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Knight News Challenge: Apply for Funding for Innovative Projects

Here’s the latest from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (funder of some of our work) on its 21st Century News Challenge, a contest awarding as much as $5 million for innovative ideas using digital experiments to transform community news and information exchange. The deadline for applications is Nov. 1, 2008.

With the slogan “You Invent It. We Fund It!” the contest is open to community-minded innovators worldwide, from software designers to journalists to citizens and students of any age. Do you have a big idea for informing and inspiring a geographic community using social media, Web 2.0 tools or OpenID? How about exchanging information via video, photos or text messaging? A way to integrate game theory with web browsing to support local community engagement? Come on, push the edge – we’re seeking true innovation!

Press release:

To support applications, Knight has created a new incubator — the News Challenge Garage — where prospective applicants can receive peer reviews and mentoring from screeners and awardees from previous years. To date, over 80 applications are incubating in the Drupal-based Garage site.


A diverse group of developers, online journalists, nonprofit evangelists, video bloggers and social media experts are on hand to coach at The 50 mentors are available to coach and guide everyone who enters a project in the Garage. They include Vidoop’s Chris Messina,’ David Cohn, Contentious editor Amy Gahran, Placeblogger’s Lisa Williams, Beth Kanter, J.D. Lasica and many other digital media specialists.

Chris Messina:
David Cohn:
Amy Gahran:
Lisa Williams:
Beth Kanter:
J.D. Lasica:

The Knight News Challenge is incorporating new media tools to reach out to more diverse communities to spread the word about this year’s Challenge. For frequent updates, highlights of applications in the Garage, and to ask questions about application guidelines, check out Knight’s Twitter feed (link below). For information on the Garage, the new DotSub video has already been translated into Arabic, Danish, Flemish, Portugese, Japanese and Russian. To reach out to video bloggers, Knight has reached out via Seesmic video, creating an online video conversation with over 40 responses. The KNC FriendFeed room provides a forum for questions and discussions about applications and incubator ideas.


Twitter feed:
DotSub video:
Seesmic video:
Seesmic video, What are the obstacles to innovation?:
FriendFeed room:

The first two years year of the contest produced individual, private and public winners ranging from Twentysomething journalism innovators to the inventor of the World Wide Web. Winning projects included:

• Recruits and trains a network of 75 citizen journalists – one in each Chicago neighborhood.
• Allows citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block.
• Pays for local investigative reporting by soliciting financial support from the public.

Winning entries must have three elements: 1) use of a digital media; 2) delivery of news or information on a shared basis to 3) a geographically defined community. Entries must be open-source and share the software and knowledge created.

“We have committed $25 million over five years to the Knight News Challenge because we believe in media innovation through experimentation,” says Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president and CEO. “Each winning project is an experiment with the potential to transform how we practice journalism in the digital age.”

“With the addition of the incubator site, we are taking a page from technology companies,” says Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation’s journalism program director. “We hope that the Garage coaches will help the applicants create even more high quality applications and proposals.”

In September and October, Knight is holding a series of meet-ups in various cities to provide real-time brainstorming and discussion – check for more information.

A simple online entry form is available at The web site will accept applications through Nov. 1, 2008. Winners should be announced by the spring of 2009.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation invests in journalism excellence worldwide and in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. The foundation focuses on projects with the potential to create transformational change. For more, visit

Alberto Ibargüen:
Gary Kebbel:
News Challenge:
Knight Foundation:

0 Comments on “Knight News Challenge: Apply for Funding for Innovative Projects”

  1. #1 Michael Wood-Lewis
    on Sep 23rd, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    The Knight Foundation’s level of innovation and reach is amazing… the News Challenge and so much more.

    Dan, we’re looking forward to hearing your keynote at the event in Vermont on Oct. 4…