Knight Blog

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

Welcoming TurboVote to Detroit

Aug. 15, 2012, 10:24 a.m., Posted by Rishi Jaitly


TurboVote helps young people register to vote on the Miami Dade College campus

When my colleague John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation, told me about TurboVote in January, I knew immediately that this exciting, new platform would resonate in Detroit.

What better way to advance Detroit’s civic entrepreneurial momentum than to empower thousands of people with an easy, seamless way to register, engage, and vote?

The TurboVote concept is simple: (1) via, voters check their registration status; (2) via the web, voters request pre-filled registration/absentee forms by mail; (3) local election authorities send mail-in ballots to voters; and (4) the TurboVote system sends text/e-mail reminders to voters about important local, state, and federal elections.

We knew we couldn’t do it alone so, along with the TurboVote team, we pounded the pavement this past spring and met with area universities who could promote the service to their students. In the end, four area universities signed up as launch partners for TurboVote Detroit: Wayne State University, the University of Michigan-DearbornMarygrove College, and Eastern Michigan University. Check out the press release to learn more.

We should all applaud the leadership of TurboVote and these universities who are advancing a more informed and engaged Detroit.

As with all of our other Detroit grants and initiatives, I’m especially excited that TurboVote meets Detroiters where they are to offer easy opportunities to connect, support, and participate in all of our city’s civic energy.   

Calling on journalism educators to take bigger risks, experiment

Aug. 14, 2012, 5:47 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton


Above: Richard Gingras, head of Google News, speaks at TechRanking 2012. Photo Credit: Flickr user California Watch.

At last week’s Chicago convention of journalism and “mass communication” educators, a letter from foundation representatives got a lot of attention. In my opinion, given the digital revolution, it was a rather tame observation. Funders said journalism education should 1. Speed up the pace of change and 2. Get better by using a more effective “teaching hospital” model. (A great example is this week’s News21 series on how voter fraud is not a real issue.)

My big takeaway from Chicago was the keynote by Richard Gingras, head of Google News. He went beyond the funders’ modest requests to speed up and get better. Gingras, who has talked about these things before, called upon educators to take bigger risks, experiment more and partner with computer science departments. We should call it the “lost keynote” because even though the educators invited him, his talk got relatively little tweeting and only one good story, in PBS Media Shift.

That’s too bad, because Gingras is absolutely right, and what he’s talking about is what we are looking for in the Knight News Challenge.  We also think that getting more modern professionals  into journalism education is a good thing because it will get bureaucracies moving.

Announcing Knight News Challenge: Mobile

Aug. 14, 2012, 12:06 p.m., Posted by John Bracken


Photo Credit: Flickr user girl_onthe_les

Update: News Challenge Office Hours: Get your questions answered at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 7.

Related: A deeper look at the News Challenge application questions and How to make your News Challenge: Mobile application stand out

We’re excited to announce the theme for the third Knight News Challenge of 2012: mobile. We hope to learn about new approaches for using mobile to inform and engage communities, and build the foundation for others to do more in the future.

We will open the contest on Aug. 29 and will close at noon EDT Sept. 10, on We plan to announce the winners early next year. As with the two prior News Challenge contests this year, on networks and data, we will keep the application light, limited to 500 words and a few questions.

Why mobile? With 6 billion devices worldwide, according to the World Bank, the world will soon have more mobile phones than people.  The mobile device is so much more than a “phone”-- Jeff  Jarvis, among others, has argued that we need a better term for the device. “Mobile is my personal bubble. It is enhanced convenience, putting the device and the world in my hand,” he says. We saw this personal tinge to tech last week in the NASA Curiosity Command Center where staff, while landing a robot on Mars, were updating their friends and family via their phones (according to an interview with Bobak Ferdowsi.)  

Despite these trends, and the presence of several mobile projects in our own portfolio  (including winners from Knight News Challenge on Networks PeepolTV, Behavio and Watchup), we realized how much we have to learn about this fundamental shift.  For many of us around the world, mobile has become an important tool for learning what’s going on around us, and for sharing details about our lives with friends, neighbors and strangers. We know that we (and our kids) have grown attached to our mobile devices, but we have less clarity about the ways people are using them, or might use them, as citizens, content producers and consumers to tell, share and receive stories.

We’ve focused the News Challenge this year on big opportunities in news and information - networksdata and now mobile. In some ways, mobile represents both the greatest need and greatest potential for individual citizens and news organizations.