Community and Place-Based Foundations and the KCIC

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Journalism & Media Innovation, Engaged Communities

The last two decades have brought fundamental and increasingly rapid change in the way information is created, published and disseminated. Communities have noticed a decline in the breadth, quality and relevance of traditional local news sources and investigative reporting. Commercial radio has almost entirely exited local news reporting and both printed daily newspaper readership and broadcast television news viewership have decreased dramatically. This massive media upheaval is endangering sources of information that have been essential to communities in a democracy.

At the same time, however, new models, tools and technologies are emerging at a staggering pace. Communities are experiencing the rise of new information sources, including online news sites from traditional news organizations and citizen journalists, as well as Twitter feeds from local political candidates and social networking websites for local PTA members. In general, citizens are increasingly involved in the co-creation of this information. These developments hold great promise, even if they are not yet fully understood or adopted in communities. The online public appears to be participating and engaging in new ways, with individuals moving from passive consumers of information to active contributors to information. In theory, at least, underserved communities can have a voice in ways previously unimagined. Perhaps best of all, the cost to create and publish information continues to drop. Yet news consumers in this new sea of information risk relying on sources that are neither credible nor comprehensive, and participation in online media is unevenly distributed, with marginalized populations continuing to lose out.

Amidst this sea-change scenario one thing is clear – the future community information landscape will critically impact the health and vitality of our communities.

This brief explores how, through the Knight Community Information Challenge, community and place-based foundations are incorporating community information needs into their work for the benefit both of their communities and their own strategies and missions.

Projects discussed in this publication


To develop open-source software allowing "real-time advertising" that can be updated at any time by local business using social media

ACT for Alexandria

For the ACTion Network, a public issues online forum where problems are posted, debated and citizens decide on what actions to take in response

Be Counted, Represent

To use cellular phones and other technologies to alert Latino youth to the importance of census participation


To create a digital platform for engaging the seven-county region in development and use of greenways and green spaces they share

To expand reporting capacity of Florida health news coverage in Tallahassee, Bradenton and Miami

YouChoose Bay Area

To support "YouChoose Bay Area" (a.k.a. Envision Bay Area), an effort to reduce carbon emissions in California using the Internet, public radio and public television to inform the community

A Civic Blast

To deliver relevant content through new media channels targeted to 18-30 year olds who have not attended college

BG Time

To bridge ethnic, economic and especially generational lines to raise digital literacy among seniors, enhancing their participation in civic dialogue

C-U Citizen Access

To use a multifaceted approach to address information needs of overlooked populations in a college town

CommonWealth Magazine

To support the reporting depth and on-line reach of this award-winning, quarterly journal of MassINC, a non-profit, Boston think-tank


To transform a proven innovation into a national model for community foundations to utilize and inspire citizens to lead change

Minnesota Idea Open

To spread a deeper understanding of key community issues and challenges by engaging citizens in problem solving efforts

To establish four neighborhood bureaus that will generate thorough written, video and audio journalism about the community


To create a central site where critical dialogue about the community is aggregated, archived, indexed and disseminated

Digital Public Square (

To position the Community Foundation of Palm Beach and Martin Counties as a civic leader by extending their management of Knight Foundation's community guideline

About our Journalism & Media Innovation focus area

Our goal at Knight Foundation is to preserve the best aspects of journalism and use innovation to expand the impact of information in the digital age.

About our Grant Assessments methodology

As part of our grant making process, program teams work with grantees to establish indicators that will be tracked to provide feedback on project implementation and outcomes. In certain cases, we also partner with grantees to conduct in-depth third-party evaluations to understand the effectiveness and impact of specific projects.