When the Knight brothers owned newspapers, in the words of Jack Knight, they worked to “bestir the people into an awareness of their own condition, provide inspiration for their thoughts and rouse them to pursue their true interests.”
Today, a stunning array of handheld devices is turning life into a guided tour. But the question remains: Who are the guides? Who digs for the facts and sticks to the facts that rouse us to pursue our true interests?
Those would be journalists, says Knight Foundation Trustee Paul Steiger, The Wall Street Journal’s editor at large and former managing editor.
“Even with the incredible search abilities that exist on the web today, it is difficult to find a reliable and comprehensive analysis of a complicated issue,” Steiger writes in an edition of the Nieman Reports entitled “Goodbye Gutenberg.”
“The capacity to search won’t satisfy humanity’s quest for knowledge if the content available isn’t informed by the rigor of inquiry that resides at the core of journalism’s standards and ethics.”
Almost everything about journalism is changing, from who provides the news to what form it takes, from how it is delivered to the new activist role of the people formerly known as the audience. But one element can’t change: the fair, accurate, contextual search for the truth.
Knight Foundation’s grants help teach the journalists of today and tomorrow how to transform newsrooms to do in the 21st century what Jack and Jim Knight’s newspapers did in the 20th. We help press freedom and freedom of information grow worldwide by demonstrating the value of good journalism as the oxygen of democracy. And we help create new forms of news in the public interest, the news all citizens need to be good citizens.
- The Knight News Challenge is awarding $12 million to first-year winners developing community news experiments worldwide. Recipients include MIT, one of the nation’s top technology schools, which will develop a new generation of news devices; and MTV, a top American television network that will use handheld devices to cover and distribute news about the 2008 presidential campaign. In addition, Adrian Holovaty, one of the country’s top young newspaper programmers, will use his million-dollar prize to develop mashups in a dozen American cities allowing citizens to find all the public information that’s online about themselves, sorted by address.
- News University, our online journalism training project at the Poynter Institute, now has 40,000 journalists and students enrolled for its more than 50 classes, making it the largest project ever to teach and train journalists online. “Thank God for NewsU,” said a journalist from Kenya. “This is the best training our bureau has ever had.”
- In 2006, a new grant added a new web site – the Knight Citizen News Network – a place where citizen journalists are carrying on a “conversation” about the values and ethics of journalism. The network (kcnn.org) is produced by J-Lab, which is part of the new Knight Institute for the Future of Journalism at the University of Maryland.
- Teams of top newspaper editors and their web site gurus gathered at the inaugural leadership seminar of the Knight New Media Center, hosted at the University of Southern California. The editors, from cities like Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Des Moines and Miami, used the time and advice from technologists, trainers and new product specialists to make concrete plans for reinventing their newsrooms to be 24/7 operations, creating things like “web-first publication” and “continuous news desks.”
- We Media Miami brought 300 online journalists, entrepreneurs, communications thinkers, social philosophers and interested individuals to the University of Miami for a discussion of how “connected societies” can and should function. There, we announced that the foundation’s network of endowed chairs, already the nation’s largest, had reached 22, with the creation of the Knight Center for International Media at the University of Miami, home to two Knight Chairs in Journalism, one focusing on visual media, the other on cross-cultural communication. (Earlier in the year, we announced the creation of the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University.) Knight Chairs, already teaching thousands of students, are beginning to dramatically increase their professional outreach through their own dynamic web sites.
- The Carnegie-Knight Initiative for the Future of Journalism Education, including leading deans like Columbia’s Nicholas Lemann, oversaw the first year of its News 21 project. Top students from key journalism schools demonstrated in News 21 that they could do investigative stories on a complex subject (Homeland Security and Liberty) that would be good enough to be picked up by the nation’s leading news organizations – from Forbes to CNN to The New York Times and the Associated Press. And at the same time, the students also delivered those same stories directly to the public on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks through innovative web sites.
- Knight Foundation concluded a four-year Newsroom Training Initiative, reaching some 50,000 journalists and helping encourage a third of the nation’s newsrooms to increase their training budgets. Our Tomorrow’s Workforce project at Northwestern University co-published and launched News Improved, a book explaining the key lesson of that initiative: Newsrooms can adapt if they embark on programs of strategic training.
- Sunshine Week 2007 was an extraordinary success. An estimated 50 million Americans were reached with stories of how citizens use freedom of information laws to get what they need to know from their government. More than 2,000 news stories, cartoons, columns and editorials, more than 2,000 blog entries, more than 1,000 television and radio public service announcements appeared. This campaign, coordinated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, involved dozens of groups, from the Radio and Television News Directors Association to the League of Women Voters. Sunshine Week was endowed in 2006 with a $3.4 million challenge grant to create a Knight First Amendment Fund. Sunshine Week is important because more than 600 laws nationwide have been approved since the 9/11 attacks to restrict public information. This year, a national survey showed that 70 percent of the public believes its government has become too secretive. In addition, the first Knight Open Government Survey revealed that 80 percent of federal government agencies were not obeying the 10-year-old Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments.
- A high school campaign to teach the First Amendment launched in early 2007 with new partner Channel One, which reaches some 7 million secondary school students. The “1 Voice” campaign features lesson plans and public service announcements that add to the network’s normal coverage of First Amendment issues. This project has resulted in a substantial increase – from 50 to 70 percent – of students reporting they are receiving First Amendment teaching in at least one class. Students themselves did the PSAs.
- On the college level, a major new grant to the Stony Brook campus of the New York state university system will make possible the nation’s first collegewide class in News Literacy. Some 10,000 students will take the course over the next four years. The hope is that this course will make these students wiser, smarter consumers of news – and that the impact will result in the course spreading to other universities nationwide.
These current, and varied, programs foreshadow our work ahead. There are many others, too many to detail here – but you can find them on our web site (knightfoundation.org). Like America’s newspapers, we are learning how to operate complementary print and online editions. In our increasing web presence, we will seek, as The Wall Street Journal’s Steiger does, to provide what journalists do best: “Compelling narratives, investigations, explanations, trend-spotters, context, exclusive interviews … ‘scoops of fact’ and ‘scoops of ideas.'”
In the coming year, for example, the Knight News Challenge winners and our leading grantees and Knight alumni will bring their facts and ideas into online conversations aimed at exploring how great journalism can survive and thrive in this century. We hope to see you there. COMMUNITY PARTNERS PROGRAM
The 26 places we call the Knight communities couldn’t be more different. Our workdays begin with an Atlantic sunrise on Myrtle Beach, S.C.’s, Grand Strand and end as the sun slips into the Pacific off Long Beach, Calif. The prairie tableaus of Aberdeen, S.D., and Grand Forks, N.D., are far removed from the teeming downtown sidewalks of Detroit and Miami. The view from a Philadelphia office tower can be just as impressive as the Rocky Mountain vista of Boulder, Colo.
These cities and towns are a random collection except when clustered serendipitously as the 26 places where Jack and Jim Knight, 20th century newspaper owners, demonstrated their passion for community.
In their business approach, the Knight brothers respected the uniqueness of each community. Each has a distinct narrative, a story inextricably tied to people and geography, to history and economy, to culture and leadership. Through the foundation’s Communities Program, the founders’ philanthropic interests play out as an opportunity for each locale to identify trends and big ideas that could lead to transformational change.
Knight Foundation’s broad funding interests seek to improve the vitality of community life through grants and investments addressing children and families, education, civic engagement, housing and community development, economic development, and arts and culture.
In our current efforts and in the work ahead, the foundation’s grant dollars and other resources are helping leaders develop powerful ideas to deal with real issues. Knight Foundation’s community-based program directors are the first point of contact for conversations about those ideas. (Visit our Communities Program page for a Knight communities map and read more on How to Apply.)
Searching for potentially transformational ideas takes leadership, bold partners willing to buy in and accept risks, and time to let ideas develop until they arrive at a tipping point. A sampling of projects and initiatives under way in Knight communities through 2006 and early 2007 demonstrates the power of collective action for the greater good: TOWARD STRONGER REGIONAL ECONOMIES
Two key Knight communities – Akron and Detroit – have concluded that regional economic development is their best strategy for growing beyond their manufacturing past. The foundation is part of large regional initiatives in Northeast Ohio and Southeast Michigan led by philanthropic collaboratives.
