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

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)
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 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.

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.

Charlotte nonprofit helps community through tech

Sept. 18, 2012, 11:04 a.m., Posted by Apparo


Supported by Knight, Apparo seeks to transform Charlotte nonprofits through technology and services that enhance their mission. The organization blogs about its recent recognition. 

Apparo, formerly NPower Charlotte Region, recently received the state's highest honor for nonprofits from the N.C. Center for Nonprofits

The Nonprofit Sector Stewardship Award recognizes organizations that use exemplary practices in their stewardship of the community's trust and resources.

“We are honoring Apparo for its innovative model of collaboration that links corporations’ technology expertise to support many nonprofits’ vital work in the Charlotte region,” said Jane Kendall, president of the N.C. Center for Nonprofits. “It also sets an example as a nonprofit that carefully evaluates the results of its programs.”

Apparo's mission is to empower nonprofits through information technology. Its name means "to provide" in Latin. It provides one-on-one consulting, managed services, and help to implement nonprofits' technology and business solutions. It also matches corporate volunteers with a nonprofit organization in-depth IT coaching assistance.

Whether Apparo's clients serve homeless neighbors, bring arts and culture to the community, or protect the environment, they all need innovative technology solutions in order to achieve their missions.

In two years, DocumentCloud becomes standard

Sept. 18, 2012, 7:44 a.m., Posted by Aron Pilhofer


Knight Foundation recently took a look at the 2009 Knight News Challenge winners, including the success of the project DocumentCloud. Here, one of the founders Aron Pilhofer talks about how the site became a standard tool for newsrooms in just two years.

It was four years ago when Eric Umansky, Scott Klein and I first met to discuss submitting a Knight News Challenge application to address the sorry state of document-based journalism.

Scott, who took notes of the meeting, summed up as follows: “This project will fight the “dark web” nature of source documents on the Web, in which documents are difficult to find and often disappear when a news organization is done telling a particular story.”

Eric proposed a name that everyone liked -- -- and we bought the domain the next day.

Our goals were modest: We hoped to create a platform that would encourage news organizations -- our own if nothing else -- to be more transparent by publishing source documents in a Web-friendly format. At that time, few newsrooms thought to publish documents online, and those that did used awful, bloated proprietary formats like Flash or PDF.

None of us dreamed that in August of 2012, would host more than 350,000 documents, comprising almost 5.5 million pages, for more than 650 organizations. We never imagined would be serving more than a million document views per week, with peaks of more than a million per day.