Tackling new information challenges in the digital age focus of eight projects supported by $4.5 million from Knight Foundation

MIAMI – Nov. 16, 2017 – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced $4.5 million in new funding to eight leading organizations working to create more informed and engaged communities through innovative use of technology. The organizations receiving support include: Code2040, Code for Science & Society, Columbia Journalism School, Data & Society, DocumentCloud, Emblematic Group, HistoryPin and mRelief.

The announcement commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Knight News Challenge, an open call for “bold experiments that use the digital world to connect people to the real world.” Launched in 2007, the challenge was created out of the recognition that changes to our information landscape had transformed the way people create, consume and share information.

“The Knight News Challenge was born in response to the digital disruption of journalism. The innovators receiving support today answered a call to action to use technology to create stronger, more informed communities,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

All of the award recipients being announced today are former News Challenge winners.

“These innovators will help create lessons for us all as we grapple with new information challenges in the coming decade,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for technology innovation.

The organizations receiving support will be recognized today at an event hosted by the Paley Center for Media in New York at 1 p.m. ET. Tune into the livestream here: kng.ht/live.

Since 2007, Knight has provided more than $49 million in funding to 190 projects. Winners include leading internet entrepreneurs, emerging media innovators and established newsrooms. In addition to funding, winners have also benefited from a network of influential peers and advisers who have helped advance their ideas.

To explore lessons learned over the last decade, Knight Foundation released a report today, examining how the challenge impacted the winners, their projects and the broader fields of news, media and journalism. To read more about the report, visit: http://kng.ht/knc10report.

The projects receiving Knight Foundation support today include:

Code2040 | Project lead: Laura Weidman Powers | $3 million | Twitter: @Code2040, @laurawp | San Francisco: Funding will support the growth and sustainability of Code2040, a nonprofit that seeks to build a more equitable, inclusive and prosperous economy by diversifying tech. Code2040 will expand programs that connect black and Latinx tech talent with leading companies, and broaden its focus beyond technology enterprises to work with industries that are becoming more tech-driven such as finance and media. It will grow its advisory services, which help companies create more inclusive workplaces, while increasing its communications and evaluation capacities. Through these efforts, by 2020, Code2040 will have 40,000 students, professionals, companies and volunteers in its network, working to diversify tech and create economic opportunity. Code2040 is a 2014 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Strengthening the Internet and received additional funding from Knight in 2015.

Columbia Journalism School | Project lead: Jonathan Stray, Pierre Forcioli-Conti | $250,000 | Twitter: @cjworkbench, @jonathanstray and @pierreconti | New York: Columbia Journalism School will enable reporters to produce sophisticated data journalism without coding through an innovative collaborative platform called Workbench. The tool allows reporters to scrape, clean, analyze and visualize data by connecting community-built modules, and then to share both the results and the process behind them. The team will work to establish a community of journalists and developers that use and contribute to Workbench. Jonathan Stray is a 2011 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Data.

Emblematic Group | Project lead: Nonny de la Peña | $250,000 | Twitter: @emblematicgroup | Santa Monica, California: Emblematic Group will design and build REACH, a platform for hosting and distributing 3D models of locations that news organizations can use to create innovative and cost-effective “walk around” VR content. Emblematic will seed the platform with five prototypical locations, exterior and interior, captured via photogrammetry; the platform will also include a simple interface that allows journalists to insert their own material, such as interviews with individuals who will appear to have volumetric depth inside the environment. Nonny de la Peña is a 2010 News Challenge winner.

mRelief | Project lead: Rose Afriyie | $250,000 | Twitter: @mrelief_form | Chicago: mRelief will promote efficient and responsive government interactions through the use of technology, by developing the Benefits Information Project, a system designed to make it easier for individuals to check their eligibility and apply for government programs. The team will build a tool in which application data can be loaded and then standardized; the data can then be shared with agencies responsible for delivering benefits, thereby streamlining the process. In addition, they will introduce speech-to-text transcription to provide end-to-end social services support to people in need of benefits. mRelief is a 2016 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Data; they also received initial support from Knight through the Prototype Fund.

Data & Society Research Institute | Project lead: Janet Haven | $250,000 | Twitter: @datasociety | New York: Data & Society will launch the Disinformation Action Lab, a project to study and analyze propaganda and disinformation threats and develop solutions to address them. The lab will use research to explore issues such as: how fake news narratives propagate; how to detect coordinated social media campaigns; and how to limit adversaries who are deliberately spreading misinformation. To understand where online manipulation is headed, it will analyze the technology and tactics being used by players at the international and domestic level. Data & Society is a 2016 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Data; they also received additional funding from Knight in 2016.

Historypin | Project lead: Jon Voss | $250,000 | Twitter: @jonvoss, @Historypin | New Orleans: Funding will support the national rollout of Historypin’s Storybox project, a kit designed to strengthen communities through shared personal stories. Against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized nation, the small story-sharing sessions bring strangers together in ways that help participants focus on commonalities, bridging divides between generations, cultures, and rural and urban locations. By partnering with local libraries, Historypin’s Storybox helps leverage and support a national network of trusted institutions and dynamic civic meeting places. The project will make available free-to-download kits, kits for purchase, subscription services, training and customizations. The Historypin.org platform also provides content gathering and curation tools, together with evaluation tools and data dashboards that help organizers show the social impact of the program. Historypin is a 2016 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Libraries. 

DocumentCloud | Project lead: Aron Pilhofer | $50,000 | Twitter: @documentcloud | Philadelphia: DocumentCloud, an open-source platform used by thousands of newsrooms to share, analyze and publish documents, will help create innovative tools for journalists by opening its platform to a select number of contributors, through a program called News Nerds in Residence. Select collaborators will work closely with the team to develop and launch open-source tools, products and services designed to help journalists do their jobs better. Collaborators will have instant access to DocumentCloud’s user base to test and learn throughout the development process. If testers find them useful, the tools will become a core feature of DocumentCloud. Document Cloud will host will host one News Nerd in Residence per quarter through calendar year 2018 (a total of three). Collaborators will be chosen through an open application process. DocumentCloud is a 2007 winner of the Knight News Challenge, and has received additional funding from Knight Foundation.

Code for Science & Society | Project Lead: Max Ogden | $200,000 | Twitter: @dat_project | Portland, Oregon: Support will help academic and government institutions more easily share data on the web using Dat, a suite of tools that allow users to track changes, collaborate, and redistribute data over a peer-to-peer network. Through outreach and pilot programs with universities, Dat has established a growing community of engaged users, and an exciting ecosystem of peer-to-peer web-based tools and products built on Dat. Funding will help Dat grow the team’s business and client development expertise to transform the way academic institutions and government clients handle data. Max Ogden is a 2013 winner of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov.

For more information on the Knight News Challenge visit: knightfoundation.org/challenges/knight-news-challenge

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.