Knight News Challenge – 2011

Photo: NextDrop

In June 2011, the Knight Foundation awarded $4.7 million – $1 million of it from Google – to the creators of 16 innovative projects aimed at advancing the future of news. More than 1,600 people or organizations sent in applications. The winners and descriptions – taken verbatim from the Knight News Challenge website– are below.

Browsing through the winners – and checking out their websites – is a great way to get a snapshot of some of the most innovative, cutting-edge journalism going on today. The winners of these projects all use digital technology to try to reach and build audiences, and better inform the public.

Project: iWitness

Winner: Adaptive Path, San Francisco, Calif.
Award: $360,000

To bridge the gap between traditional and citizen media, iWitness (see video) will create a web-based tool that aggregates user-generated content from social media during big news events.

Project: Overview

Winner: The Associated Press, New York, N.Y.
Award: $475,000

Overview is a tool to help journalists find stories in large amounts of data by cleaning, visualizing and interactively exploring large document and data sets.

Project: The Awesome Foundation

Winner: The Awesome Foundation, Boston, Mass.
Award: $244,000

To experiment with a new funding model for local journalism, The Awesome Foundation: News Taskforce will bring together 10 to 15 community leaders and media innovators in Detroit and two other cities to provide $1,000 microgrants to innovative journalism and civic media projects.

Need some funding for your crazy brilliant idea? We award $1,000 grants every month. It couldn’t be simpler. Apply now.
The Awesome Foundation is open to all people and organizations. There are no prerequisites to apply (beyond, of course, being awesome).

Image: Chicago Tribune

Project: PANDA

Winner: Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill.
Award: $150,000

To help news organizations better use public information, the PANDA Project, in partnership with Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), the Chicago Tribune and The Spokane Spokesman-Review, will build a set of open-source, web-based tools that make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data.

Project: Document Cloud

Winner: Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), Columbia, Mo.
Award: $320,000

A 2009 Knight News Challenge winner, DocumentCloud helps journalists analyze, annotate and publish original source documents.

Project: FrontlineSMS
Winner: The Kiwanja Foundation, Palo Alto, Calif.
Award: $250,000
Web link:

FrontlineSMS: Media will create a new platform that allows journalists to more effectively use text messaging to inform and engage rural communities.

Project: Zeega

Winner: Media and Place Productions, Cambridge, Mass.
Award: $420,000

To help tell rich multimedia stories, Zeega will improve its open-source HTML5 platform for creating collaborative and interactive documentaries.

Project: The State Decoded

Winner: The Miller Center Foundation, Charlottesville, Va.
Award: $165,000
Web link:

The State Decoded will be a platform that displays state codes, court decisions and information from legislative tracking services to make government more understandable to the average citizen.

Project: Poderopedia

Winner: El Mostrador, Santiago, Chile
Award: $200,000

To promote greater transparency in Chile, Poderopedia (Powerpedia) will be an editorial and crowdsourced database that highlights the links among the country’s elite.

Project: Nextdrop

Winner: NextDrop, Berkeley, Calif., and Hubli-Dharwad, India
Award: $375,000
Web :

To develop a new way of disseminating critical community information, NextDrop will launch a service, in conjunction with local utilities, that notifies residents of Hubli, Karnataka, India when water is available.

Project: Spending Stories

Winner: Open Knowledge Foundation, Cambridge, England
Award: $250,000

News stories about government finances are common, but readers often find it challenging to place the numbers in perspective. Spending Stories will contextualize such news pieces by tying them to the data on which they are based.

…we’re a not-for-profit organization promoting open knowledge: any kind of data and content – sonnets to statistics, genes to geodata – that can be freely used, reused, and redistributed. We promote open knowledge because of its potential to deliver far-reaching societal benefits.

Project: The Public Laboratory

Winner: The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, Cambridge, Mass.
Award: $500,000

Occupy Wall Street map. Credit: Grassroots Mapping

To make technology work for communities, The Public Laboratory will create a tool kit and online community for citizen-based, grassroots data gathering and research.

Project: ScraperWiki

Winner: ScraperWiki, Liverpool, England
Award: $280,000
Web: provides a way to make it easier to collect information from across the web from diverse sources. The site helps anyone freely create “scrapers” to collect, store and publish public data, and make it freely available for anyone to use.

Project: Tiziano 360

Winner: The Tiziano Project, Los Angeles, Calif.
Award: $200,000

Using visually dynamic, multimedia storytelling, the Tiziano Project provides communities with the equipment, training and web platform needed to report on stories that affect their residents’ lives. Tiziano will build an improved platform based on the award-winning project

Project: OpenBlock Rural

Winner: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Award: $275,000

Rural news organizations often struggle to move into the digital age because they lack the staff to make public data digestible. OpenBlock Rural will work with local governments and community newspapers in North Carolina to collect, aggregate and publish government data, including crime and real estate reports, restaurant inspections and school ratings.

Project: SwiftRiver

Winner: Ushahidi, Orlando, Fla.
Award: $250,000

As news events unfold, mobile phones and the Internet are flooded with information. Through the SwiftRiver platform, Ushahidi will attempt to verify this information by parsing it and evaluating sources.
How Ushahidi can be used: Global Data Hound: Crowdsourced data in aftermath of Haiti earthquake

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