Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Award-Winning Community Partnership in St. Paul Brings a More Equitable Transit System to the Twin Cities

Dec. 22, 2010, 4:33 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

I was delighted to learn today that the

Stops for Us Coalition received well deserved honors today with the Environmental Protection Agency's National Achievement in Environmental Justice Award for its work to include the underserved neighborhoods at Hamline, Victoria, and Western in the design of the Central Corridor light rail line.

Also thanked in the application were key partners including the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative which Knight Foundation supports and I co-chair, as well as the City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County and the Metropolitan Council. All this is a great example of folks working together in new ways to make great things happen in St. Paul and the region. No wonder I live here despite the weather ... did I mention our recent blizzard?

Knight board member Mariam Noland recognized by community foundation trustees

Dec. 22, 2010, 3:05 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Mariam NolandMariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, and Knight Foundation trustee since June 2002, was recently recognized with the naming of an award in her honor.

Craine's Detroit Business wrote about the establishment of the cash prize:

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan Board of Trustees has created the Mariam C. Noland Award for Nonprofit Leadership, in honor of the foundation's longtime president and her work to build the region's philanthropy. Beginning next year, the foundation board plans to grant $10,000 to a top executive's nonprofit organization to allow that executive to take a personal sabbatical, attend a professional continuing education or to take part in philanthropic leadership activities. The Noland Award is the second program to honor local nonprofit executives and to offer them a reprieve from the day-to-day operations of running a nonprofit for personal rejuvenation, continuing professional education or benchmarking best practices at other nonprofits.

Read the full story at Crain's Business Detroit.

Grant to Support Innovative Civics Experiments at UF's Graham Center

Dec. 21, 2010, 12:07 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Former Sen. Bob Graham at opening of new UF center.

On December 13th, the Knight's Board of Trustees approved a $3 million grant over three years to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida.

The Bob Graham Center for Public Service will implement their 'Effective Citizenship in the 21st Century' program this spring. This comprehensive program will include an online course, social media and an electronic 'Civil Debate Wall', coupled with six Knight Effective Citizenship Fellows. The Center aspires to pave the way for universities and colleges across the country to prepare students as informed and active participants in our democracy ' not merely spectators.

Through this grant, Knight can help shape a fresh approach to understanding citizenship and support experiments that promote civil civic conversations using new digital tools.

Tool That Increases Transparency in News Content Now Being Used on 577 Sites

Dec. 16, 2010, 10:07 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

In 2008, the Media Standards Trust won a Knight News Challenge grant to create a system that helps readers determine where a news article originates.' Their project uses metadata to show who wrote the piece, its source organization, its title, and when it published ' among other things - on any news content. They called this news microformat hNews and worked with the Associated Press in the latter stages to develop it.

The project, run in partnership with Tim Berners-Lee's Web Science Trust, also received a MacArthur Foundation grant.

Two years later, hNews has been implemented on over 577 news sites in the US alone. 'The tool makes the origin of news articles more transparent ' meaning readers can more easily tell an article's source, and authors and publishers get more credit for their work. hNews has been used in the Associated Press News Registry application to track its news around the web to work out revenue sharing opportunities for content, Martin Moore, the director of the Media Standards Trust, writes on the Media Shift blog.

hNews is an open source project.  If you want to install hNews on your site you can get it here, and you can see all of the 577 sites already using it here.

Because the Night Belonged to Patti Smith, She Bursted Into Own Tribute At Book Fair

Dec. 15, 2010, 9 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Crossposted from

By P. Scott Cunningham

This past November 19th I was introducing Patti Smith at the Miami Book Fair when I was unexpectedly interrupted by' Patti Smith.

The crowd saw her first'she'd walked on stage behind me'and some people began cheering as soon as they saw her long hair and cowboy boots. Others looked as confused as I was. At this point, I was barely half-way through my introduction. Should I leave? Finish what I'd prepared? I had no idea what to do.

Mitchell Kaplan had asked me to introduce Patti because this April I'm directing a brand-new poetry festival called O, Miami. The project is funded by Knight Foundation and designed in the spirit of Patti's interdisciplinary career. Mixing poetry-in-public places with traditional readings, O, Miami will attempt to deliver a poem to every single resident of Miami-Dade County during the month of April 2011.

So my job was to announce the festival, and then announce Patti. When my project manager, Peter Borrebach, and I planned the announcement, we decided to do something that paid homage to Patti's influence on the design of O, Miami, and over the course of three weeks, we recruited 100 people to secretly plant themselves in the audience in order to stand and read an Arthur Rimbaud poem at the end of my intro. All 100 people were ready to go. We'd hired a film crew to capture the moment, but here was Patti Smith, already on stage.

Sensing my hesitation, she whispered to me, 'You can keep going,' and then went and sat in the first row. After announcing my intention to pay homage to Patti's poetic roots, I began reading Rimbaud's 'Vowels.' To my delight, my fellow participants began standing and joining in as we'd rehearsed it: just a few at first, and then in larger and larger bunches.

