Knight Blog

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

What’s next in Knight News Challenge: Data

June 25, 2012, 3:39 p.m., Posted by John S. Bracken



Whenever we open a contest, I always feel a little bit like when I throw a party: I’m never sure if anyone will show up, and am always relieved when they do.

We closed the Knight News Challenge: Data Thursday afternoon with 881 applications - 813 are openly visible on the NewsChallenge Tumblr, another 68 were submitted privately.

Knight staff, with the help of about 15 field experts, started the review process this weekend. It is way too early for us to have ideas about who the winners might be, but early indications are that we have a good batch. “Submissions this time around are really high quality,” wrote one of the reviewers this morning.

In my first quick perusal of the applicants, I noticed organizations like McClatchy, the Chicago Tribune, the United Way (St. Louis),, Sunlight Foundation, Code for America, the AP, NPR, the Chronicle for Higher Education, the Guardian, Partners in Health and the cities of San Francisco and Chicago. I’ve seen entries from Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Peru, Moldova, Georgia, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, England, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Hong Kong and Germany.

Among the themes we’re noticing so far:

  • display of and access to government data;
  • making obscure data more transparent;
  • helping people improve themselves or particular target populations;
  • analysis of money in politics and money in government;
  • tools to help journalists analyze information.

Over the next week, we’ll read each of those entries a minimum of three times. After the 4th of July holiday, we’ll be hosting about 15 advisers to help us settle on a group of finalists. Knight staff will have the rest of July to interview those finalists, conduct due diligence, and come up with a set of proposals to recommend to the Knight trustees. Those recommendations will be decided upon at its September 10 meeting. We’ll announce the winners shortly thereafter.

Better defining digital literacy

June 21, 2012, 1:11 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


Photo Credit Flickr user: Brad Flickinger

On Saturday, June 23, Knight Foundation's Program Director in San Jose/Silicon Valley, Judith Kleinberg, is participating in a discussion around what digital literacy means at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Anaheim, C.A. The following, written by Renee Hobbs, a professor in the Harrington School of Comunicaton and Media at the University of Rhode Island gives a preview. It is crossposted from the Media Education Lab's blog.

What is digital literacy? The term has been rising in visibility since 2009 but it has been used quite differently by a variety of stakeholders including policy makers, educators, and business and technology professionals. At the American Library Association’s annual conference, I’ll be moderating a discussion about four distinct but interrelated definitions and uses of this important term. Sharing ideas with me will be Judith Kleinberg of Knight Foundation, Roseanne Cordell, a librarian at Indiana University South Bend, and Laurel Felt, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

Depending on what group of people you talk to, the term ‘digital literacy’ might suggest one or more of these meanings. Which of these definitions are most (and least) useful to your work? For school, academic or public librarians, which of these terms is most relevant? For those in K-12 education, which do you focus on? And for technology educators, where do you focus? Funders and policymakers, which ones are most likely to resonate with decision makers in local, state and national government?

Computer Skills and Access Issues. Having broadband access and knowing how to use the Internet enable full participation in society. For some, basic keyboard and mouse skills are essential skills while others may benefit from a greater understanding of file management and browsers. For example, websites like emphasize the value of using the Internet to find a job, create a resume and for career exploration.

Issues of Authorship. People are creating and sharing more than ever. The concept of digital literacy reflects the growing importance of user-generated content and the changing role of authorship in a digital age. Digital literacy programs like YouMedia empower people with easy access to powerful tools of expression and communication using social media, images, language, music, sound, and interactivity.

Non-traditional providers bring quality and dimension to community news

June 21, 2012, 10:53 a.m., Posted by Michele McLellan

Above: A video documentary on turaround efforts at a Chicago school 

As more and more non-traditional actors take the stage in providing news and information in local communities, it’s valuable to get past the either-or journalist-vs-citizen journalist argument and look at who actually creates value. A new report for The Chicago Community Trust offers significant evidence that information providers outside mainstream media have much to offer.

The Chicago Community Trust’s Local Reporting Awards project provided 31 small grants last year to “produce a burst of impactful, relevant coverage of, by and for” low income communities on the south and west sides of the city. Award winners included a mix of traditional and non-traditional information providers, journalists and non-journalists. Topic ranged from race and class to tax and health care policy to cyberbullying and other youth issues.

The evaluation by Janet Coats of Coats2Coats, found that journalistic quality was high across the board.

“We were blown away by the quality of the work,” Coats said in her report. “Across the board, the sourcing in this work is strong. There is an appropriate blend of the institutional and the grassroots in the sources the award winners used. We saw very little 'he said/she said’' structure in the coverage; sources are used to speak from their areas of experience and expertise, without a false confrontational construct. We also were pleased by the number of sources the award recipients used in their work. Even in professional reporting, it is all too common to see single- or two-source stories.”

Some credit goes to The Chicago Reporter and the Community Media Workshop in Chicago, which greatly improved editorial quality and distribution of the work, the report said. Still, it’s interesting that the efforts of the non-traditional sources were so highly rated.