Knight Blog

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

@MEnista: U.S. won’t solve serious problems if we don’t tap into power of Millennials

Feb. 28, 2012, 9:19 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller


During a summit in San Jose, students use interactive keypad voting to discuss what policy makers, college faculty/administrators and students themselves can do to improve college completion rates in their community.

In communities across the country, empowers and invests in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. With support from Knight Foundation, the organization is bringing its Millennial-led engagement efforts to five Knight communities: Detroit, San Jose, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Miami.

Recently, Maya Enista Smith, CEO of talked with Knight about the project at the Gathering of Leaders in Miami, which brings together social entrepreneurs to help them accelerate social change.

Knight Foundation:’s mission is to empower and invest in Millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. What is your programming model?

Maya Enista: Our model is to convene, invest and train in this generation of leaders to solve the problems that they face in their communities. We believe that young people are best equipped to solve these problems and it is our role to support them. For example, we recently convened a group of 100 community college students in San Jose, Calif. to talk about the obstacles that they face with respect to community college completion. We provided the students with the opportunity to work collaboratively to propose solutions to those challenges and asked them to compete for a share of $25,000 to identify and support the most innovative solutions. Now with funding, undocumented students that face financial and emotional challenges will have a place where they can go to talk to someone, print their papers, use the Internet and gain moral support with peers.  A mentorship and counseling program will also help foster care children properly transition into college life, and video and editing support will be available for student organizations on campus who are doing good work but who have trouble making their ideas and solutions visible. All of the winning project descriptions are available online.           

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.