Announcing the 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge Winners – Knight Foundation

Announcing the 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge Winners

We’re excited to share with you the newest winners of the Knight Community Information Challenge, receiving a combined $2.26 million in matching grants for news and information projects.

As traditional media continue to struggle, community and place-based foundations have an increasingly important role to play in helping groups provide local news and information. And they’ve stepped up to the challenge over the last four years, along the way strengthening their leadership and making an impact on issues facing the environment, children, urban planning and so many more.

Community and place-based foundations spent $58 million on news and information projects last year, according to a recent survey – and 38 percent of those who answered so they expect that investment to increase in coming years.

The winning ideas, announced today at the Council on Foundation’s fall conference, include projects to:

Provide information about specific issues: Whether its increasing coverage of charter schools in New Orleans; encouraging healthy food and lifestyles in Lexington, Ky.; or helping rural Puerto Ricans find and create jobs; foundations are helping to shine the light on critical topics.

Tell stories through data: In Denver and Atlanta, three foundations are finding ways to take advantage of increasingly available government data and put it to use for communities.

Strengthen local, professional journalism: Projects will connect rural journalists in South Dakota, hire beat reporters for a Vermont start-up and expand public radio in the Adirondack region of New York State.

Join us in congratulating the 19 winners. A full list is below.

Applications will be accepted again in January.

Putting 21st Century Public Media on a Rural, New York Map

Recipient: Adirondack Community Trust, Lake Placid, N.Y.

Project: North Country Public Radio

Amount: $302,000

Summary: To improve this rural community’s access to news and information, North Country Public Radio will expand and deepen its broadcast and digital operations and encourage residents to contribute content and help sustain its regional news and information service. Training programs will both engage community members in the news and help establish a path for the next generation of public media professionals.

Promoting Healthy, Informed Choices in Kentucky

Recipient: Blue Grass Community Foundation, Lexington, Ky.

Project: Food Information Center

Amount: $52,000

Summary: To promote healthy, informed lifestyle choices in the East End neighborhood of Lexington, the Blue Grass Community Foundation will create a virtual food information center where locals can share information about local food and health assets. Community members, including kids in this area where 97 percent of students receive free or reduced lunches, will interview elders to produce stories. The site, in addition to in-person seminars, will ensure that residents can learn about gardening, food preparation, cooking and entrepreneurship.

Providing a Voice for Brooklyn Residents

Recipient: Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Project: The Brooklyn Bureau

Amount: $52,000

Summary: To provide hyper-local news to underserved neighborhoods in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Brooklyn Community Foundation will establish The Brooklyn Bureau, an investigative reporting website featuring timely and compelling stories about key local issues. While Brooklyn is home to several strong community and ethnic newspapers and known for its fleet of bloggers, many of the borough’s more than 70 neighborhoods are still underserved. The project will use multiple platforms to capture its diverse readers, including a website, mobile apps, RSS feeds and more. It will also host online forums on pressing community issues.

Raising Awareness about Towing Practices in California

Recipient: California Community Foundation, Los Angeles, Calif.

Project: Report and Map It

Amount: $77,000

Summary: To raise awareness about the impounding of cars, the California Community Foundation will enable locals to use mobile phones to anonymously report car impoundments. The Report and Map It campaign will feature a mobile app that will aggregate information and location details from text messages and photos sent by residents. This data will be presented in a digestible way, aiming to stop abuses by influencing policy. The campaign will also establish a bilingual, region-specific website and training sessions to help residents learn about their legal rights.

Expanding the Reach of Hyper-local News in Charlottesville, Va.

Recipient: Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, Charlottesville, Va.

Project: Charlottesville Tomorrow

Amount: $52,000

Summary: To strengthen engagement with readers and donors, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation will increase the staff of the community’s hyper-local news site and expand coverage for its community wiki, which provides in-depth information on local issues, and for its 3D mapping projects, which aids in community planning. In doing so, Charlottesville Tomorrow seeks to increase community involvement in local issues .

