Knight Blog

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

Protecting student journalists

Sept. 6, 2012, 2:56 p.m., Posted by Amber Robertson


Photo credit: Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Students doing more journalism in the “teaching hospital” model is a win for journalism education. But if universities want more from their student journalists, they should do more for them. That means legally protecting them even when the community and police don’t. Nationwide, universities are rightfully touting the benefits of the teaching hospital model. Yet students are missing from this debate.

Even if they weren’t interested in filling local news gaps with actual journalism, universities would seem to be obvious supporters and protectors of their students. Their roots, after all, are in freedom and learning. Ironically (and sadly) universities are often the first to challenge their own students for fear they might cause legal problems.

According to Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, most censorship complaints boil down to students vs. administration. The Knight-funded center serves students who believe they have been censored or denied access to public information. LoMonte estimated that about 70 percent of calls to their hotline are on censorship and public information issues, with the school or college administration being the culprit.

What happens to student journalists? Schools have, for example, removed newspaper racks from campuscut funding for school newspaperslocked out radio station staff members and restricted students from circling a petition around campus. Organizations such as the Student Press Law Center serve as valuable resources for students who feel their rights have been encroached upon.

It is not just the administration that tries to control student-run media. At times, community leaders are the problem. Recently, the staff of the independent University of Georgia newspaper, Red and Black, a non-profit corporation, walked out when it discovered a memo from a board member saying faculty must play a larger role in what would be published in the paper. The stated reason: an attempt to turn around a decline in readership. After the walkout, students created a website called Red and Dead where they covered their own story. After the outcry, the memo was dropped and the Red and Black editor-in-chief and managing editor returned.

Ingredients for successful Knight News Challenge projects

Sept. 6, 2012, 11:06 a.m., Posted by Michael Maness, Lucy Bernholz, Mayur Patel

If the number one question for Knight Foundation is "how do I win the News Challenge," a close second is "how can I make my media innovation project successful." 

To help answer that question, and to provide insights on how Knight can strengthen its grant making, the foundation has been conducting, in partnership with Arabella Advisors, an ongoing review of the Knight News Challenge with an eye towards what makes media innovation projects work. Today we're releasing a review of the 2009 News Challenge winners, which include nine projects that, among other things, provided new ways to visualize data, platforms for crowdsourcing and mapping, and tools for exploring and sharing primary source documents on the web. 

Predictably, not all of these funded innovations have succeeded in gaining traction. After all, the News Challenge is intentionally designed to encourage experimentation with new ideas for gathering, sharing and using news and information. In many cases, individual projects are still evolving as they continue to influence their targeted field and communities.

News Challenge: Mobile Office Hours: Get your questions answered

Sept. 6, 2012, 9:28 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Photo Credit: Flickr user girl_onthe_les

There are only four days left to submit your application to the Knight News Challenge: Mobile, which closes at noon ET on Sept. 10.

If you’re still thinking about how to form your idea, have questions that aren’t answered by our FAQ or want to clarify anything about the application, you can join us for News Challenge office hours.

At 1:00 p.m. ET, Friday Sept. 7, join us for a video/audio hangout with Knight’s John Bracken, director Journalism/Media Innovation, and Christopher Sopher, journalism program associate.

You can join the session by Skype or by phone:

Please note: You must have the latest version of Skype open and be logged in.

Dial in toll free number: +1 888 240 2560
Meeting ID: 820229184