Knight Blog

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

New and creative projects flow from the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership

Aug. 31, 2011, 3:40 p.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora


The Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership is starting to produce some very interesting ideas.

I recently browsed through projects proposed by the 60+ participants of the program’s Learning Lab, which is just one aspect of the program that aims to speed media innovation in newsrooms. What I like most about these projects is that they provide concepts that any media organization can use. Some of the ideas could be easily implemented using the resources media organizations already have.  

The New York Times: “Taxpayers deserve an even stronger fix” for lagging FOIA requests

Aug. 30, 2011, 5:30 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

Excessive bureaucratic delays have kept many Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from being fulfilled in a timely manner, making our government less open than it should be, the New York Times said in an editorial this week, citing the work of the Knight-funded National Security Archive.

The editorial’s title, “What’s Secret About World War II,” refers to the oldest unfulfilled FOIA request on record: Filed in 1991, the request asks for documents about atomic energy negotiations between the US and its allies at the close of World War II.  And as we previously noted, eight different federal agencies have pending requests over a decade old.

Knight welcomes @ElzbthMllr as new communications associate

Aug. 30, 2011, 3:43 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Elizabeth R. Miller

I am excited to announce that earlier this week I joined the communications team at Knight Foundation. As a communications associate, I will be working to help engage audiences online.

You can expect to see a lot of me as I work with the communications team in its efforts to increase its digital outreach. As part of my new role, I will be blogging, tweeting and producing other social media content. I'll also be spending quite a bit of my time listening and responding to you, our community, and reaching out beyond our existing network to help keep fresh new ideas coming into our organization.  

Minnesota Idea Open launches challenge to address state water problems

Aug. 30, 2011, 1:48 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

MN Idea Open, an innovative contest that solicits solutions to state problems from the general public, has opened its second round. This year, the issue is water quality and the Open has selected three finalists from more than 100 entries.

New report on independent news media emphasizes importance of business models

Aug. 29, 2011, 4:59 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

In order for a news organization to succeed, its staff must be as passionate about business innovation as it is about quality journalism, Michelle Foster writes in her new report, Matching the Market and the Model: The Business of Independent News Media.

The report, released by the Center for International Media Assistance, stresses there is no one successful model that all independent media organizations should emulate. Instead, each news organization should take their customers and their environment into account to create sustainable business models.

NewsU celebrates nearly 200,000 users by sharing their stories

Aug. 26, 2011, 10:19 a.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

Poynter’s News University, a Knight-funded program that provides affordable journalism-related training for writers, editors, bloggers and students, has nearly 200,000 registered users. To celebrate, it's sharing the stories of users and offering prizes, including an Apple iPad, for the best ones.

A previous contest winner, school newspaper advisor and English teacher Elisabeth McMullin wrote, “I was surfing the Web and trying to find some help when a high school newspaper advisors resource site pointed to NewsU. You were the answer to a desperate prayer from a desperate advisor! Everything I saw was excellent and easy to understand.” 

One of this year’s contestants, Drew Selman of the St. Louis Photojournalism Project, explained the importance of NewsU for their project.  “Their practical classes along with courses that cover more in-depth topics keep my photographers well armed to gather truly great stories,” he said.

 NewsU’s online resources include a wide variety of webinars and self-directed courses. Hundreds of courses, including Introduction to Reporting, Cleaning Your Copy and First Amendment for the High School Journalists are free thanks to the support from a Knight grant.  NewsU plans to expand its curriculum with additional courses with topics including investigative journalism, business, Web design and user interface design and understanding media audiences.

NewsU is also launching The J101 Project, a 16-week, college credit Introduction to Journalism course that will be available to students at NewsU’s partner schools: Florida Atlantic University, Missouri State University and California State University, Fullerton.

The Oakland Tribune: Losing more than a newspaper

Aug. 25, 2011, 3:36 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Starting Nov. 2, the newspaper I once edited, the Oakland Tribune, will be officially dead, its remains combined with several other papers under the name East Bay Tribune. This may make Oakland the largest city in the United States without a daily newspaper all its own. But what does that mean?

