Knight Blog

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

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).