News Experiments to Help Transform Community Life

With $5.1 million from Knight Foundation

MIAMI — Nine projects that use crowdsourcing, mobile technology and digital investigative journalism to bring news and information to communities in new ways have been named winners of the 2009 Knight News Challenge.

“The future of news is being tested, strengthened and advanced everyday by News Challenge experiments and the innovators behind them,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO.

The winners make up the third round of the five-year, $25 million News Challenge, an international contest to fund digital news experiments that transform community life.

The largest winner is DocumentCloud, a project conceived by journalists from The New York Times and ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom. DocumentCloud will create an online database managed as an independent nonprofit where the media, watchdog groups and the public can find, share and analyze source documents.

Among other winning ideas:

  • Helping citizens around the world use cell phones to report and distribute news, using the wisdom of the crowd to accelerate investigative reporting and enhance breaking news reports.
  • Developing a mobile media toolkit where media organizations and citizen journalists worldwide can easily download mobile applications to create and broadcast local news;
  • Launching a digital space where the public can report errors in media reports and track the ensuing dialogue and possible results.

This year the Knight News Challenge is funding $5.1 million in news projects, including investments in 17 winners from 2007 and 2008 who continue to receive funding.

The winning projects were announced at the Future of News and Civic Media Conference at MIT in Boston. More than 45 past and present Knight News Challenge winners attended and participated in BarCamp workshops to help spur more news experiments and collaborative projects.

Several ongoing Knight News Challenge projects are about to launch their open-source software – including Everyblock.com and VillageSoup.com– and are working with media outlets considering adopting them for widespread use.

“With now more than 45 projects launched, Knight News Challenge winners aren’t just individuals with a prize, but a community of innovators working together on improving news and information for communities around the world,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director.

The Knight News Challenge will accept applications again beginning Sept. 1.

Media Resources:

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation invests in journalism excellence worldwide and in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contact

Marc Fest, VP of Communications, (305) 908-2677, fest@knightfoundation.org

 

2009 News Challenge Winners

DocumentCloud
Amount: $719,500
Winners: Eric Umansky and Scott Klein, ProPublica; Aron Pilhofer and Ben Koski, The New York Times
Project: To enrich investigative news reports by creating an easily searchable, free, public online database of public records.
Media Bugs
Amount: $335,000
Winners: Scott Rosenberg
Project: To create a neutral environment where the public can report, track, discuss and help resolve errors in news coverage
Councilpedia
Amount: $250,000
Winners: Gail Robinson, Gotham Gazette
Project: To inform and engage New Yorkers around local issues by creating a publicly accessible wiki devoted to local legislators’ voting records and campaign contributions
 
Data Visualization (VIDI toolkit for Drupal)
Amount: $243,600
Winners: Aaron Presnall, The Jefferson Institute
Project: To create a suite of online tools that make community news and information easy to visualize

Mobile Media Toolkit
Amount: $200,000
Winners: Katrin Verclas, MobileActive
Project: To help media organizations and citizen journalists around the world easily find the mobile devices and applications they need to create and broadcast local news reports

The Daily Phoenix
 (ZonieReport.com)
Amount: $95,000
Winners: Aleksandra Chojnacka and Adam Klawonn
Project: To help commuters on Phoenix’s new light rail system use news, games and social networking to learn about their city

Crowdsourcing Crisis Information
Amount: $70,000
Winners: Ory Okolloh, Ushahidi
Project: To strengthen the reporting and understanding of breaking news events by creating a free web map and timeline that combines and plots reports from citizens and journalists

Virtual Street Corners
Amount: $40,000
Winners: John Ewing
Project: To broadcast on street corners video newscasts about two disparate neighborhoods as a way to spur discussion among the residents of those very different neighborhoods

CMS Upload Utility
 (CMS Up-Loader)
Amount: $10,000
Winners: Joe Boydston, McNaughton Newspaper Company
Project: To save media organizations both time and resources by creating a quick way to convert and load multiple newspaper files to a web site

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.