Knight Blog

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

Youth Media in California's Central Valley gets rolling

June 2, 2011, 9:38 a.m., Posted by Lisa Williams

The California Endowment and the Knight Foundation are supporting a youth media initiative in California's Central Valley, and judging from the quality of the writing, the investment is paying off. Here's Jesus Vargas, a resident of Coachella, CA, writing about the Coachella Festival, a music festival which triples the population of this town, where 35% of the 18 and under residents live below the poverty level:

"Most people who frequent Coachella Fest or stay at the nearby resorts in the west side of the valley, know nothing about the real Coachella. I live in the actual city of Coachella, less than a 10-minute drive southeast from Indio, a small 40,000 person town that is economically depressed, mostly rural and agricultural and predominantly Hispanic. Further east of the city are the unincorporated communities of Thermal, Mecca, and North Shore, which are home to the migrant workers who toil in the area’s agricultural fields. Many live in poverty. The environmental conditions – contaminated drinking water, toxic landfills, dilapidated mobile home parks – are terrible, and the landscape is desolate. Trash heaps and illegal dumps litter the area. A nearby soil recycling plant emits a stink that many residents say causes them extreme discomfort. The region sits in stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the western Coachella Valley that’s only a few minutes up Interstate-10.

Coachella 2010

When my friends and I tell our fellow concertgoers that we live literally five minutes away, they are incredulous. They seem to have had the impression that nobody under the age of 40 lives here. When I tell them I’m not from La Quinta, Indio, Palm Desert or Palm Springs, they ask, “What other cities are there here?”

Many times, we just say we’re from somewhere else to avoid the inevitable bemused looks and questioning. Why should I kill their Coachella buzz with tales about Mecca and Thermal, and the poverty and pollution endemic to them?

New impunity index: Iraq, Somalia and the Philippines most dangerous for journalists

June 1, 2011, 9:59 a.m., Posted by Amy Starlight Lawrence

By Amy Starlight Lawrence and Jon Sotsky

The Committee to Protect Journalists released its annual Impunity Index today, which details the 13 most dangerous countries for journalists.

The report highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their governments are unable or unwilling to bring the killers to justice.  The impunity rate calculated by CPJ is a metric based on the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the population.

Iraq tops the list for the fourth year running, and Mexico’s rating has worsened for the third consecutive year.  CPJ believes that there have been improvements in Russia, where a number of unsolved murder cases were reopened by officials.

CPJ battles impunity using several approaches including research, advocacy, field-building and financial assistance to journalists and their families.

The report provides insights about global impunity trends and in particular that “prior threats against a journalist are powerful indicators of violence to come. More than 40 percent of the victims in this index had received threats prior to being killed.”

Knight Foundation has supported CPJ’s impunity campaign, with an emphasis on its work in Russia and the Philippines.

Media innovation projects: Legal structure matters

June 1, 2011, 9:25 a.m., Posted by Jose C. Zamora


Knight News Challenge finalists have great ideas to speed media innovation. However, like all entrepreneurs and innovators, they need to create an organization that has a legal structure in order to develop their ideas.

Deciding how to incorporate a media innovation or online publishing project is important. The legal structure will have an impact on the organization's liability for defamation and other claims. It will also have an impact on the organization's tax obligations, its assets and its management.

Many of Knight Foundation’s journalism and media innovation grantees have structured their operations as nonprofits. Some examples include Spot.usDocumentCloudProPublicaVoice of San DiegoTexas Tribune and Bay Citizen. However, a 501 (c)(3) is not for everyone. Other grantees have chosen to incorporate as for-profit companies, like NowSpots and Front Porch Forum.

Choosing the best legal structure is not easy; there are many considerations that need to be taken into account. Here are two useful resources that might help you figure out the best structure for your start-up:

  1. For Love or Lucre by Jim Fruchterman, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
  2. How to decide: nonprofit vs. for-profit [SLIDES] by Ben Wirz, Knight Foundation’s Director of Business Consulting.

You can learn more about how to set-up the legal framework for your organization on the Creating a Business page on the Citizen Media Law Project Web site.

If you prefer one business structure over another, please tell us why and comment below. And look out for the announcement of the 2011 News Challenge winners on June 22.