Both are born out of a rock-hard realization that deep change is needed. As Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says, “Detroit will either transform or die.”
The defining characteristic of both is aiming to change the nature of each regional economy over time, moving from traditional manufacturing to knowledge-based innovation.
Since 2004, The Fund for Our Economic Future has focused on Akron, Cleveland and 16 counties of Northeast Ohio. In the first phase, backed by $30 million from 85 of the region’s entities including Knight, the fund has engaged more than 20,000 citizens in defining economic priorities; successfully developed and tested a model including a dashboard of economic indicators; and made grants of $18 million to fuel jobs, training and collaboration. Knight has contributed $2 million to the overall $35 million needed for the second phase.
An example of one of the fund’s grantees is BioEnterprise, a business, recruitment and acceleration initiative designed to foster the growth of the region’s bioscience companies. BioEnterprise has 11 client companies in Summit County employing 320 people. The firms have added 90 new jobs in the past year and have attracted more than $15 million in investment financing.
Other regions across the nation look to the Northeast Ohio fund’s playbook for inspiration, including Southeast Michigan. There, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has taken a leading role in the development of the New Economy Initiative, a philanthropy-led commitment to speed the seven-county region’s transformation from a smokestack economy to one that is knowledge-based, entrepreneurial and creative. The initiative will focus broadly, including working with Detroit Renaissance, the leading regional CEO organization, and many others.
Wichita, Kan., is the Air Capital of the World, where 70 percent of the nation’s general aviation aircraft are produced. The state’s largest city takes pride in its Midwestern work ethic, its quality of life, its affordability and its easy commutes.
But a projected shortage of skilled workers and engineers threatens the technical base that is the foundation of Wichita’s manufacturing economy and one-fifth of the city’s jobs. Ensuring that today’s young people have the skills they need to be successful in Wichita’s economy is a challenge and an opportunity for Knight Foundation.
Community leaders have committed to scaling up promising approaches to early childhood education and closing the achievement gap. Knight has joined in funding The Opportunity Project, a potential model for a statewide universal pre-kindergarten program that teaches social and emotional learning skills to 80 percent of the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds attending public and private early learning centers.
In addition to Miami’s Knight Concert Hall and the stunning addition to the Akron Art Museum, two other can-do Knight communities recognize that the arts help drive the economy.
Charlotte, N.C.’s, already impressive downtown is under-going another construction boom. A cultural arts campus is rising adjacent to a new Wachovia Bank tower, including a 1,200-seat Knight Theater. A $5 million grant supports the theater and the operating endowment for the new cultural facilities. In Columbus, Ga., local leaders are building on a culture of success and achievement by supporting a new cultural and tourist attraction at nearby Fort Benning by developing the new National Infantry Museum and Heritage Park. The Knight Chapel on the site’s World War II Street honors the Knight family’s legacy of philanthropy and military service.
And is Philadelphia the Next Great American City? Philly is a walkable, manageable big city with great colleges and a thriving downtown. Leaders there are engaged in a long-range plan to transform the city into an internationally competitive tourist destination by better using Philadelphia’s rich historic and cultural assets. Knight is joining the effort to grow heritage tourism by supporting the renovation of a museum honoring its most famous son. When completed with help from a $500,000 Knight grant, the Ben Franklin Underground Museum intends to be on par with the best biographical museums in the world. GROWING LEADERSHIP
Miami’s community narrative is diversity. Three-quarters of the residents who live in Knight Foundation’s home community were born someplace else; half were born in another country.
We’ve begun to identify and support ways to grow a new generation of multicultural leaders, especially in the non-profit sector, to serve Miami’s diverse populations in the future. Knight has provided recent support of $1 million for the Miami Fellows, an outstanding leadership development program that has assembled four classes of young professionals. The program introduces them over two years to top local leaders and community issues, helping them prepare for leadership in the business, public and private sectors. Knight’s grant will help the program become self-sustaining. HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Chris Coleman has urged his residents to think big, to join in becoming “the most livable city in America.” Many residents appreciate living in this big city with a small-town feel, yet are mindful that all residents regardless of income or status should enjoy and share in its generally high quality of life.