As the managing editor in 1991 of the Tribune owned by Bob and Nancy Maynard, I ran a newsroom with 130 full-time professional journalists. Attrition over the decades has left today’s Tribune with just a dozen reporters. That’s less than 10 percent of the staff we had. As the FCC’s Steve Waldman reports in Information Needs of Communities, the biggest impact of this shrinkage is a shortage in something called “local accountability journalism.”

Here’s just one example of why journalism matters and what Oakland has really lost:

Twenty years ago, 10,000 people fled for their lives when a 2,000-degree inferno raged over three square miles in the city, killing 25 people and gutting more than 3,000 homes – the most destructive wildfire in state history. During the first week

Ushahidi blogs live from the .ke Evaluation Launch

Aug. 25, 2011, 2:18 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman


Tech enthusiasts and local hackers in Nairobi, Kenya are building educational tools to help community users shape and learn more about Ushahidi's .ke Evaluation findings.  The launch is part of a nine-month look into the impact of the organization's projects in Kenya since addressing post-election corruption almost four years ago.

To include the broader open-source community, the event is being blogged live through Scribble Live, Twitter and a livestreaming video.  Check out Ushahidi's official post about it below to find out more about what participants are saying:

Cross-posted from

The ihub in Nairobi, Kenya has been buzzing all morning with conversations about the Ushahidi .ke Evaluation launch.

We are honoured to have our local community and some guests like UNHCR and NetHope join us to talk about best practices and improvements for deployments and Ushahidi.

Here is our Ustream for the day: (recorded)

Video streaming by Ustream

Soul of the Community helps Akron put down roots, build careers and lives

Aug. 25, 2011, 12:10 p.m., Posted by Jennifer Thomas

Knight Foundation held a very successful Community Engagement Workshop in Akron this week.

Drawing on his book, For the Love of Cities, and the Knight Foundation’s ground-breaking research project, the Soul of the Community, author Peter Kageyama led over 200 people in an interactive workshop to help Akron develop ideas toward becoming more lovable community where people want to put down roots and build careers and lives.

Strengthening our communities will take reform from the government, the media and citizens

Aug. 25, 2011, 10:53 a.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

Universal broadband, stronger public media and government transparency are just three of the wide-ranging reforms required to make communities throughout the country more healthy, informed and democratic, according to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities. The Knight Commission, which was made possible by a $1.7 million grant from the Knight Foundation in 2008, assembled 17 media, policy and community leaders to identify the changing information needs of communities and to suggest policies for enhancing the free flow of information and its uses.

The Knight Commission recognized that communities flourish when their residents are well-informed, have an abundance of local news available, and have the skills and tools needed for enacting change. However, the era of digital media has greatly altered the quantity, quality and accessibility of news and information. Americans have access to more information than ever before, but...

People want more government transparency, traditional media less likely to sue to get it

Aug. 24, 2011, 4:44 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman


Though declining resources have left the media less likely to investigate cases in which freedom of information has been limited, more and more people are supporting government transparency says a new study put forth by Media Law Resource Center and the National Freedom of Information Coalition.

The findings – though bittersweet – compliment a 2009 investigation that found that traditional media support for open government lawsuits in their states had fallen dramatically. They also give new meaning to Knight’s FOI fund, which helps state groups pursue open-government litigation by covering up-front costs such as court fees, if attorneys are willing to take on a pro-bono basis cases that otherwise would go unfiled.

“If ordinary citizens are becoming more aware of their access rights, and more assertive regarding them, it is indeed a reason to be gratified,” said Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.  “However, if news organizations are trending toward being less gung-ho...

Northeastern Students Produce Impactful Investigations with Local News Organizations

Aug. 19, 2011, 1:54 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

Watchdog New England

For local journalists, journalism students and communities, the Initiative for Investigative Reporting has been a win-win endeavor. The Knight-supported program, which pairs Northeastern University journalism students with community news organizations to produce local investigative news stories, has so far published 19 in-depth pieces. For students, the program provides the opportunity to collaborate with journalists and professors on hard-hitting local pieces; for the news organizations, the program offers quality, in-depth stories fit for publication. For communities, the program has shed light on important local issues, including the Dorchester local government’s plans for crime-ridden properties and Cambridge’s lax inspections of school cafeterias.

