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Knight News Challenge opens for applications

February 28th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards

The Knight News Challenge – which provides funding for digital journalism innovations – has now opened the first of three new competition rounds.

Last year two British data projects – ScaperWiki and the Open Knowledge Foundation – were among 16 winners to receive funding.

The competition, which is open to “anyone – businesses, nonprofits, individuals” has been redesigned, split into three shorter, more focused rounds instead of one bigger annual award, as announced by the Knight Foundation at the World Editors Forum in Vienna last year.

The theme for the first round is “networks”. Entries will be accepted until 17 March and winners will be announced in June.

Writing on the Knight News Challenge site, John S Bracken says:

The most common question I’ve been asked since we announced the challenge is exactly what we mean by “networks”. We’re trying not to define the term too narrowly, but I thought a look at David Sarnoff, the creator of the broadcast network in the US, might provide some insights into our motivations.

In the 1950 film Mid-Century: Half Way to Where?, Sarnoff foresaw the coming “pocket-sized radio instruments [that] will enable individuals to communicate with anyone anywhere”. According to Cisco, the number of those “pocket-sized instruments” will equal the number of people on the planet by the end of the year … Today’s communications networks are different from the broadcast tower and its one-to-many reach. The internet, and the mini-computers in our pockets, enable us to connect with one another, friends and strangers, in new ways. Witness the roles of networks in the formation, coverage and discussion of recent events such as the rise of the Tea Partyflash mobs, the Arab spring, last summer’s UK riots and the Occupy movement.

We’re looking for ideas that build on the rise of these existing network events and tools – that deliver news and information and extend our understanding of the phenomenon.

A second round, to be held in the spring, will be an open competition, looking for new ideas broadly. The theme for the third round has yet to be determined.

The Knight News Challenge is run by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and awards funding to innovative ideas for techniques and technologies which engage communities with news and information. Since 2007, Knight has invested more than $100 million (£63 million) in new technologies and techniques.

You can apply for the challenge here.

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Future of news innovation in the US is coming from outside of journalism

Martin Moore is director of the Media Standards Trust. This post first appeared on his blog.

Last week’s Future of News and Civic Media conference organised by the Knight Foundation in Boston (#fncm) was that rare thing – a #futureofnews conference where I came away feeling quite inspired and with a renewed optimism about the future of news (though not as we’ve known it).

In particular, I learnt that there are growing numbers of people in the States who have moved beyond the increasingly circular debates about how to sustain the incumbent news industry. Instead, they are working on lots of projects that use the internet and mobile to provide the public with timely information, in an accessible way. In other words, deliver what journalism did – or was meant to – deliver, without calling it journalism.

Take, for example, this year’s Knight News Challenge Winners (of which Paul Bradshaw tweeted “Very impressed… easily the strongest year yet”). Only one of the twelve winners is directly focused on addressing the travails of the existing news industry – and even this in a very non-traditional way. PRX StoryMarket will provide a way for the public to pitch and pay for news stories on US public radio. It is based on the ‘spot.us‘ model (a Knight winner in 2008), but focused on radio.

Nine others (making up over 80 per cent of the prize in terms of funding) are about enabling and enhancing information flows within communities and hardly mention the word ‘journalism’.

Citytracking will “make municipal data easy to understand with software that allows the users to transform web data into maps and graphics” (by the renowned Stamen Design – see this map for example).

The Cartoonist will create a free tool that allows people to produce cartoon-like current event games

Local wiki will “help people learn and share community news and knowledge through the creation of local wikis”. The two young guys who won the award started a local wiki in Davis, California six years ago which has grown to be the biggest media source in the town.

GoMap Riga will “inspire residents to become engaged in their community by creating an online map where people can browse and post their own local news and information”. Again, this is about people – the community – putting up and reading content about their neighbourhood (run by a tremendous Latvian duo – Kristofs Blaus and Marcis Rubenis).

Front Porch Forum will help residents connect with “their community by creating open-source software for neighbourhood news”. Essentially micro local private sites based around a handful of blocks.

Stroome allows people to edit video online, for free, within their browser.

CitySeed will ‘develop mobile applications that enable people to geotag ideas for improving neighbourhoods’. The example they give is of someone geotagging a location for a community garden.

Tilemapping will enable residents to ‘learn about local issues by creating a set of easy-to-use tools for crafting hyperlocal maps’.

WindyCitizen’s real time ads will ‘help online start-ups generate revenue and become sustainable by creating enhanced software that produce real-time ads’. This may well help journalists and the news industry, but notice there’s no mention of news outlets, just ‘online start-ups’.