Since 2003, Knight Foundation has been part of Payne-Lake Community Partners, a comprehensive, integrated approach to housing and community development targeting the city’s diverse East Side as well as Lake Street in Minneapolis. The public-private partnership is knitting together small business development, workforce development and affordable housing to build mixed-i0ncome, multicultural communities that work. A key lesson coming out of this work is the importance of engaging the community and embracing the diverse cultures that live and conduct business along the corridor linking the Twin Cities.
If you think you can contribute a big idea or identify an opportunity like these in the next stage of our work in the 26 Knight communities, find out how in How to Apply. NATIONAL INITIATIVES PROGRAM What Sets Social Entrepreneurs Apart from Others?
St. Paul’s Steven Clift coined a term way back in 1994 – “e-democracy” – a way of using the Internet to generate citizen participation in the electoral process. A thriving democracy, he says and believes, depends on local interaction, but today’s lifestyles threaten the concept of civic space. Through E-democracy.org, Clift offers 2,750 regulars an online network of town hall opportunities.
The combination of Clift’s businesslike zeal and passionate social mission pursued over a dozen years caught the attention of Ashoka, the oldest and largest global enterprise supporting social entrepreneurs. Since 1981, more than 1,800 leading social entrepreneurs have been elected as Ashoka Fellows. Clift, a first-year winner of the Knight News Challenge, was inducted into the ranks of Ashoka Fellows in November 2006. “This is a very big deal,” his web site says.
Ashoka’s ability to select and cultivate promising social entrepreneurs makes them a timely partner as Knight Foundation seeks to incorporate a social entrepreneurial approach to our grant making. Over the next three years, Ashoka will select 15 promising social entrepreneurs from the Knight communities as Fellows, providing them with living stipends, professional support and access to a global network of peers.
What sets social entrepreneurs apart from others? They put social benefit ahead of gain. The New York Times calls them “Do-Gooders with Spreadsheets.” Trabian Shorters, Ashoka’s U.S. co-director, says they “create systemic change.” They “want to solve a problem once, not over and over again.”
And as we continue to seek and develop truly transformative ideas in Knight Foundation’s national programs and new initiatives, we know this: To succeed, we’ll need to recognize and reward innovative and system-changing approaches constantly, wherever we find them.
Each February, you can find an impassioned crowd of seasoned social entrepreneurs mingling and learning with newcomers in the Catskills at New Profit Inc.’s Gathering of Leaders. The 2007 get-together brought 143 participants to the Mohonk Mountain House for the third year in a row, in the belief that by giving people committed to social change a way to connect, networks will form and a transformational change will snowball. (Read David Gergen’s essay, and see page 30).
The network is growing, and joining it are supporters interested in building capital markets to finance social enterprises; experts in talent development, and a wide range of policy wonks and politicians who see the power these citizen activists are unleashing.
The New Profit leaders’ gathering comes to Miami in 2008. Building on that, Ashoka will partner next year with New Profit and Echoing Green, another leading social entrepreneur organization, to produce a high-profile Miami conference on social innovation.
Creative Communities Initiative
Social entrepreneurs are also a key part of what noted, and controversial, urbanist Richard Florida has dubbed “the creative class.” Driving community prosperity and increased quality of life, Florida posits, are a new class of workers drawn to “four T’s” – talent, technology, tolerance and territory assets. And communities that will grow, he says, are those taking greatest advantage of their creative, energetic new residents.
Florida’s ideas are put to the test in the new Knight Creative Communities Initiative, now under way in Tallahassee, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Duluth, Minn./Superior, Wis. In each community, the initiative is combining research, training and dialogue to develop a community vision and an accompanying set of initiatives aimed at fostering economic growth. The working titles for a couple of the Tallahassee initiative suggest a distinctively creative approach: Greenovation and Jump Start Plan X.
The Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics continues to wield influence nearly two decades since its founding, driving a reform agenda for college sports that emphasizes academic values in an arena where commercialization often overshadows the underlying goals of higher education.
The pressures are enormous, and yet through the commission’s persistent work, the NCAA has implemented a “one-plus-three” approach to governing college sports, in which college presidents work to ensure academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification. And 2007 is the year that long-needed minimum standards take effect for progress toward graduation for participants in the major sports along with penalties for failing to meet the standards.