Jumo, Good Magazine join forces

Aug. 17, 2011, 9:33 a.m., Posted by Damian Thorman, J.D.

Knight is excited about the merger of Good and Jumo, announced today. The combined organizations have the potential to complement one another in terms of content and online engagement. We believe that GOOD’s content will strengthen Jumo’s online engagement platform, and help bring together more people working toward social change.

In just a short time, Jumo has amassed a community of activists and 15,000 non-profits and NGOs - many in communities where Knight invests. The Jumo team brings a deep understanding of emerging technologies and online social engagement. In its fifth year of operation, GOOD brings together more than 3 million people each month through its socially-driven content and web platform.

This is also a collaboration of teams led by two visionaries in the social sector. Over the past five years, Ben Goldhirsh has grown GOOD from a quarterly magazine to a thriving content platform and agency business. Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, founded Jumo in early 2010. Since then, the Jumo platform has helped over a million people find and connect with non-profits in their communities and around the world.


Knight Foundation initially funded Jumo through our Technology for Engagement initiative because we saw it as a unique way to use social media to help people take action.  Now, we look forward to seeing how Jumo and Good will work together to connect socially engaged people with a community of like-minded individuals, a network of mission-driven organizations, and most importantly, meaningful opportunities to get involved. 


Creed C. Black, 1925-2011

Aug. 16, 2011, 11:43 a.m., Posted by Alberto Ibargüen

Creed Black, editor and newspaper publisher and the former president of Knight Foundation, has passed away. He was a courageous journalist who will be remembered at Knight Foundation as a leader, in the field of intercollegiate athletics as a visionary and in our hearts as a great friend.

Video stories and symposium explore local information needs

Aug. 15, 2011, 11:04 a.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff


What do a high school student from San Francisco, a New Hampshire state legislator, and an undocumented artist from San Jose have in common? They all discovered serious information shortages in their communities and worked to improve local information flow. They are also all a part of Ohio State University’s Knight-sponsored project, Information Stories.

This site contains a dozen video stories, each of which documents an individual’s struggle to increase information access and civic engagement in his or her community. The videos, compiled by Professor Shane and his colleague Liv Gjestvang, feature a diverse group of speakers from all over the country who champion a large range of causes. In one video, a community organizer describes her decades-long battle to bring media attention to asbestos-related disease in her town; in another, the Executive Director of Native Public Media discusses the importance of bringing universal broadband access to the Native American community. Taken together, the videos demonstrate the importance—and power—of local information, whether...

How much "Comfort News" is in your information diet?

Aug. 14, 2011, 8:56 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Today's Miami Herald has a piece I wrote on the dangers of "Comfort News."

Here's how it starts:

"We the people are fat. So much so medical experts have declared an epidemic and declared costs to this nation of untold billions. But there’s an even bigger epidemic out there, less obvious but no less dangerous. Just as we consume comfort food, our high-calorie midnight ice creams, we are, more and more, consuming 'comfort news.' "

Comfort News is politics, entertainment or other kinds of  news that is more opinion than fact. It tastes great but isn't really that good for you -- or for society. 

The piece is based on a speech I gave earlier this year at the University of Nebraska.

Read the full article here.

(Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, writes and speaks on journalism and media issues.) 

Print as Vinyl: Not just for hipsters anymore

Aug. 12, 2011, 3:35 p.m., Posted by John Bracken

John Bracken

John Bracken

A comment I made yesterday ("Print could be the new vinyl") at the Asian American Journalists Association conference in Detroit stirred up a good bit of chatter on Twitter.  I suppose it's only appropriate that after I touted the value of Twitter as a new storytelling platform,  I saw its limitations up-close. Twitter worked to collect some interesting and funny reactions, some of them collected by Julie Moos. But I need more than 140 characters to flesh out what I meant.

