Knight Blog

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

San Diego State launches app on iTunes

Aug. 6, 2012, noon, Posted by Jenna Buehler


Photo Credit: Flickr user Jade Elam

A new local news app developed by San Diego State University students recently hit the iTunes store. The surrounding community - both on and off campus - can use the mobile app to view, post and share local news and events.

Named after the San Diego State mascot, AzteCast emerged from a contest where schools had to develop an app using code or a platform developed by Knight News Challenge winners. Amy Schmitz Weiss, assistant professor of journalism, chose to use the technology of 2009 winner Ushahidi, which crowdsources, visualizes and maps information.

The San Diego project began with a desire for partnership. Schmitz Weiss said she had always wanted the journalism and media studies and computer science departments to work together. The contest criteria gave a reason to collaborate with computer science professor Joseph Lewis, who co-taught the mobile technology course.

She connected her students with Ushahidi and hosted video conference calls with the Kenyan-based entrepreneurs. Schmitz Weiss also sought mentorship from the 2011 Knight News Challenge winner PANDA Project , which helps news organizations use better public information by cleaning up and analyzing data. PANDA developer Brian Boyer, now of NPR, also visited the campus in April to help students with app design.

“[Boyer] was a powerful influence to students who had all of these ideas, but did not know where to begin. What we learned is that an app should do one thing really well—‘do it great, make it simple,’ that was his advice to us,” Schmitz Weiss said.

Exploring how tech can create more open and innovative government

Aug. 4, 2012, 9:01 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Starting tomorrow, participants will gather in Aspen to discuss the best strategies for using information and technology to encourage more open and innovative governance.

The Forum on Communications and Societysponsored by Knight and hosted by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, will also explore how specific innovations that governments are using can open up more information to the public so that they can better engage in civic life.

The forum, which is being livestreamed, begins at 8:45 a.m. MST Monday Aug. 8 with discussion on how open and innovative government might solve problems like political polarization, corruption and the influence of money in politics.

The discussion will be followed by an exploration of how are governments are currently trying to work more efficiently. Despite examples of successful and innovative apps and practices at the state and local level, many governments are behind the curve.

Participants will explore a variety of topics, including what innovation might offer communities and their residents five years from now.


Five OpenNews fellows tell their stories

Aug. 3, 2012, 2:21 p.m., Posted by Mozilla Foundation



Mark Boas, Cole Gillespie, Nicola Hughes, Dan Schultz, and Laurian Gridinoc on the deck of the MIT Media Lab, June 2012

This week, each of the 2012 Knight-Mozilla Fellows told stories of what they’ve been up to during their time as Fellows. Each story captures both the unique experiences of each Fellow, but also captures their singular personality. And each story is a captivating reason for why you, with just a week to apply, should join their ranks as a 2013 Knight-Mozilla Fellow.

For Mark Boas, who has been working with Al Jazeera English, he writes that his time as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow has meant getting his work in front of new audiences and for leaning the discipline that comes with deadline-based development:

There is great opportunity to innovate and see your experiments incarnate on websites that get very many eye-balls and of course get all that lovely feedback. And when I say lovely I don’t mean complimentary I just mean that all feedback is lovely even when it is negative and the more you get – the better. In fact, I think one of the most important things you can do when publishing to a site like is measure the usage in as much detail as possible. Certainly for me it’s not often that I will be able to collect so many stats on things that I have had a hand in making.

The unpredictable and somewhat transient nature of current affairs also presents tremendous opportunities. One of the projects I’m working on is an interactive slide-show that displays a series of slowly zoomed images to a YouTube soundtrack. I had just got a rough proof of concept together when my colleague mentioned they had some fresh photos and an audio soundtrack from Syria and that they wanted to create an audio-slide show from it to go live the next day. Frantic hacking of code and content ensued but we got it out in time. I wrote in my last post that situations like these are an opportunity to hone your shipping skills and a good exercise in delivering the minimum viable product.

Nicola Hughes, who has been embedded with the Guardian’s Interactive News teamwrites of the boundaries she’s pushed and the distance she’s come as a Knight-Mozilla Fellow:

So what have I got to say? A young woman of colour, trained in broadcast journalism, who had never used the command line until this year. From the very beginning I felt I had the least to offer the OpenNews programme. I never thought I would get it. I was enticed to participate by the various rounds in the competition. As a fledgling programmer, I loved hackdays. Being able to connect with those at the edge of digital journalism and those interested in the field was reward enough.

But I did win and here I am. So what have I done? I have advanced my skills beyond what I could have done on my own. I am more comfortable with the strategies of data digging and programming. I know what skills I want to add. But most of all I know I should be here and I deserve to be here. Not as Nicola Hughes or DataMinerUK but as an OpenNews fellow. And by ‘here’ I don’t mean The Guardian or the OpenNews programme. ‘Here’ is web-making, data-digging and story-building in the open.

A big part of this resolution to create, innovate and take news beyond the written word is my fellow fellows. I feel truly blessed to know such creative, talented and forward-thinking individuals. This has been a big benefit to me and one I will take beyond the fellowship.

Cole Gillespie, who moved to Berlin from North Carolina to be a fellow at Zeit Online, punctuates his reflection with photos from “the best year of my life,” as he writes: