Knight Blog

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

Five lessons learned from a social entrepreneur

April 11, 2012, 8:45 a.m., Posted by Mike Norman

Knight Foundation has funded to convince companies to behave in socially responsible ways. Here, Mike Norman, its co-founder, shares key insights and lessons learned from the project's first year. 

normanOne year ago, my co-founder and I launched to empower the use of consumer spending as a tool for improving corporate behavior. We had grown increasingly frustrated at our inability to let responsible companies know that we supported them because of their impact on issues we cared about. We wanted to use our spending to convince companies to be better, and market research showed that we were not alone. Enough consumers were like us that taken together, we controlled enough buying power to make a real difference in how companies thought about their social and environmental impact.

We set out to build a tool that would show consumers that shifting where they spent money could meaningfully impact issues they cared about. Over the past year, we have learned a great deal from our own experience and those of other social entrepreneurs. Here are a few of the key insights we have learned and a overview of how it has informed our strategy moving forward.

A first look at new Center for Collaborative Journalism in Macon

April 10, 2012, 3:56 p.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Knight currently supports the Center for Collaborative Journalism in Macon, a unique community news and journalism training partnership aimed at improving news flows and engaging citizens. The following post, written by the center's new director, Tim Regan-Porter, provides highlights of several of the center's new efforts. It is crossposted from PBS Media Shift.

Tim Regan-Porterporter

April 1 marked my first month on the job as director of Mercer University's new Center for Collaborative Journalism. While the center doesn't open its doors until August, and the bulk of the program starts in late 2013, I already feel the pressure.

The vision established by Mercer, the Knight Foundation, and our media partners, The (Macon) Telegraph and Georgia Public Broadcasting, could hardly be loftier -- not only establishing a new model for journalism education but also helping to transform local communities and save democracy itself. But it is the very audacity of that vision that, in two weeks' time, spun me around from plans to move to New York with my favorite magazine conglomerate to accepting an offer in Macon, Ga. (not long after telling my wife that Atlanta was "just too small" for me).

The ambition of the program is backed by $4.6 million in grants from the Knight Foundation and enabled by a unique collaborative arrangement between a liberal arts program, a public broadcaster and a daily newspaper. The center itself occupies the ground floor of a new development and houses the newsroom of The Telegraph, a McClatchy paper serving the region, and radio and television facilities for GPB. Students will take classes in the midst of a daily newsroom and radio station; some will even live in housing set aside for them above the center.


At the heart of the academic program is an adaptation of the medical school model of education. Students will train in a working newsroom, alongside professional journalists, throughout all four years of the program. Class projects will be integrated with the work of our media partners and the center's own digital news outlet (modeled after the University of North Carolina's reesenews).

Students will contribute to background research, shadow reporters, file reports, engage the community with social media, and perform most duties expected of a professional journalist. They will leave the program with a full portfolio of professional bylines, radio reports, and multimedia stories. This clinical model and high degree of collaboration offers students a truly unique experience.

Beyond books: why you should check out your public library

April 10, 2012, 9:50 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


The following op-ed, written for National Library Week, is co-authored by Paula Ellis, vice president/strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation, Deborah Jacobs, director, Global Libraries Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Julie Stasch, vice president of U.S. Programs at the MacArthur Foundation. Above: The Seattle Public Library, photo credit: Flickr user Joel Down.

For many of us, the public library will always be synonymous with books.

The books drew us to the library in the first place, helped us discover new worlds—both real and imaginary—beyond our day-to-day experiences.

Libraries continue to embody that same spirit of search and discovery, but in a manner that has been transformed as dramatically as the way we generate, share, and consume information. They make this new digital era available to all Americans.

In Chicago, for example, an innovative space at the main public library called YOUmedia lets any teen with a city library card have in-house access to computers plus video and audio recording equipment, to create their own content with the help of a mentor. At another YOUmedia space in Miami, workshops help teens think critically and creatively about their lives, by teaching them to publish an autobiographical digital story, or to visualize their favorite books. In a world where information is increasingly available, learning to analyze it, create it, and make it your own is a valued skill.