The metaphor came to made during a "lighting round" that Richard Liu threw at us at the end of our panel on journalism sustainability models. Richard asked each of us to give a thumbs up or down on the trajectory of different media topics: UGC, Twitter, broadcast and print. Here is some of what was on my mind when Richard asked for a + or - on print:

  • Earlier that morning I'd noticed Kyle Kim's tweet touting his examination of the Detroit newspapers' printing "scale back" nearly 2-and-a-half years later. The tweet prompted me to pick up the AAJA's print publication on the way to the panel. As I did so, I realized how rarely I pick up physical newspapers.

  • I was also thinking about Longshot Magazine, the Knight-Batten Award winning experiment in publication started by Mat Honan, Alexis Madrigal and Sarah Rich. (I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of my print copy of Issue 2- Debt.) Every few months, Longshot volunteers "create a magazine start to finish in the space of 48 hours."

  • Third, I've been carrying around and touting an amazing map of Wilkinson Bay, Louisiana printed by 2011 News Challenge winner Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science. Public Lab recently launched its Grassroots Mapping Forum, "a community research journal/archive/zine/map, where we hope to share ideas, techniques, and stories from the Grassroots Mapping community."

  • Lastly, earlier in the week I had a conversation about an exciting web-to-print venture. It may not come to pass, and if does it may not work -- but keep your eyes on this space for a possible experiment in that zone.

In the ensuing discussion, the notion of "newspapers for hipsters" took hold. Julie Moos asked, "So Newspapers are for hipsters?" in the title of her Storify summary of the "print as vinyl" discussion. Now I don't hate on Williamsburg (not any more than anyone else), but I think it's important to point out that records are not just for hipsters anymore.  From their near-death at the hands of CDs, records have seen an increase in popularity in recent years. (In hip-hop, of course, vinyl never died; in punk the 7-inch has been vibrant since the early 90s, at least.) My local chain record store, not a hipster zone, sports posters touting vinyl in its windows. Records sales are up in the UK (55% in first half of 2011) and the US, according to USA Today:

Vinyl was the fastest-growing musical format in 2010, with 2.8 million units sold, the format's best year since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991.

Albums possess a physicality against which digitial cannot compete. Bands like Radiohead and lables like Touch and Go have recognized that vinyl encourages exclusivity, maximizes design potential and creates a depth of involvement that 0s and 1s cannot.  Vinyl's renaissance is not due to nostalgia -- it's due to the fact that musicians, labels and fans have built a creative and consumer experience based on what the format does well.  

I don't want to beat this metaphor to death. Here's the core of the comparison: as more and more of the content we consume is based on bits, the ability to engage with atom-based media will, for some, gain value.  

Now it's time for me to go off and buy that turntable my wife's been pining for.

Announcing judging panel for Apps for Communities

Aug. 12, 2011, 12:42 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Photo: Code for Oakland was a one day workshop for people interested in using Oakland and Alameda County, CA data to build mobile apps for the 2011 Knight/FCC Apps for Communities Competition.

The FCC and the Knight Foundation have partnered up for a competition to build apps to make cities more livable! As developers and communities’ use the last few weeks of summers to finish their entries for the Apps for Communities Challenge, it’s time to announce the impressive panel of judges who will be reviewing and scoring those entries. We are honored to have investors, technologist, civic leaders, entrepreneurs, and philanthropist who have agreed to server as judges for the competition; which ends August 31. Without further ado, the judges are:

Marc Andreessen, co-founder and general partner of Andreessen Horowitz.

Marc Andreessen is a noted investor in information technology. He previously developed the web browser Mosaic and co-founded the company Netscape; he is an investor in numerous technology startups including Digg and Twitter; and he serves on the boards of Facebook, eBay and Hewlett-Packard (among others).

Charles Best, founder and CEO of is a website that allows people to donate directly to specific projects in schools and classrooms. It was started in 2000 by Charles Best, when he was a teacher at a public high school in the Bronx. Since then, it has grown to serve all the public schools throughout the United States. As of August 2010, more than $55 million dollars had been donated to over 138,000 projects, helping more than 3,400,000 students in need.

Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey

Mayor Booker has a history of organizing and social justice work. His parents successfully fought against racial discrimination and shattered corporate ceilings, inspiring him to pursue a life of breaking barriers and working for change. On May 9, 2006, Cory Booker was elected Mayor of Newark, with a landslide victory.

Brad Feld, Managing Director of Foundry Group

Brad Feld has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group—which focuses on investing in early-stage IT companies—he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad currently serves on the board of directors of several companies for Foundry Group. In addition to his investing efforts, Brad has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Tom Lee, Director of Sunlight Labs

Tom Lee is the Director of Sunlight Labs; prior to assuming leadership of the labs, he managed Sunlight's Subsidyscope project, an effort to explore the level of federal involvement in various sectors of the economy. His writing on technical policy has appeared in the American Prospect, Techdirt, Progressive Fix, and various impassioned Slashdot threads.

Jennifer Pahlka, Founder, Executive Director and Board Chair of Code for America

Jennifer Pahlka is the Founder, Executive Director and Board Chair of Code for America, and has spent the past 15 years in the company of the technology elite. She spent eight years at CMP Media where she led the Game Group, overseeing GDC, Game Developer magazine, and; there she also launched the Independent Games Festival and served as Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association. Recently, she ran the Web 2.0 and Gov 2.0 events for TechWeb, in conjunction with O’Reilly Media, and co-chaired the successful Web 2.0 Expo.

Note: Cross-posted from

How to apply to the Challenge

Carnegie-Knight schools: A story of journalism education transformation

Aug. 10, 2011, 11:05 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Today in St. Louis at the conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, leading journalism schools shared the lessons of their transformation in a new book detailing the successes of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

The 132-page report, produced by the Joan Shorenstein Center at Harvard, details major changes at the initiative's 12 participating programs. The schools have added master's degrees to teach deeper "knowledge-based journalism," in science, arts, business and other specialties.  At the same time, they've rewritten curriculum to eliminate print and broadcast "silos" and embrace the multimedia digital future of news. And they've launched ambitious online news organizations, from Neon Tommy at the University of Southern California to the New York World at Columbia. "The Carnegie-Knight Initiative," writes Shorenstein director Alex Jones, "should be...

A new golden age for arts criticism

Aug. 10, 2011, 10:39 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts are seeking ideas from individuals and organizations for the development of new, sustainable models for arts journalism. Applications for the Community Arts Journalism Challenge must be received by midnight Thursday, Aug 18 - apply now.

The following blog about the importance of arts criticism is crossposted from Art Works, the official blog of the National Endowment for the Arts:

By Abraham Ritchie

Abraham Ritchie









Abraham Ritchie. Photo by Anna Wolak

Like a ship heading towards open ocean, progressive art is constantly moving away from us. Culture does not slow down or stop when visual art is cut from school curricula or when art critics are fired from major newspapers. Rather it is the community that suffers, as the public becomes distanced from its own culture. Unaware of the innovations that are going on and why, the community can become alienated from art. The artists can also suffer, though they are still fundamentally connected to culture in ways that the public is not. Without critics, artists can pursue unproductive or backwards paths.

The art critic is crucial to both the public and to artists. The art critic must connect new art to the public, providing a platform for understanding and appreciation. Logically, the critic must also give critical feedback to the artists who are focused on innovation in their work. This allows the artist to improve their practice or reject the critic’s assessment. Rather than invalidating the critic’s point, this will build complexity into the conception of an artwork. After all, once a point has been made it cannot be forgotten, though it can be ignored.

Increasingly, however, mainstream art criticism is merely being used as a public relations outlet for the arts industry. This is the real danger to art and to culture; that it is used as a tourist attraction rather than understood as meaningful culture. This is damaging to artists and the public alike as both are given a superficial understanding of culture. Artists are...

Ushahidi helps bring crowdsourcing technology to 132 countries worldwide

Aug. 9, 2011, 5:03 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman


With three open-source platforms working to crowdsource and map people’s insights, Ushahidi – a two time Knight News Challenge winner - has quickly grown from one project in Kenya to uses in 132 countries around the world.

