Knight Blog

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

Local online news site honored with investigative reporting award

June 13, 2012, 11:16 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


The Lens, a two-time Knight Community Information Challenge winner, has won a prestigious national Edward R. Murrow Award.

The New Orleans online investigative site won the Audio Investigative Reporting Award for “One homeowner’s travails: Even after more than six years, family can’t move into ‘new’ house."

The report, produced in cooperation with the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, investigated the story of a New Orleans family that was persuaded by a bank to use its Katrina insurance settlement to pay off the mortgage of their home, leaving no money to repair it.

The report brought into focus the problem of more than 40,000 blighted homes in New Orleans and illustrated how the recovery process has left people who lack financial literacy homeless.

Gaming city planning: Community PlanIt in Detroit

June 13, 2012, 9:27 a.m., Posted by Eric Gordon

Community PlanIt is a Knight-funded online game platform to involve communities in local planning efforts. Here, project lead and professor Eric Gordon – who participated in Knight’s recent Technology for Engagement Summit - writes about how the game worked in Detroit. The post is part of a series on KnightBlog on using technology to get people more involved in their communities. It was originally published on Gordon's blog.

All too often, when planners plan, the public retreats or takes the defensive position. “What planning process?” they ask. Or, “You’re not going to build that project here!” So, Community PlanIt turns planning into a story, structured through simple interactions and game mechanics, and invites the public to shape the narrative.

We started work on the platform last year. It was first tested in Lowell, MA as part of a city visioning process. We did a larger pilot in fall 2011 with Boston Public Schools to engage the public in the question of “what makes a quality school?” And this spring, we did another city visioning project in Quincy, MA and were part of a citywide long term planning effort in Detroit.

The Detroit project was called Detroit 24/7 and was designed in collaboration with Detroit Works Project Long Term Planning. It lasted 21 days, and consisted of three week-long missions. In that time, 1,033 players registered and created over 8,400 comments about their experience with city as it is now and where they think it should go in the future. After the missions ended, there was a Game Finale meeting at the Central branch of the Detroit Public Library, where over 120 people showed up to celebrate players’ accomplishments and to plan for next steps.

These numbers are impressive and encouraging.  And when you add to that the fact that 42% of players were between the ages of 14 and 17, and 74% were 35 or under, you have an impressive demographic shift in a process that is too often stereotyped as geriatric. But Community PlanIt was not only for young people. Some of the most active players were over 50 and were energized by the participation of youth. In general, the people who played the game were not your usual suspects. Many of the highest point earners have never been to a planning meeting in the past and those that typically dominate in-person planning meetings were not the highest point earners.

Welcome to iWitness

June 12, 2012, 1:33 p.m., Posted by Jesse James Garrett

iWitness, a 2011 Knight News Challenge Winner, launches its new app which helps users explore social media content. The following, written by Jesse James Gareth, is crossposted from

The iWitness concept was one of the winners of last year's Knight News Challenge, an open competition that funds media innovation projects. That funding enabled us to bring in a development partner, New Context, to help turn our concept into a reality.

We designed iWitness to enable people to explore content in new ways. We wanted it to be a vehicle for discovering what's happening in the world in cases where time and place really matter.

But we didn't just want to create an interesting new product. We also wanted to see what could be done with the latest web techniques and technologies. As a result, iWitness runs entirely in the browser—it has no server-side component.