Knight Blog

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

Data visualization: How long does it take U.S. veterans to get critical services at the Department of Veterans Affairs?

June 20, 2012, 2:05 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation


This week, Knight Foundation announced it will support a new data project to visualize the amount of time Iraq and Afghanistan veterans wait for VA services, including healthcare and education benefits. The effort is an example of the kind of projects Knight is seeking to fund through the Knight News Challenge: Data, which accelerates breakthrough ideas that use data to inform and engage communities. The deadline for the challenge is noon ET Thursday June 21. Here, Dana Morrissey, chief engagement officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America talks about the project.

Iraq and Afghanistan veterans filing a disability claim in Northern California have to wait 320 days for a ruling, according to a local congressman. That’s a backlog of a nearly a year for veterans seeking help for the back pain, post traumatic stress disorder, ear ringing and other conditions suffered through service.

While the problem is particularly acute in California, veterans across the United States have shockingly long waits for a variety of Veterans Affairs (VA) services, including mental health care – with 51 percent of veterans seeking help having to wait 50 days on average for a full evaluation.

Thanks to support from Knight Foundation, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will hold the VA accountable by creating an interactive online tool that crowdsources and visualizes the true wait times for three VA services: mental healthcare, disability claims processing and new GI Bill application processing.

Verified veterans will input their personal wait times, to help visualize the backlog by benefit and geographic region. Additionally, the tool will track the problem over time – noting progress and worsening conditions. This iteration focuses exclusively on the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, though it may be expanded in the future to capture data from veterans of all generations.

10 takeaways from this week's conference on civic media via @michaelmaness

June 20, 2012, 9:38 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Over three days, the innovators and thought leaders at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference talked about data and drones, opengov and algorithms, and even ventured into the possibilities robots might have for the future of news.

In the closing session, Michael Maness, Knight's Vice President of Journalism/Media Innovation, wrapped up how these conversations explored the intersection of where data meets a compellig narrative. 

 “These are not my moments of profundity," Maness said. "They’re based on all of you, and on conversations we’ve had over the past several days.” 

In the video above, Maness pulls out the following 10 takeaways from the conference:

1Is the fury of collecting, are we dismissing the story? In the rush to gather, share and analyze data, are we leaving the story by the wayside? Are we at risk of losing the narrative as we focus on archiving and documenting everything?

2. Fingerprints are all over data. Data isn't neutral. It's created by humans with a specific purpose in mind, and subject to our biases. 

3. Wrestling authenticity and the rise of trust networks. With the increasing streams of information, who has authenticity, objectivity and credibility in journalism and storytelling? How do you go about building that trust? At the same time that people are wrestling with determining where authenticity lies, it's human nature to create trust in your own networks - online and off. We're beginning to see this rise of trust in networks when it comes to issues around reporting and news. 

What's in store for News Challenge Winner Watchup

June 19, 2012, 1:26 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

The following interview with Adriano Farano, whose app Watchup won a 2012 Knight News Challenge grant, is crossposted from

Adriano Farano, a former Knight Fellow, has won a Knight News Challenge grant for Watchup, an iPad app that aggregates high-quality news videos. 

The award was announced today (Monday, June 18th) at the MIT Knight Civic Media Conference in Boston. The award is the first of three Knight News Challenge grants to be bestowed this year, rather than an annual event, to more closely match the pace of innovation. 

Farano is an entrepreneur in residence at StartX, a program to accelerate the development of Stanford’s top entrepreneurs through experiential education.

He first came to Stanford in 2010 as a Knight International Fellow from France. He was the co-founder of, a multilingual pan-European news magazine and pioneer in collaborative journalism with more than 10,000 contributors. He also was a partner at, a media startup focused on database and crowdsourcing journalism. 

We talked to Farano recently about his latest project, the legacy of his Knight Fellowship, and journalism today. 

Farano's Watchup, an app that lets you curate video news that you watch on your iPad

Q: First, tell us about Watchup, the proposal that won you a Knight News Challenge award. What does it do?

A: Watchup is an iPad-only app that lets you catch up on the news through high-quality video channels. With Watchup you can create a video playlist in a snap. Just tap the news videos that matter to you, press play and sit back to watch what’s up in the world. That easy!

Q: How does that help journalists or journalism?

A: From the journalism industry’s perspective, Watchup is going to fix the distribution problem on tablet devices. News organizations are producing an increasing amount of premium video content for digital consumption. The issue is that discovering that content is painful. With Watchup we have created the fastest interface ever to search out quality clips and create a video playlist.

You know, you could almost say that Watchup is like Hulu for news. But with three differences: We are focused on the news vertical (video only), we were born mobile, and we are an agile startup with a good dose of Stanford DNA.