“Your elected representatives at all levels are no better or worse than you deserve,” said Jack Knight in 1946. “It is depressing to hear citizens say they’re too busy for politics and then express disgust at the outcome of an election. Just who is supposed to make that fight for them?” At Knight Foundation, we care about ensuring that citizens have access to the news and information they need to participate fully in democracy. One of the tools we have is the Knight News Challenge; over the last eight years we’ve invested $50 million in more than 130 projects that experiment with new ways of producing and sharing information as our traditional methods have been disrupted. We see access to quality information as a public good. The importance is demonstrated each year when we as citizens go to the polls to elect our leaders. However, we have consistently seen growing disinterest in elections, especially at the local level. That’s why earlier this year we decided to make elections the theme of this current News Challenge, posing the question, How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? Today we’re awarding a total of $3.2 million to the 22 winners. We’ve gathered them in Austin, Texas, where the Annette Strauss Institute of Civic Life at the University of Texas is hosting the conference “Breaking Through: Increasing Civic Participation Before, During and After Elections (you can watch via live stream).
Photo: Evolution of reading on a subway, by Alfred Lui on Flickr.com At Knight Foundation, we are looking to support projects that advance the practice of journalism in the digital age. According to the Pew Research Center, 39 of the top online news sites receive more traffic from mobile devices than desktop computers. Newsrooms face a considerable challenge determining how to best present news and information for mobile users. That’s why Knight Foundation is investing $2.6 million in to create a mobile lab inside the Guardian US to experiment with new and engaging ways for people to consume news on smaller screens. The team will consist of reporters, editors, designers and developers, embedded within the Guardian’s news operations in New York, working in real time on real stories. They will share all the data, best practices and lessons learned from this experiment so that journalists all over the world can learn from it and replicate the techniques inside their own newsrooms. Some of the questions the team will consider include: How can they capture and engage people as they carry these highly intelligent pieces of hardware around with them, almost every moment of the day? How can news organizations use location to better serve users? How can they integrate social and mobile platforms? What are new ways for presenting and gathering data on mobile? How do we involve readers in the newsgathering process in a way that only mobile can? Presentation of stories on mobile has been limited by small screens and other built-in constraints that come with the platform. How might we push the boundaries of presentation and user experience? For images, graphics, video and audio?