Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit NewsChallenge.org.
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 Party, flash 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.