Everyday, people use Ushahidi’s tools to bridge information gaps in their communities, by doing things like mapping healthcare resources and monitoring disease outbreaks in Honduras and gauging riot violence and transportation problems in London.

In Kenya, small-scale farmers use iCow, a mobile and Web information service that runs on Ushahidi’s Crowdmap platform, to send text messages about agricultural resources across the three largest networks in the country.  The Ushahidi-based system takes the crowdsourced information and plots the locations on a map, helping farmers in rural areas find what they need to support their livelihood. 

In Indonesia, Waspada allows people to use cell phones and the Internet to map crimes in Jarkata on a minute-to-minute basis.  The project also...

More on the sustainability of non-profit media

Aug. 9, 2011, 2:38 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

What strategies are non-profit media organizations using to become financially viable? Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of Knight Foundation, talks about the successes of non-profits, the role of foundations in the media and “citizen journalists.” The interview, conducted by Michelle Foster, was done for the newest edition of “Empowering Independent Media,” a publication produced by the National Endowment for Democracy's Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

Knightblog is publishing excerpts in two parts. The first is here.  The second follows:

Michelle Foster: There have been attempts at hybrid commercial/donor-funded news outlets; how sustainable is this approach? Can these media “graduate” to self-sustainability?

Eric Newton: No model is automatically better or worse than any other...In the United States in recent years, there has been a proliferation of nonprofit digital news sites, such as the Texas TribuneMinnPost and the Bay Citizen. These work in media rich environments where there are commercial media ready to pay in partnerships for news, and where the community is ready to donate. In other parts of the United States, citizen journalism models seem to work better where there is no existing media and where there is a tradition of volunteerism. In the U.S., there’s a new emphasis on collaboration and news sharing between former competitors because of the 15,000 journalists who were downsized since the recession…The only real mistake these days is to not try something new.

4 insights and 4 lessons: Knight News Challenge

Aug. 9, 2011, 12:02 p.m., Posted by Mayur Patel


We recently completed an assessment of the early Knight News Challenge winners (2007 and 2008), taking a closer look at the outcomes they’ve achieved in their targeted communities, their challenges, progress and influence on the field of media and journalism. We’ve displayed the report highlights in an infographic and a SlideShare presentation that we built in partnership with the design firm Kiss Me I’m Polish.

Certain key insights and lessons stood out for us.

Here are four things we noticed about successful media innovation projects:

1. Knowing Your Niche – Projects that stayed close to their community, and adapted with it, found success in unexpected places.  A good example of this is Freedom Fone, a two-way, phone-based information service (e.g. audio menus, SMS and voice messages), which discovered a niche by working with community radio stations in Africa that had been denied broadcasting licenses. A growing number of stations have used Freedom Fone’s VoIP technology to enable them to continue to reach their audiences (and now often with added interactivity).  

2. Building Community – Whether it had a fancy design or promised the next whiz bang tool, projects’ success hinged on how well they engaged their users. For example, EveryBlock didn’t gain significant traction until...

New app from Sunlight Foundation gives scoop on hospitals and prescription drugs

Aug. 9, 2011, 9:17 a.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

Teen Girl Texting in Hospital Waiting Area


Sunlight Foundation has released a new app that will help people make informed decisions about healthcare services and prescription drug options.  The project is the first in a series of Knight-funded apps developed by Sunlight to help make public information more available and actionable for citizens, and supports Knight's commitment to promoting informed and engaged communities.

Sunlight Health works by presenting data in three simplified categories: healthcare facilities, suppliers and prescription drugs.  Once users have downloaded the app, which is available for free in Apple’s iTunes store or in Google’s Android Market, they can use their cell phones to search for the most up-to-date information about hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis clinics...

