June 22, 2011; Source: Washington Post | The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced 16 grants to nonprofit and other Internet news outlets as part of its international competition seeking innovations in media. Among the winners sharing in the $4.7 million (including $1 million from Google) were nonprofit ventures such as:

  • The Awesome Foundation based in Boston, receiving $244,000 to encourage innovative journalism and civic media projects in Detroit and two other cities;
  • DocumentCloud Reader Annotations, a project of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), to use a $320,000 grant to continue a 2009 Knight News Challenge effort to help journalists analyze, annotate and publish original source documents;
  • Zeega, sponsored by Media and Place Productions in Cambridge, Ma., getting $420,000 to “improve its open-source HTML5 platform for creating collaborative and interactive documentaries…that seamlessly combine original content with photos, videos, text, audio and maps from across the Web.”

$250,000 for the Open Knowledge Foundation (http://okfn.org) in Cambridge, England, whose “Spending Stories” project will “contextualize” stories on public finance by “tying them to the data on which they are based,” for example, by providing annotated details on budget and finance trends and relating them to stories from other news outlets;

A half million dollars for the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science in Cambridge, Ma., to “create a tool kit and online community for citizen-based, grassroots data gathering and research” on community technology projects;

Knight is examining what it is learning from these grants and just issued a report (PDF) on some initial lessons from the 2007 and 2008 Knight News Challenge grants. Thirty-five percent of the thirty-one 2007-2008 grant recipients were nonprofits (in addition to 32 percent that were institutions of higher education). The 2007-2008 grants, both nonprofit and for-profit, break down into the following categories:

  • Field-building for media innovation ($6.671 million)
  • Innovations in mobile platforms ($1.831 million)
  • Innovative tools and practices ($2.552 million)
  • Citizen media ($2.599 million)
  • Local news aggregators ($1.322 million)
  • News games ($560,000)
  • Digital tools for public media ($1.307 million)

About three-fourths of the projects are still actives, the others either completed or inactive because of implementation problems. Of the 31 grantees, however, 17 are either spreading or scaling their work, for example, the EveryBlock project, which has expanded from three to sixteen cities or the Media Mobilizing Project which is being replicated, apparently, by groups in three states. The report is well worth the read, of importance to all nonprofit journalism venues. Congratulations Knight!—Rick Cohen