Of the final two, one enhances traditional reporting (Order in the Court 2.0), and the other will use social media to report on a US battalion in Afghanistan (One-Eight).

And it wasn’t just the Knight News Challenge winners that eschewed traditional ideas of journalism. Most of the conference was spent talking about new media tools that served a public purpose – or “civic media” as its termed in the US. News is a part of this, but only in the sense that there is a public value to news.

We saw a demo by SourceMap – a site that helps you map where things come from and what they are made of; and of boy.co.tt – a site that makes consumer boycotts much more targeted. We were introduced to streetblogs – a ‘daily news source, online community and political mobilizer for the Livable Streets movement’; seeclickfix – like MySociety’s fixmystreet; transparencydata.com from the Sunlight Foundation; groundcrew.us – that uses GPS and mobile communication to coordinate volunteering, events, political canvassing etc.; and many other sites and services that enhance communication, focus citizen activism, bring people closer to public authorities, and fulfil those perennial twin goals of greater transparency and accountability.

There is lots of development already being done in the US with public data. In Boston, the release of real time transport data by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in November 2009 generated a slew of creative hacking (see this Wall Street Journal piece). The same is now happening in New York. There is also an open wiki for helping collaboration and gathering best practice at http://wiki.openmuni.org/.

Much of the new development is emerging from US universities, such as MIT. At the MIT Media Lab’s Center for the Future of Civic Media, for example. It defines civic media as “any form of communication that strengthens the social bonds within a community or creates a strong sense of civic engagement among its residents. Civic media goes beyond news gathering and reporting”.

We in the UK are now expecting ‘a tsunami of data’ to flow from government thanks to the Big Society declaration (including a new ‘right to data’). Some people have begun using the data for development – such as the live train map for the London underground. But it is well worth casting our eyes across the Atlantic – we can learn alot from current developments in the US.

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DocumentCloud aims to release a public beta in March 2010

Last year we reported several times on Knight News Challenge 2009 winner DocumentCloud. It’s a non-profit project, initiated by a small team from ProPublica and the New York Times, to build an open-source platform to make data more easily accessible.

It will point users to documents hosted elsewhere, similar to a card cataloguing system or search engine. Only in rare circumstances will DocumentCloud serve the documents itself. Partnered by Thomson Reuters, its 20+ beta testers include Talking Points Memo,the US National Security Archive, the Gotham Gazette and the UK’s Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Yesterday, the Gotham Gazette’s former technology director and now DocumentCloud program director, Amanda Hickman, said that a beta should be released in March 2010.

“The very most frequent question we get is ‘When can I try it?’ The answer to that one is: we’re committed to releasing a public beta in March,” she said, in an email update to the project’s followers.

Hickman said that the project still welcomes new contributors: “If you’re part of a news organisation that is planning to use DocumentCloud, take a look a the list of document contributors on our site (http://www.documentcloud.org/document-contributors/) and make sure your organisation is listed there. If you aren’t listed, let me know so that we can fix that!”

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Knight News Challenge extends application deadline

October 13th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events

The Knight News Challenge, which will see up to $5 million granted to journalism and online media projects, has extended the application deadline for 2010.

Entrants to this year’s challenge can now submit proposals up until December 15.

Previous winners of the award include DocumentCloud, a site providing an online database of documents that will be  searchable by topic and location; and the Media Standards Trust’s ‘Transparent Journalism’ project.

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Ryan Sholin’s five tips for hiring developers

Ryan Sholin, of ReportingOn and WiredJournalists, shares five tips on the Knight News Challenge blog: “How to hire developers and make technology decisions without even trying in five easy steps.”

Tips at this link…

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Nieman Journalism Lab: Interview with KNC winner Ushahidi

Journalism.co.uk yesterday reported on one of the Knight News Challenge winners, DocumentCloud, and here’s a post from the Nieman Journalism Lab on another winner, Ushahidi:

“One winner in particular, Ory Okolloh, has cultivated a platform specifically designed to technologically aid citizens in the collection of local news. Her site, Ushahidi – Swahili for ‘testimony’ – seeks to empower people in disenfranchised regions who frequently lack the resources to report on the atrocities occurring in their areas.”

Full interview at this link…

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The official launch of Spot.us: video explains all

November 11th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Multimedia

Over at the Invisible Inkling we spotted this: the Knight News Challenge 2008 winner, David Cohn, has revealed the latest version of Spot.Us, the community sourced news project, over the last few days – which officially launched yesterday. This video explains the engine for community-funded reporting, from donation to publication.


Spot.Us – Community Funded Reporting Intro from Digidave on Vimeo

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