Knight Blog

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

Knight News Challenge on Networks opens: Your shot at a share of $5 million

Feb. 27, 2012, 12:12 p.m., Posted by John S. Bracken

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

Today, and for the following 19 days, the Knight News Challenge is open for business. The theme of the challenge is Networks. 

The most common question I’ve been asked since we announced the challenge is exactly what we mean by Networks. We’re trying not to define the term too narrowly, but I thought a look at David Sarnoff, the creator of the broadcast network in the U.S., might provide some insights into our motivations. (We’re launching the Networks challenge on the anniversary of Sarnoff’s birthday, coincidentally.)

In the 1950 film Mid-Century: Half Way to Where?, Sarnoff foresaw the coming “pocket-sized radio instruments [that] will enable individuals to communicate with anyone anywhere.” According to Cisco, the number of those “pocket-sized instruments” will equal the number of people on the planet by the end of the year. David P. Reed later extended “Sarnoff’s Law” (a broadcast network’s value is proportional to the number of people it reaches) to make the case that networks can scale exponentially. Today’s communications networks are different from the broadcast tower and its one-to-many reach. The Internet, and the mini-computers in our pockets, enable us to connect with one another, friends and strangers, in new ways. Witness the roles of networks in the formation, coverage and discussion of recent events such as the rise of the Tea Partyflash mobs, the Arab Spring, last summer’s UK riots and the Occupy movement. 

We’re looking for ideas that build on the rise of these existing network events and tools - that deliver news and information and extend our understanding of the phenomenon. Anyone - businesses, nonprofits, individuals - can apply. On the application form, we’re asking you seven questions - about you, your idea, the problem you want to attack and the network you want to leverage. We’re not asking for business plans or budgets - those questions will come later. 

For now, we want to hear a concise description of what you want to do. To encourage your brevity, we’ve listed word limits for each question. We won’t reject your application if you go over the limit - you can write 203 words instead of 200 on why you think your idea will work.  But the ability to successfully convey thoughts with precision is a criteria we will use in reviewing the applications. 


The East Village Other: celebrating a pioneering underground newspaper

Feb. 26, 2012, 7:29 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Starting Feb. 28, a new exhibition will celebrate the life and death of one of New York City’s most beloved underground newspaper - The East Village Other.

The exhibition, “Blowing Minds: The East Village Other, the Rise of the Underground Comix, and the Alternative Press, 1965-1972,” will include original copies of the newspapers, enlarged covers of its seminal issues and artifacts from its Second Avenue offices.
The East Village Other, described as a “pioneering underground newspaper,” published bi-weekly for seven years. It is cited as an important parts of the counterculture newspaper scene and also helped give birth to the underground comix movement.

Exploring the role of the 21st century library in an age of e-books and online content

Feb. 25, 2012, 9:03 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller



Photo Credit: Flickr user Jeff Wilcox.

In the age of e-books and online content, what's the role of the 21st century library?

That question brought together library directors from Knight communities across the country last weekend.

During the conference, the American Library Association shared its vision for the future of libraries. Here’s a sample of the association’s framework, also included in “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library”:

1.) Physical to Virtual

In the past, libraries have existed exclusively as physical spaces, but this is changing as content moves online and libraries take steps to better meet community needs.

For example, in Philadelphia, Knight-funded free library “hot spots” bring computer access, classes and the Internet to four locations around the city. The spots include computers, printers and reference collections of free library materials. They’re staffed by computer assistants to train users and offer free instruction and open-access computer time. 16,000 people visited these hot spots in just the first year.