Juan J. Martinez, chief financial officer of Knight Foundation, delivered the following remarks during the opening of a Florida International University conference on “Cybersecurity’s ‘Brave New World’” on Feb. 28, 2015. The remarks have been edited for publication.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide some comments ahead of your important discussions on cybersecurity.
As a foundation we at Knight are always thinking about how our donors’ intent—what they stood for—informs the work we do.
The Knight brothers were great newspapermen.
Not just because they owned over 20 newspapers around the county and sold a lot of paper—though thank goodness they did or I might not be standing in front of you today—but because at their core, they understood and valued the vital role of an informed, engaged citizenry in a healthy democracy. In their time, Knight Ridder newspapers, and others like them, were trusted sources of that information for millions of Americans.
JUAN J. MARTINEZ
From its inception, Knight Foundation supported this vision by being a major funder of journalism training and education programs, promoting free access to information and supporting efforts to hold accountable those that would harm or suppress journalists around the globe.
I don’t have to tell you, though, that the Internet has been a game changer—not for the basic principle that an informed, engaged citizenry is vital for a healthy democracy—but rather for the prior model of distributing and interacting with that information.
The sources of information have expanded exponentially as everyone has the ability to become both a publisher and a consumer of news. But, users are increasingly asking for easier and more reliable ways to validate that information.
In this new environment, Knight has broadened our strategy, becoming the leading nonprofit funder of digital tools, for journalists and others to develop, communicate and disseminate not only their stories but their underlying data; and, to allow users to work collaboratively around the issues they identify as important.
For example, our recent Knight News Challenge (one of Knight’s open innovation contests) asked, “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?” Through it we supported a variety of experiments ranging from increasing Internet access at the Chicago Public Library to tools that track and measure online censorship and secure peer-to-peer messaging systems.
In doing this work we’ve found that trust in data security, and its brother privacy, are vital elements in the development of the future news ecosystem.
Knight continues to work along those lines. Our investments in the Tor Project, Text Secure and Wickr, for example, are about trying to develop and promote secure platforms for sharing information with journalists, and also with peers. These tools can provide users the necessary sense of security they need to engage around sensitive topics.
In this way we continue our founders’ work to promote informed and engaged communities both online and in the real world.
One final note: As we increasingly live our lives online, as the actions and record of our daily lives, and increasingly the interactions with our government, happen on and through the Web, the need for security and privacy becomes more and more acute.
For citizens to continue to have trust in their government, which is necessary for a working democracy to exist, they need platforms for communication that they can have confidence in as well. I hope laying the future of our democracy on your shoulders—especially at this early hour—doesn’t have you running for the door.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you and for your important work in this field. Have a wonderful day.