Empowering Disenfranchised Communities to Take Action on Environmental Justice in Western New York

Recipient: Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.

Project: Grow Citizen Journalism

Amount: $132,800

Summary: To empower disenfranchised local communities affected by environmental issues, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo will expand its site, a previous challenge winner, to include mobile reporting, mapping and new information applications. These new tools will give a voice to low-income communities and people of color who are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and have few resources to take action. The Grow Citizen Journalism project will also train citizens in story creation techniques so they can share their first-hand experiences with their toxic surroundings to raise awareness of the issues and encourage action.

Creating a Watchdog for New Orleans’ Charter Schools

Recipient: Greater New Orleans Foundation, New Orleans, La.

Project: School Board Coverage

Amount: $52,000

Summary: To provide greater transparency and accountability in charter schools, the local news site The Lens will train college journalism students to tweet from and write about the meetings of local charter schools. New Orleans has the highest percentage of students attending charter schools in the country, yet there is little coverage of the boards that govern the schools. Each student journalist will cover a different school and report the events and details of important board meetings and gatherings. All relevant content will be archived, in order to ensure greater accountability in how the schools are run.

Reporting on Nebraska’s Refugee Communities

Recipient: Lincoln Community Foundation, Lincoln, Neb.

Project: Refugee Storytelling

Amount: $26,000

Summary: To provide more coverage of the city’s refugee community, journalism students from the University of Nebraska will move a class to a local community center and use multimedia storytelling to share stories. The content will then be offered to local outlets, aiming to promote both understanding in Lincoln and civic engagement among the city’s newest residents.

Rethinking Public Broadcasting in Long Beach

Recipient: Long Beach Community Foundation, Long Beach, Calif.

Project: Public Access TV

Amount: $327,000

Summary: In returning public access television to Long Beach, this project will create hyper-local, multilingual programming on a variety of platforms. Programming, some contributed by residents reporting from a network of neighborhood studios, will be presented in English, Khmer and Spanish. A nightly program will showcase professional and citizen-created content, aiming to get more people engaged in local issues. In addition, an outreach and training program will encourage people of all ethnicities and age groups to participate.

Using Information to Spur the Economy in Rural Puerto Rico

Recipient: Puerto Rico Community Foundation, San Juan, P.R.

Project: Increasing Rural Access to Information

Amount: $127,000

Summary: This project will provide information on jobs and entrepreneurship to communities in rural Puerto Rico, where the unemployment rate is about 40 percent. Organizers will share tips on how to create jobs, get permits and manage projects, among other topics, either online or through texting and other mobile technologies. 

Empowering Latino Youth in the Voting Process

 Recipient : Silicon Valley Community Foundation, San Jose, Calif.

Project: Mobile Vote App

Amount: $37,000

Summary: To empower and engage young Latinos, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation will team with Voto Latino to create a mobile app that will connect voters to information about voter registration. The multifaceted mobile voter application will be available to Apple and Android devices, and will target young Latinos – currently the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. It will explain the voting and registration processes, provide details on prerequisites and answer frequently asked questions.

Strengthening Rural Journalism in South Dakota

Recipient: South Dakota Community Foundation, Pierre, S.D.

Project: Dakotafire Media

Amount: $242,000

Summary: To strengthen regional coverage, Dakotafire Media will create an alliance of rural journalists to provide in-depth reporting on topics vital to rural South Dakota. The alliance will connect these journalists through online meetings, social networking and collaborative writing software – allowing them to cover topics they couldn’t meaningfully address alone. The journalists, many of whom come from newspapers with staffs of three or fewer people, will also be able to exchange ideas and learn from each other. As some of these newspapers don’t have websites, Dakotafire will offer an online presence for them. The funding comes at a time of great change in the rural Dakotas, where the population is declining and aging, and metro newspapers are retreating to urban centers.

Empowering Atlanta Neighborhoods to Use Data for Community Change

Recipient: The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.

