lives. As you’ll see in our videos, the performances make people smile, dance, grab their cameras – even cry with joy. For those brief moments, people going along in their everyday lives are part of a shared, communal experience that makes their community a more vibrant place to live. In these days of shrinking audiences, we also hope that these random acts will encourage people to attend traditional performances. We can’t promise it. But it’s hard to watch what unfolds during a Random Act of Culture, and not be inspired to see and hear more.

  Cross-posted from

Social networks in 2015: How will we connect for the common good?

April 6, 2011, 6:42 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

Arthur Goyette knows the value of good neighbors. While his wife Betty was battling cancer, they brought countless meals to the Goyette home. When the neighbors learned that Betty had always wanted to ride in a convertible, they surprised the family with a loaned Chrysler Sebring. The couple drove down the block with the top down, surrounded by people waving and taking pictures.

Arthur marvels that he might never have met these people f it weren’t for the Front Porch Forum, an online network of neighbors.

The forum is a great example of how digital media and technology are changing how we connect to information and each other. The way we engage in public dialogue, coordinate, solve problems—all of it is shifting.

Networks themselves are as old as humanity, used by activists from Mahatma Ghandi to the Tea Party to impact society. Today, though, technology is enabling networks to emerge in new ways.

So Knight Foundation and Monitor Institute set out to look at the impact on communities, and ask, what do these emerging networks mean for community change? And, how can funders leverage them for good?

The result is our new report, Connected Citizens: The Power, Peril and Potential of Networks. Through more than 70 examples, we found networked communities pushing for open government, banding together to care for the elderly, enlisting volunteer coders to make online aid maps for earthquake ravaged Haiti, and more.

We also identified five promising trends, or ways people are using networks for social action. We hope funders will keep an eye on them. The practices include using the network to crowdsource ideas and listen to new perspectives, and “designing for serendipity,” or creating environments - in person and online - where connections can take shape.

Serendipity isn’t necessarily in funders’ DNA, as Knight Foundation Vice President Trabian Shorters notes. Yet serendipitous spaces have been fertile ground for innovation.

The report does raise some flags about the future though, offering a cautionary look at how society may change as a result of the evolving way people connect. In fact, we projected ahead to 2015, and offered several scenarios. Will neighbors be uber-connected and gathering to improve their communities? Or will people grow more distrustful, worried about their privacy and retreating into their own foxholes? Only time will tell if either, or both, come to pass.

Whatever happens, it is clear that networks are a growing part of our ever-complex communities. It’s up to all of us to figure out the best ways to use their potential for good.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with networks.

Download the report and join us for a webinar conversation at 2 p.m. EDT on April 20th (sign up and more info here) or leave a comment below.

- Mayur Patel, Knight Foundation, and Diana Scearce, Monitor Institute

Everyone in Miami-Dade County to Encounter Poem in April

April 3, 2011, 3:38 p.m., Posted by Marc Fest

O’Miami, a county-wide poetry festival, is under way. Its ambitious goal: for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem during the month of April. Produced by the University of Wynwood and funded by Knight Foundation, O, Miami is a month-long series of events and projects with the simple goal of every person in Miami-Dade County finding a poem. Mixing traditional readings with innovative poetry-in-public-places projects, the festival will weave poetry into the fabric of the city’s existing infrastructure and cultural life. Events will be conducted in multiple languages, sometimes simultaneously, often in collaboration with other cultural organizations. O, Miami culminates in a four-day series of readings from April 27-30, 2011 at the Frank Gehry-designed New World Symphony Hall on Miami Beach.

Read a Knight Arts interview with O'Miami founder Scott Cunningham. Or read this Miami Herald story about O'Miami. For more information, check out its Web site.

Contest for original songs against impunity announces winner

April 1, 2011, 1:13 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has announced Juliana Castro of Argentina as the winner of the "Lend your Voice to the Voiceless" contest against impunity in the Americas for her song, "No Temas (Don't Be Afraid)."

The ballad beat out original songs from the contest's 22 finalists - including runners-up, Laura Vargas from Uruguay and the duet, Javier Vargas and Liliana Jiménez, of Colombia - and will serve as the organization's anthem against anti-press violence in Latin America.  For her contribution, Castro will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and the opportunity to produce the piece professionally.

Castro, who wrote the song on her cell phone, describes her music as "a song for life which shows you how to defend an ideal."

She sings,

"If somebody silenced your truth, it is because they were afraid of the impact it could have...  I sing for the dreams you might accomplish - no one can keep you from dreaming!  Don't fear, keep moving forward, let's unite our voices against impunity.  Let's put our pride aside - who's silencing us?  Don't fear, keep moving forward against impunity."

Listen to a full recording or watch her on video at

Knight Foundation has been a major supporter of the the Inter American Press Association since its inception.  To see how Knight is helping to put an end to crimes against journalists visit

Getting Started: Tips for funders on journalism and media grant making

April 1, 2011, 11:57 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

How can funders get started both thinking about and actually investing in news and information projects? A new publication by Michele McLellan and Eric Newton - and published by William Penn Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation - offers tips.

Knight News Challenge Update

April 1, 2011, 6:13 a.m., Posted by John Bracken

A fire at the Miami airport couldn't keep 16 media and technology experts from joining Knight Foundation in our board room last Friday to review 75 Knight News Challenge semifinalists. (I've listed the reviewers below, along with the name of those who read applications earlier in the contest.) We asked them here to help us winnow down the field to 28 finalists. The discussion was serious and deep — though it helped to have a professional comic (and at least one amateur one) in the room.

This week we let 28 of the applicants know that they're still in the running. Over the next few weeks, Knight Foundation staff will conduct due diligence on each of the projects. [Update: just to be clear, the goal of this process will be to narrow the group down to a smaller number.] It's been several months since they submitted their proposals — we want to know what, if anything has changed and what they may have built or accomplished since submitting the original application. Lastly, we plan to sit down with each of them (in person when feasible, over Skype when not) to get a better sense of who they are and why their idea is significant.

Working backwards, here is our timeline:

  • We will announce the 2011 Knight News Challenge winners at MIT's Media Lab as part of the Center for Future Civic Media's annual conference, June 22-24.
  • Jose Zamora, our newest addition Michael Maness and I will propose a slate of grants to the Knight Foundation board of trustees for their approval at its quarterly meeting on June 20.
  • Beginning tomorrow, we will evaluate the proposals that remain under consideration and schedule interviews with each of the applicants.

A couple of additional notes:

  • As I've mentioned before, we have had to turn down more good ideas than we can fund, and that can be frustrating. I'd like to to agree with @longcreative, who earlier today, after receiving his turndown email, wrote that the News Challenge "is as much about losers as winners. They made 1,000s of people think through a news startup."
  • Over the last couple of weeks, we've received questions about how we use the public's comments in our consideration of proposals. The fact that we consistently receive such questions, and criticisms, despite a FAQ (#9) that specifically addresses the issue ("Do the comments really matter?") means we need to do a better job communicating what we have said there: "It is interesting and important for us to learn what the public thinks, but we don't give grants based on the public rating."
  • Led by our Vice President of Strategy and Assesment Mayur Patel, we've been conducting...