To prove the enduring need for an independent voice, half of the field of 16 teams participating on the biggest stage for college basketball – the 2007 NCAA men’s basketball tournament – failed to achieve the required minimum graduation rate. Despite building pressure from basketball coaches, some of whom could be subject to penalties unless their teams’ graduation scores improve, the commission will continue to say the reforms are in the best interests of higher education and should not be weakened.
In October, the commission plans a summit with college faculty, incorporating the results of a survey of faculty attitudes and opinions about academic integrity in college sports.
Cities and towns all across America continue to experience the largest immigrant boom since the last century. Newcomers are coming from an even wider range of nations and settling in nontraditional immigrant gateway cities.
One such place is Fort Wayne, Ind., whose southeast neighborhoods are now home to one of the largest Sudanese populations outside of Africa, including many refugees from the conflict in Darfur. Effectively integrating these “New Hoosiers” and easing their experience in the American Midwest is both a challenge and an opportunity. Knight Foundation continues to support a national initiative to help immigrants who seek an active role in Knight communities like Fort Wayne legally pursue citizenship, eventually becoming voters and volunteers, homeowners and businesspeople.
Helping in that work in Fort Wayne are two recipients of grants from Knight’s American Dream Fund: The African Immigrants Social and Economic Development Agency, which has been providing a civic education program; and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, which has expanded its immigration program to serve more low-income clients.
And as a national foundation with local roots, we’re able to help in other ways. A $750,000 grant to Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne is helping diverse nonprofit groups develop, produce and present arts and cultural activities for the immigrant communities. And a $450,000 grant to the United Way is connecting immigrants to educational and literacy services.
The American Dream Fund is in play over two years in other Knight communities. In Biloxi, Miss., grassroots organizations received $170,000 to help Vietnamese immigrant communities participate in rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
Change is constant and Living Cities, one of the nation’s enduring philanthropic collaborations, now some 15 years old, is revamping its approach to urban revitalization because of broad shifts in the community development field. Building on its core know-how of bundling government, private and philanthropic investments to provide housing in high-risk areas, the funders’ collaborative will expand its focus to include health, education, work force and environment issues – all critical to community well-being. To do so it will form new alliances with funders and service providers. It will explore new financial investment tools and look to spread the knowledge it is accumulating more effectively. The newly adopted strategic plan also promises that Living Cities will more aggressively advocate for government policies that catalyze investments in cities.
The Living Cities funding partners, comprised of Knight and several of the nation’s leading foundations, share a common vision of thriving American cities that are built on healthy, regionally connected neighborhoods. The leadership is committed to expanding this network, allowing each member to accomplish its own mission while collaborating with others on related objectives.
Living Cities played a vital role in 2006 in helping Hurricane Katrina-battered Biloxi, Miss., develop a comprehensive plan for redeveloping the important, traditionally low-income neighborhoods of East Biloxi.
Wireless Communities Initiative
Municipal wireless technology is becoming so widespread, it’s being called “the fifth utility.” Done right, it provides connection to the web and vital information citizens need to live their lives. More than 500 communities across America are actively exploring community wireless initiatives, and One Economy’s Marshall Runkle calls 2007 “the year the rubber meets the road” – when communities like Philadelphia and San Francisco expect to roll out full-scale wireless systems.
Yet access across those communities isn’t universal, available or affordable for everyone – yet.
Knight Foundation has teamed with One Economy, Intel and other partners to help Knight communities understand the opportunity municipal wireless presents, and their readiness for it. As part of the Knight Wireless Communities Initiative, the foundation held a series of webinars in 2006 to connect participants in Knight communities on the subject.
Some jumped right in. In Milledgeville, Knight’s smallest community, we provided a $15,000 grant to One Economy to help city leaders bid for, then land more than $800,000 in funding for wireless through a competitive grant program of the Georgia Technology Authority. Other Knight communities, among them Detroit, Grand Forks and Broward County, Fla., are taking steps to develop wireless systems. The work ahead is ambitious and
But given this technology’s ability to connect all citizens to vital information, coupled with the foundation’s advantage as a national funder with local roots, why shouldn’t we aspire to reach a point, within five years, when universal access to wireless is a reality in all Knight communities?