The future of news? Four different sources weigh in

Aug. 8, 2011, 4:16 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

It is no secret that the news industry is struggling in the midst of our digital revolution.  But what exactly is happening? How are these changes affecting our communities? And what should be done to make sure that people are getting the information they need? This summer, four different reports that address these questions have been released (a fifth, by the New America Foundation, will be out shortly).  These reports come from different sources—a British weekly news magazine, the U.S. government, an educational institution, and a non-profit—so they bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. But many themes, like the need for innovation and collaboration, recur. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I will discuss the content of these reports, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

The Economist series, published July 7, includes social media, how media is faring in different countries, WikiLeaks and other media “newcomers,” among other articles. One of the highlights of the series comes from an article about impartiality, where, in a show of refreshing forthrightness, the Economist describes Fox News as “offer[ing] distinctively right-wing opinion and commentary,” and says that “MSNBC…has lately been positioning itself to appeal to a left-wing crowd.” Maybe because the Economist is a British magazine, it seems to be more straightforward about news slant than many American journalists. Overall, the Economist piece provides pretty thorough coverage of the problems facing modern media, but is short on solutions.  Their coverage of “philanthrojournalism,” is particularly feeble: a suggestion is put forth that foundations should fully endow non-profit journalism, which a lot of foundation leaders worry would actually undermine the connection between the news organization and the community that it serves (for more on this topic, see this blog post about the four “C”s of community media).


Democratizing information with grassroots mapping

Aug. 8, 2011, 12:18 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman


The Grassroots Mapping project, which aims to put mapping information into the hands of the public using digital cameras, balloons and other everyday items, is creating images that rival anything Google Maps can produce, writes the BBC.  Spearheaded by the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and with support from the 2011 Knight News Challenge, the project is democratizing information in innovative ways.

Interactive mapping has become an increasingly important way to share information about the environment further indicates the initiative's importance.

“By putting an illustrated guide to camera construction on the back of paper maps and offering tutorials for locals they are teaching people how to put their own equipment together,” writes the BBC.

So far, the project has gathered information otherwise limited to private companies and government agencies to inform citizens about...

Philadelphia’s The Notebook gets the scoop on school cheating

Aug. 5, 2011, 11:10 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

The Notebook

Cross-posted from

The Notebook, a Knight Community Information Challenge winner that covers education in Philadelphia, is featured in The New York Times as an example of a small news organization that was able to produce a significant investigation through persistence and partnerships.

A partnership with a local public radio station, WHYY, enabled The Notebook's editor, Paul Socolar, to hire a fourth reporter for the site in July. On the new reporter's third day on the job, he was asked to take a look at a large data file that had been sitting unexamined for a couple of months because no one had time to look at it.

By day's end, the site broke the story that a "total of 89 schools — 28 in Philadelphia — had been flagged by the...

Bringing the war in Afghanistan home, by iPhone

Aug. 4, 2011, 2:07 p.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora

Photos by Teru Kuwayama

Foreign Policy magazine highlights Basetrack, a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner and social media reporting project that accompanied the First Battalion, Eighth Marines for the first five months of their deployment in Afghanistan.  The piece gives unique insight into life in war with a photo-essay of images taken with an iPhone.

“It is by no means a comprehensive look at 10 years of war, but it is an evocative and profound slice of life -- at the beginning of the end of the longest conflict in U.S. history,” writes Foreign Policy.

Basetrack builds on project director Teru Kuwayama’s nine years of experience working as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan.  Kuwayama wanted to counteract the problem many journalists had in presenting in-depth content because of their short embed periods by ...

Looking at the Economist series on the future of media

Aug. 3, 2011, 4:05 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton

When the fellow pictured here on the right, dean Gary Kebbel, ema  em   iled me about the Economist series on the news industry, I asked him what he thought of it. This is our usual sequence of doing things. Gary, now dean of the University of Nebraska college of journalism and mass communications, was the journalism program director at Knight Foundation as we started the media innovation initiative (now a regular part of our work). I was VP of Journalism, and got in the habit of hearing him out. True to form, he replied with more than a tweet. So below is what a new American journalism dean says in reaction to this major series. My comments follow, and I’ll my own review of the series in a future post.