When it was over, people were cheering but I had no idea how Patti had received our gesture. Like the rock legend she is, Patti immediately launched into her performance.

Reading short passages from her National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids interspersed with acoustic songs, Patti communicated the full range of her artistic abilities to the crowd, in addition to recreating a life the rest of us can only dream about.

Her words brought legends like Allen Ginsberg, Richard Hell, and of course, Robert Mapplethorpe back to life, as she seamlessly wove her miniature narratives into a larger lyrical thread.

And just when I thought she would finish without acknowledging O, Miami's poetic homage, she brought it up while introducing her final number, an a capella rendition of 'Because the Night.'

'That was really cool,' she said about our Random Act of Culture. 'I'd never seen anything like that. It was fitting for the subtext of our Rimbaudian evening.'

Then, with her left boot, she began tapping out the rhythm of 'Because the Night' and instantly reminding us why we'd come.

We sang. We cried. We hugged. (Some of us, I heard later, even made out.) No one left without feeling they'd just witnessed something inexpressively beautiful.

O, Miami indeed.

P. Scott Cunningham is the founder and director of O, Miami: A country-wide poetry festival debuting in April 2011, thanks to support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more, visit

Why Knight Hires Journalists To Probe Impact of Grants

Dec. 9, 2010, 9 a.m., Posted by Mayur Patel

A recent Reporter Analysis took a look at efforts to fight killings of journalists in Latin America

What difference did we make in the world and what was learned?

Discovering the answers to these two fundamental questions helps improve the effectiveness of Knight Foundation's work. Each year, we and our partner grantees direct our time, energy and resources to support projects intended to strengthen communities. Understanding what's been achieved provides the insights needed to improve a project's implementation and to design and set future strategies.

One way in which the Knight Foundation tries to answer these questions is by hiring independent journalists to write articles reviewing our grant making. Veteran reporters examine grant documents, conduct interviews and offer their perspective on the lessons learned and impact of Knight-supported projects in stories published online and in print. This initiative, known as the Reporter Analysis Series, began in 2006.

The series sits along side other evaluative tools we use to share information about grantee projects and lessons learned. The reports are not classical 'impact assessments.' No one expects them to provide a comprehensive project evaluation. Instead they offer a simple means of telling the story of what happened, gathering feedback and communicating findings in an accessible and easy-to-follow narrative.

So far this year we have completed two reports on Knight-funded projects. The first reviewed the story of 1st ACT Silicon Valley, a broad-based leadership collaborative focused on supporting arts and culture and improving the built environment in San Jose.

Report: Latin American Journalists Die, Their Stories Untold

This month, we completed the second report on the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) efforts to end impunity for attacks against journalists in the Americas.

Created in 1995, the IAPA presses governments for justice in the murder of journalists, manages public awareness campaigns, trains journalists how to operate in dangerous areas and investigates journalists' murders through its Rapid Response Units in Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

Danger Zone: Journalists Under Siege in Mexico visits three countries to look at unpunished crimes against journalists.

The report, also available in Spanish, highlighted several key findings. Since the Project Against Impunity began prosecutors have won convictions for 59 of the 258 killings of journalists in Latin America. Governments now face consistent pressures from the IAPA to provide justice. But the advertising campaign meant to stir public outrage has lots its effectiveness. The IAPA's impact unsurprisingly varies considerably between countries given the conditions on the ground. For example, in Colombia, formerly the hardest-hit country, killings of journalists have dropped sharply, thanks in part to the policies of former President Alvaro Uribe. While in Mexico, the ongoing drug war and the government's inability to arrest and try the killers of journalists has overwhelmed the IAPA's efforts to bring justice there.

The findings were disseminated at the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and IAPA joint summit on violence against journalists working along the US-Mexican Border, December 5-6, 2010.

An article on the Reporter Analysis Series was published in the Foundation Review in their special issue on Strategic Communications.

The series was also covered by Sean Standard-Stockton in his blog, Tactical Philanthropy.

Knight Arts Film Wins Regional Emmy

Dec. 8, 2010, 4:10 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Crossposted from

Knight Foundation's Dennis Scholl and Miami filmmakers Chad Tingle and Marlon Johnson won a Suncoast Emmy this week for Sunday's Best, a documentary on the elaborate hats African-American women traditionally wear to church.

Commissioned by Knight Foundation, the film shot in Miami won the Religion-News category. Incorporating interviews and contemporary and vintage photography, it is the first film inspired by the Adrienne Arsht Center's Free Gospel Sundays program.

Watch the trailer here.

Knight's Stuart Kennedy, Scholl'and Producer Kiramay Cervallos were nominated for a documentary on the 2008 Knight Arts Challenge winners, in the Arts/Entertainment Program category.

