Knight Blog

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

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...