Knight Blog

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

Crowdsourcing in a crisis: mapping radiation levels in Japan

June 30, 2011, 1:32 p.m., Posted by Annie Shreffler

Above: iGeigie from Joi on Flickr

Yesterday, we looked at crowdsourcing in crisis, taking the Middle East as an example. The thoughts came from Al Jazeera’s head of New Media Mohamed Nanabhay, who spoke on a panel at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference.

Today, we turn to the experiences of Joi Ito, new director of the MIT Media Lab, who has been crowdsourcing radiation levels in post-quake Japan:

On the panel, Ito said he was frustrated with the lack of useful information from Japan’s news organizations in the first few hours after the earthquake. As he monitored events from the U.S, he was glad for the rapid Twitter updates.

“People sitting in pitch dark rooms, phones aren’t working and they’re on the net or watching TV. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know if they should be running away. Twitter was offering instruction long before news organizations offered any information. In that way, they were more effective in the early hours of the crisis.”

After the nuclear plant meltdown at Fukushima, Ito’s frustration was compounded by the ongoing misinformation from the government on safe levels of radiation. Rather than relying on inaccurate reports from government agencies, Ito began...

Chicago Community Trust study: Links foster healthy online information flows

June 30, 2011, 1:20 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

A new report for The Chicago Community Trust analyzes news flows in Chicago and provides a thought-provoking analysis of the city's emerging news ecosystem and the roles of key information providers and sharers. It also shows the potential power of Web savvy community news start ups and nontraditional information providers as a new news environment takes shape.

In the national, often web-ideology-driven, debate about value on the Web, news aggregators often take a big hit as parasites on organizations doing the expensive work of actually producing original content. Any aggregator who takes advantage - by stealing significant chunks of material from other sites and/or by failing to credit and link back to the original - deserve our disdain and more. After all, content producers (many of whom are professional journalists) need a paycheck just like the rest of us.

But the aggregators who play fair deserve another look. At least on the ground on the local news start up scene, where I spend most of my time, aggregators have a valuable role to play in an increasingly diffuse news ecosystem. In a world where news is abundant but traditional bundles are dissolving, smart curation (which we used to call editing) and thoughtful selection and outbound linking is a service that stands alongside creating content. Right now, it is vital both to information consumers as well as producers, including many journalists who are desperately trying to get their work in front of people now that corporate-owned news organizations have shed them by the thousands.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in my home base, Chicago, where feisty news start ups like Gapers Block, Windy Citizen and dozens of others, frequently link to the best content on other, lesser known sites.

As Andrew Huff, editor and publisher of Gapers Block told me this week in an e-mail:

"Having grown out of the weblog community rather than the traditional media community, we've had a philosophy from the beginning that linking is the coin of the realm on the web. We link to other websites because that's what makes the Internet work -- if you can't trust your readers to come back to you after...

Lend local, lead local: Kiva Detroit empowers Detroiters as champions of local businesses

June 30, 2011, 10 a.m., Posted by Rishi Jaitly

Delphia Simmons of Detroit is a Kiva donor

Above: Delphia Simmons, who has received a microloan.

What if you could make a loan to your favorite new art gallery in town?  What if you could connect with others lending to the art gallery and, together, discover other small businesses in need that your community might rally around?

Now, you can: today, we’re happy to announce the launch of Kiva Detroit, an innovative effort to empower Detroiters by enabling them to lend to and champion the success of local businesses through

Knight Foundation is contributing $250,000 to Kiva Detroit: our grant will match citizen lending dollar-for-dollar on, while also helping the program scale.  Kiva Detroit is the organization’s first locally-organized effort in the United States.

Other partners are helping, too. Michigan Corps, a network of local and global Michiganders committed to social change across the state, leads a volunteer community of Detroiters who source businesses for Kiva Detroit and builds enduring, productive relationships among lenders, borrowers, and the community at large. ACCION USA, a U.S. microfinance institution, approves and administers loans.