Knight Foundation and Ashoka Create Fellowships For Social Entrepreneurs in Journalism

MIAMI – As journalism reckons with an uncertain future, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today a partnership with Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, the world’s largest community of leading social entrepreneurs, to create a new cadre of Ashoka Journalism Fellows.

During the next three years, Ashoka and Knight will name 30 Ashoka Journalism Fellows worldwide. These Fellows will receive three-year stipends allowing them to focus full-time on their efforts to provide lasting, visible, systemic change in the way journalism works or the way society sees journalism. They will start new journalism organizations, create new kinds of news outlets, develop new models for investigative reporting, and campaign for public understanding of freedom of expression – launching projects designed to be expanded and copied. They also will become lifelong members of the Ashoka community, sharing and learning with more than 2,000 Ashoka Fellows working around the world in the fields of learning/youth development, the environment, health, human rights, economic development and civic engagement.

“Journalism must confront new media forms and technologies, uneven degrees of professionalism, threats to freedom of the press, and rapidly changing economics,” said Diana Wells, president of Ashoka. “At this moment, journalism needs social entrepreneurs who turn challenges into opportunities. This partnership will help us identify new models for journalism that create transformative social impact.”

The Knight partnership, funded by a $3 million, three-year grant, will build on Ashoka’s 26-year history of support for social entrepreneurs as levers for social change. In recent years, Ashoka Fellows have included several journalists, such as Paulo Lima, who created Magazine Viração, written by young people for young people. In Indonesia, Ashoka Fellow Tosca Santoso’s public radio news agency introduces public debate on important national issues to new audiences.

Ashoka looks for Fellows who have creative, new pattern-changing ideas, entrepreneurial quality and ethical fiber. Through a rigorous nominating and selection process, Ashoka will elect outstanding individuals with ideas that will have far-reaching impact on the field and practice of journalism, using Knight Foundation’s definition of good journalism – the fair, accurate contextual search for truth.

“After five years, an astonishing 97 percent of Ashoka’s social entrepreneurs are still working on the projects they have created. Nine out of 10 of their ideas have been copied by others and half of them have changed public policy,” said Eric Newton, vice president of journalism programs at Knight Foundation. “We need to apply that kind of success record to the field of journalism.”

At least five Fellows will be chosen by Aug. 31, 2008, at least 10 Fellows in 2009 and the remainder, as many as 15, in 2010. In addition to the stipends, which vary in amount according to location and personal needs, the Ashoka Fellows may receive support in business planning, communication, public relations and legal advice, as well as more in-depth technical support. Ashoka also will connect them to other Fellows as peer mentors; provide volunteers and interns; help increase visibility of their work through communications and media expertise; and help them collaborate with other journalism Fellows.

Ashoka

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public is a global community of more than 2,000 social entrepreneurs in 60 countries who deliver innovative solutions to social problems. In 2008, Ashoka will launch programs in Israel and Russia. Ashoka’s global fellowship is privately financed by individuals, venture networks, foundations, and leading business entrepreneurs. To learn more, visit www.ashoka.org

Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. To learn more, visit, www.knightfoundation.org.