Knight Foundation Gives ProPublica $1.9M for Data Journalism

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July 18, 2012; Source: Nieman Journalism Lab

ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit investigative public interest news outlet, recently announced that it will receive $1.9 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support its “news applications.” The grant will also make permanent ProPublica’s related fellowship program. News applications editor Scott Klein told the Neiman Journalism Lab, which is also funded by Knight, that this investment will—as Neiman paraphrases Klein—“increase his team’s metabolism to execute data-driven projects.”

While data journalism, or what ProPublica calls “news applications,” wasn’t an original function of the five-year-old organization, it’s becoming more of a focus. In fact, Klein said, he thinks there’s a potential for data journalism to have an economic impact on journalism’s business model. Currently, ProPublica’s model relies not on data journalism but on grants (including a very large startup grant from the Sandler Foundation), large and small donations, and earned revenue.

The ProPublica Message Machine is one example of data journalism. It analyzes political candidates’ mass e-mails and examines their voter targeting efforts. The Knight Foundation is looking to ProPublica to further develop the field of data journalism and to share its lessons learned among Knight grantees as well as others. –Kristin Barrali