Knight Blog

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

Winners of News Challenge: Data

Sept. 20, 2012, 10:28 a.m., Posted by John Bracken and Chris Sopher

Knight News Challenge: Data Winners from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Watch the winners present their projects via web stream at 1 p.m. PDT/ 4 p.m. EDT Saturday Sept. 22 here.

Today we’re excited to share with you the winners of the Knight News Challenge: Data.

First, some background: We ran the contest for three weeks, ending June 20. And we sought ideas to help make the large amounts of data we’re creating more useful and informative. We received 881 applications, which we reviewed with the help of a group of advisers. We identified 50 proposals to discuss further, and in July we brought to Miami a group of reviewers to advise us.  We listened to their advice, had internal conversations, and conducted interviews and due diligence with 15 applicants.

As we announce the below winners, we’re in the midst of reviewing applications for the News Challenge: Mobile, and later this fall we’ll begin planning our first News Challenge of 2013, on tools for open government.

Knight News Challenge: Data Winners (Full project lead bios are here)

Census.IRE.org
Award: $450,000
Winner: Joe Germuska, Chicago; John Keefe, New York; Ryan Pitts, Spokane, Wash.

Despite the high value of Census data, the U.S. Census Bureau’s tools for exploring the data are difficult to use. A group of news developers built Census.IRE.org for the 2010 Census to help journalists more easily access Census data. Following early positive feedback, the team will expand and simplify the tool, and add new data sets including the annual American Community Survey, which informs decisions on how more than $400 billion in government funding is distributed.

LocalData
Award: $300,000
Winners: Amplify Labs, Alicia Rouault, Prashant Singh and Matt Hampel, Detroit, Mich.

Whether tracking crime trends, cataloging real estate development or assessing parks and play spaces, communities gather millions of pieces of data each year. Such data are often collected haphazardly on paper forms or with hard-to-use digital tools, limiting their value. LocalData is a set of tools that helps community groups and city residents gather and organize information by designing simple surveys, seamlessly collecting it on paper or smartphone and exporting or visualizing it through an easy-to-use dashboard. Founded by Code for America fellows, the tools have already been tested in Detroit, where they helped document urban blight by tracking the condition of thousands of lots.

New contributor tools for OpenStreetMap
Award: $575,000
Winners: Development Seed Inc. / Eric Gundersen, Washington, D.C.

OpenStreetMap, a community mapping project, is quickly becoming a leading source for open street-level data, with foursquare, Wikimedia and other major projects signing on as users. However, there is a significant learning curve to joining the growing contributor community. With Knight News Challenge funds, Development Seed will build a suite of easy-to-use tools allowing anyone to contribute data such as building locations, street names and points of interest. The team will promote the tools worldwide and help contribute to the growth of OpenStreetMap.


Pop Up Archive
Award: $300,000
Winners: Bailey Smith and Anne Wootton, Oakland, Calif.

Today, media is created with greater ease, and by more people, than ever before. But multimedia content – including interviews, pictures and more – cannot survive online unless it is organized. Pop Up Archive takes media from the shelf to the Web – making content searchable, reusable and shareable, without requiring technical expertise or substantial resources from producers. A beta version was built around the needs of The Kitchen Sisters, Peabody award-winning journalists and independent producers who have collected stories of people’s lives for more than 30 years. Pop Up Archive will use News Challenge funds to further develop its platform and to do outreach to potential users.

Open Elections
Award: $200,000
Winners: Derek Willis and Serdar Tumgoren, Washington, D.C.

Elections are fundamental to democracy, yet the ability to easily analyze the results are out of reach for most journalists and civic hackers. No freely available, comprehensive source of official election results exists. Open Elections will create the first, with a standardized, linked set of certified election results for U.S. federal and statewide offices. The database will allow the people who work with election data to be able to get what they need, whether that’s a CSV file for stories and data analysis or a JSON usable for Web applications and interactive graphics. The project also will allow for linking election data to other critical data sets. The hope is that one day, journalists and researchers will be able much more easily to analyze elections in ways that account for campaign spending, demographic changes and legislative track records.

Safecast Radiation & Air Quality
Award: $400,000
Winners: Safecast / Sean Bonner, Los Angeles

Safecast, a trusted provider of radiation data in post-quake Japan, is now expanding with challenge funding to create a real-time map of air quality in U.S. cities. A team of volunteers, scientists and developers quickly formed Safecast in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, when demand for radiation monitoring devices and data far surpassed the supply. The project has collected more than 4 million records and become the leading provider of radiation data. With News Challenge funding, Safecast will measure air quality in Los Angeles and expand to other U.S. cities. Disclosure: Knight Foundation Trustee Joi Ito is an officer of the Momoko Ito Foundation, which is receiving the funds on behalf of Safecast.

This was the first News Challenge we’ve run with our new prototype fund in place. In the coming weeks, we’re likely to support as prototypes several projects that came to us through the News Challenge. We also found projects that we liked a lot but that fell outside our focus on data. We’re still exploring those projects and may fund some of them through other means. I expect we’ll see more of that in the future; the News Challenge is a means to get your project funded, but for us it’s also a way to uncover  ideas, innovators and projects.

By Knight’s John Bracken, director/journalism and media innovation and Chris Sopher, journalism program associate.