Knight Blog

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

How Knight endowments advance journalism excellence

April 14, 2014, 11:32 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton

Knight Foundation’s journalism and media innovation team gets much well-deserved attention for its media innovation work. Less discussed, but no less important, is the education of thousands of students and professionals each year through $200 million in endowed programs Knight has built over several decades to advance journalism excellence.

There are dozens of Knight-endowed chair and mid-career training programs. Since most of that work occurs at universities, I’ve also added some context—an analysis of 25 years of Knight’s journalism and media grantmaking to universities.

The Knight Chair program – 25 chairs at 22 universities – welcomed a new chair this month and four other new chairs this past year. They are: Dana Priest in national security journalism at the University of Maryland; Bill Adair in computational journalism at Duke University; John Affleck in sports journalism and society at Pennsylvania State University; Aly Colón in journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University; and Eric Freedman in environmental journalism at Michigan State University. There are currently two chair vacancies, one at Florida A&M University and the other at the University of Miami.

A season for growing ideas in St. Paul

April 14, 2014, 9:23 a.m., Posted by Polly M. Talen


Mural by Dimm Media on Señor Wong's Restaurant in downtown Saint Paul created as a part of the Irrigate project, photo courtesy Springboard for the Arts.

The calendar may say it’s spring, but we Minnesotans know it is not yet advisable to put away our boots or snow shovels. Just 10 days ago, I found 5 inches of new snow on my car—argh!

Despite the fact that our daffodils aren’t peeking above the ground yet, there is other new growth sprouting. And Knight is very much at the center of this. 

This week marks the opening of the Knight Arts Challenge in St. Paul. Through May 5, everyone is encouraged to submit innovative ideas at The criteria are simple: The idea has to be about the arts; it has to take place in or benefit St. Paul; and you will have to find funding to match the grant if you win. Your initial idea only has to be a maximum of 150 words; there’s no long, formal proposal just to find out if your idea is competitive. 

The Knight Arts Challenge is a wonderful example of how Knight maximizes its impact as a national foundation with deep local roots. The Knight Arts Challenge has been very successful in three other Knight communities—Detroit, Miami and Philadelphia—and now it’s coming here, to grow in the fertile soil of St. Paul.

Data journalism site InfoAmazonia will add ground reporting to its environmental coverage

April 11, 2014, 2:38 p.m., Posted by International Center for Journalists


Photo credit: Flickr user Zach Lee. The following is crossposted from

Environmental news site InfoAmazonia, which pioneered using satellite data for reporting, is adding a new source to its coverage: observations from the ground.

The site will gather and share information from people living and working in the Amazon, including “indigenous communities, researchers, NGOs, students and engaged citizens acting on social media,” said Brazil-based data journalist Gustavo Faleiros, who founded the site. These reports will show how “data from satellites in the sky relates to the reality on the ground.”

“The perspective from human observation [will add] to the precision of the data provided by satellite,” said Faleiros, who leads InfoAmazonia as part of his ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship. “We believe that bringing citizen information to the platform will add depth and context to data we obtain by remote sensing.”

For example, when InfoAmazonia updates its map of deforestation in the region with fresh satellite data, communities in the affected regions can verify the new information and help explain it.

“Satellites do see a lot of things, but they do not tell you the reasons why an area of forest has been cleared,” Faleiros said. Is it “now being used for cattle ranching or mining? You can guess based on your experience, but the real story, the characters involved, the human dimension will emerge from the ground reporting.”

To make it happen, InfoAmazonia is partnering with NGOs in the nine countries of the Amazon rainforest region. The crowdsourcing initiative has financial support from the Avina and Skoll foundations. Together, they are donating US$114,000 for InfoAmazonia to build applications that enable citizen reporting, data sharing and fact checking.