Project: Neighborhood Corner

Amount: $52,000

Summary: To help inform residents and engage them in neighborhood issues, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta will connect residents to an extensive data hub and train them on how to add their personal stories, photos and videos of their communities. The hub, called Neighborhood Nexus, is a comprehensive information resource that empowers community leaders to enhance the quality of life in the Atlanta region. The Community Foundation hopes the online collaboration and in-person dialogue will transform decision making and empower citizens and leaders to lobby for and make improvements in their area.  

Empowering Youth to Share Their Viewpoints on Air

Recipient: The Community Foundation of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Project: Youth-On-Air

Amount: $27,000

Summary: To engage young people in local issues, Salt Lake City teens will have the opportunity to develop a Youth-On-Air broadcasting program. Working with Spy Hop Productions, the students will produce original stories about the issues affecting their lives. These stories will then be shared on TV, on radio and online through Web streaming. Their stories will aim to inform and engage citizens of all ages in conversations about social, political and economic issues of significance, while empowering teens to express themselves and take action for change.

Unlocking Public Data for Denver Residents

Recipient: The Denver Foundation, Denver, Colo.

Project: Colorado Data Commons

Amount: $134,900

Summary: To increase residents’ access to useful news and information, The Denver Foundation, partnering with The Piton Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, will create an online tool to unlock public data and make it easy for anybody to read and use. The project, called the Colorado Data Commons, will begin by identifying the barriers that keep government data from being more accessible, then devise tools to solve those problems. Some key features include an ability to link data sets and provide multiyear comparisons, creating not only tools to remove the barriers but also ways to visualize data that integrate social media so people can share their analyses. As an example, community groups could use the system to create a dashboard that tracks, or even maps, issues important to them.

Turning Data into Engaging Stories in Colorado

Recipient: The Piton Foundation, Denver, Colo.

Project: CitizenAtlas

Amount: $202,000

Summary: To foster greater civic dialogue, The Piton Foundation will draw on its 15 years of democratizing information to create free tools to help citizens translate public data into captivating stories. A major component will be an easy-to-use, online platform that allows users to post their stories and search data and content for others to interact with. The program will also provide training and outreach programs to empower underprivileged communities to navigate the site and tell their stories. The Children’s Corridor, a North Denver neighborhood home to some of the city’s poorest communities, will serve as a pilot for the public release.

Expanding a Crowdsourced Community News Site in Ohio

Recipient: The Raymond John Wean Foundation, Warren, Ohio


Amount: $62,000

Summary: To keep citizens up to date on local issues, The Raymond John Wean Foundation will expand, a collaborative, investigative reporting platform run by college students and professional editors. The project will use the existing model in Youngstown, Ohio, which crowdsources story topics from and about the community, and expand it to other universities and media partners throughout the state. The foundation hopes that greater interaction and increased local content will foster solutions to neighborhood problems.

Expanding Citizen Voice in Canadian Media

Recipient: The Winnipeg Foundation and The Winnipeg Foundation USA, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Project: Community News Commons

Amount: $202,000

Summary: To strengthen the flow of community news in Winnipeg, the Community News Commons project will create local hubs to train, engage and empower citizen journalists. The hubs, including a partnership with Canada’s first news café – operated by the Winnipeg Free Press daily newspaper – and the city’s libraries, local community college programs and other media partners, will host training and provide internships and reporting mentorship for local residents and college journalism students. Multimedia reports will be distributed through an onsite news station, via the Web and at café-hosted community news events.

Strengthening Investigative Journalism in Vermont

Recipient: Vermont Community Foundation


Amount: $104,000

Summary: To bolster watchdog journalism, will use funds to hire an investigative reporter to cover health reform and energy issues in Vermont. The reporter will gather material for long-form stories while providing daily coverage to the news site’s 23,000 readers statewide. Stories will focus on health and energy as they are issues that drive the state’s economy and are among the topics Vermonters care about most.

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