Writes Gary Kebbel: For its readers who are asking what's going on with online media, the Economist articles are useful. I think the main benefit of the package is to point out that we've been here before - before 1833, that is. Media did well before and after the rise of mass media. Journalism used to be more local. It used to seek citizen contributions. (I still remember reading one of the newspapers hung in the National Press Club that asks readers to come to the riverboat as it pulls in to their city and tell their stories to the reporter on board.)  

(Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, writes and speaks on journalism and media issues.)  


Link Media brings semantic search technology to its international news site

Aug. 3, 2011, 2:47 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff


Link Media, which broadcasts documentaries, global news, world music, international cinema and more on its Link TV satellite channel in the U.S., is expanding its news video offerings with the launch of Link News.  Link has long been a provider of international news reporting. During the recent uprisings in Egypt, it provided extensive coverage thanks to feeds from Al Jazeera English and Mosaic, its Knight-sponsored, Peabody Award-winning daily news program on the Middle East and North Africa. But with the launch of Link News, the site’s powerful new search tools will bring an even greater variety of stories from all over the web, which will be available to users worldwide for free.

With support from Knight Foundation, Link Media developed semantic search technology for its news video platform. This technology, based on Link’s, analyzes the transcripts and descriptions of the videos and produces multiple topic keywords. These topics are then used to find related videos and articles from all over the web. The search also...

Arts criticism for the millennials

Aug. 3, 2011, 10:54 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Cross posted from Art Works, the official blog of the National Endowment for the Arts

By Maura Judkis, Producer, Style, Washington Post

Maura Judkis.  Photo by Jay Wescott, Politico

In the last hour on Twitter, I’ve read that artist William Powhida’s New York show is a dud, and that Hugo Weaving’s performance as the Red Skull is a high point in Captain America. These weren’t opinions from published critics; rather, they were from regular Twitter users with an enthusiasm for art and pop culture. Readers of my generation, the Millennials, are more likely to want to see a movie or play because their friends like it than because a critic does. We’re more likely to discover art through our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and to take the suggestions of Netflix and Pandora than to discover new things on our own.

It might seem, then, that Millennials have no appetite for arts journalism, but that’s not the case: Younger readers want to read and share stories more than ever. They just want to have a say in what’s being read and shared. They want to be the critics. So where do arts journalists fit in?

Eric Newton on the four “C”s of community media

Aug. 2, 2011, 3:38 p.m., Posted by Emily Mirengoff

Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation

What four qualities does a media business model need to succeed?  In this interview, Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation, explains the four “C”s of Community Media and the new skills required to succeed as a “media maker” today. The interview, conducted by Michelle Foster, was done for the newest edition of “Empowering Independent Media,” a publication produced by the National Endowment for Democracy's Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

The following is an excerpt:

Michelle Foster: …Which business models do you see emerging that seem most likely to be able to help support independent media in developing and emerging countries?

Eric Newton: Business models need to match the realities of the local media ecosystems where they intend to operate… In general, all models have four successful elements: relevant and credible content, appropriate technological connectivity, vigorous community engagement and innovation in seeking capital. Those are the four Cs—content, connectivity, community and capital…The most successful models tend to show more than one source of revenue. On the expense side, the model must match up with the revenues—trying to create a highly professional investigative reporting project on an annual budget of $25,000 a year simply may not work. But at that level ...

How will networks impact community and democracy in the digital age?

Aug. 1, 2011, 4:26 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

Panel discussion at FOCAS

Photo: Jon Diamond (ArtistDirect), Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO), Lynda Resnick (POM, Fiji Water), Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Charles Firestone (Aspen Institute) at FOCAS 2010

How are new technologies affecting communities and the way we participate in and govern a democracy in the 21st century? That’s the topic of FOCAS, a forum taking place this week in Colorado as part of the Aspen Institute’s Communications and Society Program and supported by Knight Foundation.

By concentrating on networks and citizenship, this year’s Forum on Communications and Society (FOCAS) will explore how citizens will access and engage with civic information in the era of connectivity.  Questions about the different roles individuals play as “citizens” and “users” in their off- and online worlds will...