Nine projects with a strong focus on crowdsourcing, mobile technology and digital investigative journalism have been named winners of the 2009 Knight News Challenge.
The winners (see below for details) will each win a share of a $2 million investment fund that is part of a 5-year $25 million global initiative set up by the Knight Foundation. The organisation is offering financial assistance to enterprising groups and individuals committed to developing and delivering "bold community news and social media experiments."
The chosen projects reveal how the trend of citizen journalism is on the rise and it is encouraging to see the industry embrace and reward efforts that seek to explore, develop and take full advantage of this. During the economic downturn, this is arguably more necessary than ever before. As well as promoting the idea of an active news-gathering and distributing public, some of the schemes will help to further empower people by furnishing them with the basic tools and understanding that should ease this process.
Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director, said: "With now more than 45 projects launched, Knight News Challenge winners aren't just individuals with a prize, but a community of innovators working together on improving news and information for communities around the world."
Writing on the Nieman Journalism Lab, however, Joshua Benton argues that the challenge did not generate as many exciting ideas as in previous years and questions what he refers to as "a tenuous connection to what we've traditionally known as journalism." Although, as one person commenting on the article put it, perhaps it is our notion of what constitutes journalism that "must undergo some basic changes." The digital revolution is changing the way society engages with news and, as an industry, we must not just follow suit, but also aim to anticipate the changes and trends that will dominate journalism in the future. The Knight News Challenge awards is one step in the right direction.
The winners are:
Amount awarded: $719,500
Winners: Eric Umansky and Scott Klein of ProPublica; Aron Pilhofer and Ben Koski of the New York Times
Project: To facilitate investigative journalism by opening up source documents used by reporters and other users
Amount awarded: $335,000
Winners: Scott Rosenberg
Project: To ease and encourage public fact-checking and monitoring of news coverage
Amount awarded: $250,000
Winners: Gail Robinson of the Gotham Gazette
Project: To create an open wiki directory focusing on issues such as legislation, voting and campaigning contributions specific to New York
Amount awarded: $243,600
Winners: Aaron Presnall of the Jefferson Institute
Project: To create a suite of online tools that can turn data and statistics into easier to understand visual representations
Mobile Media Toolkit
Amount awarded: $200,000
Winners: Katrin Verclas of MobileActive
Project: A mobile media toolkit to empower reporters and citizen journalists alike to create and distribute news
The Daily Phoenix
Amount awarded: $95,000
Winners: Aleksandra Chojnacka and Adam Klawonn
Project: To build an interactivity platform that will help commuters using Phoenix's new light rail system to interact with their city
Crowdsourcing Crisis Information
Amount awarded: $70,000
Winners: Ory Okolloh of Ushahidi
Project: To improve coverage and understanding of breaking news events, particularly in areas where media presence is limited, by creating an online map and timeline that combines and charts reports from citizens and journalists
Virtual Street Corners
Amount awarded: $40,000
Winners: John Ewing
Project: To encourage web interaction and understanding between two neighbouring towns with a distinct class, race and social divide
CMS Upload Utility
Amount awarded: $10,000
Winners: Joe Boydston of McNaughton Newspaper Company
Project: An online tool for media organisations enabling them to load newspaper files - originally intended for print - onto the Web in an easy, efficient and cost-effective manner
For further details, please visit the Knight News Challenge website.