Dennis Scholl, Chad Tingle and Marlon Johnson

Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive

Dec. 8, 2010, 3:13 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Crossposted from By Amy Garner

At a time when government funding for public broadcasting is hotly debated,'Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive, a new policy paper by Barbara Cochran, offers five broad strategies and 21 specific recommendations to reform public media. The strategies include strengthening local news operations, sharing digital platforms among public entities, recruiting more diverse workforces, and reforming public media structures.'( Download PDFor'Read Online)

Barbara Cochran is the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.' Her perspectives are informed by a journalism career spanning nearly 30 years that has included leadership positions in public and commercial newsrooms, covering print, radio and television news.

Rethinking Public Media makes the case for increasing government, private and philanthropic funding of public service media predicated upon reforms in the areas of local programming, diversity, and interactivity. In the white paper, Cochran calls on public media organizations to

  • develop innovative models for delivering more local news coverage and, collectively, to invest $100 million to add 1,000 public media reporters to boost local coverage;
  • seek new ways of engaging diverse and traditionally underserved communities such as youth and minorities by expanding the diversity of news and information staff at both the national and local levels, partnering with journalism schools to engage young people, and supporting the expansion of a Public Media Corps to promote digital literacy in underserved communities; and
  • invest in efforts to improve digital delivery, including the development of meaningful metrics, and seeks ways to connect public media content through a shared digital platform.

Cochran points out that this plan for more local, more inclusive, more interactive public service media can only be completed with the transformation of the structural and funding models that have governed much of public media since its creation. Specifically,'Rethinking Public Media calls on Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, public media entities, philanthropic organizations and others to:

  • restructure the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as the Corporation for Public Media, and break down barriers between television and radio by considering a new structure based on strengths in types of content and passing legislation for reallocating federal funds accordingly;
  • allow public media entities to operate with greater efficiencies by making it easier for stations to consolidate and merge;
  • improve community governance structures of public media licensees and increase digital experience among board members;
  • increase congressional support through a special appropriation to enable public media to offer content more broadly on digital platforms as key community anchor institutions under the national broadband plan, and restore reauthorization;
  • encourage investment from government, foundations and corporations;
  • seek foundation partners to jump-start the process and engage community foundations to support fulfillment of community information needs; and
  • keep digital content free.

'Above all, public media leaders need to embrace a new definition that is more local, more inclusive and more interactive and become more involved in the development of the nation's broadband policy, guaranteeing access, reducing costs of streaming and other technology and overcoming copyright roadblocks' noted Cochran in the report. 'Only public media leaders can convince government and philanthropic supporters that they have a new vision worthy of their investment.'

Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive is the third policy paper released by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation aimed at implementing the 15 recommendations by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy (See previous papers on'Digital and Media Literacy and'Universal Broadband). The Commission released its landmark report,'Informing Communities, last year to help promote healthy informed communities across the country.

Knight Foundation Program Director Takes Helm of National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Dec. 8, 2010, 1:54 p.m., Posted by Marika Lynch

Knight Foundation's Damian Thorman is the new chair of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, which is testing local, innovative approaches to workforce development.

'This is a critical moment for the National Fund,' Thorman, Knight Foundation's national program director, said. 'Recently, we were awarded more than $7 million in federal funds as part of the Corporation for National and Community Service's landmark'Social Innovation Fund to expand our work in current sites and move into new sites. If ever we were going to have a significant impact on how this country helps people, especially low-income workers, build sustainable careers, now is the time."

Knight Foundation, which recently invested an additional $1.1 million in the fund, is one of nine national organizations that lead the National Fund.

Hear more about Thorman's vision for the fund in this video interview, through this Q and A or today's release.

Report: Half of Community Foundations Surveyed Fund Local Information Projects

Dec. 7, 2010, 12:15 p.m., Posted by Mayur Patel


In the past year, Knight Foundation, the FCC and numerous funders and community players have increasingly highlighted the role the philanthropic sector can play in addressing information and media as a core need in communities.

How is the field rising to that challenge? To what extent are community foundations providing funding to address information needs? What are the funding trends in media and information projects among community foundations?

Knight Foundation partnered with FSG Social Impact Advisors to explore these questions. In the spring, we conducted a field-wide survey of community and place-based foundations.''To confirm and expand upon these findings, a follow-up survey was conducted at the Council on Foundations conference for community foundations in September 2010.

Some 154 community foundations responded ' representing more than a fifth of the community foundation field.

The report provides the following highlights:

  • A majority of responding foundations are funding (50%) or considering funding (38%) information projects in their communities.

  • Nearly two thirds of responding foundations expect their funding to address community information needs to increase in the future.

  • The majority of funding for information projects is being used to support awareness campaigns and platforms for civic engagement, followed by efforts to build the digital and media literacy skills of community residents to use new information tools.

  • No foundation cited that information and media projects were too controversial as the issue preventing them from providing funding in this area. The three most frequently mentioned reasons for not addressing community information needs are a lack of funds, relevance to mission and a lack of exposure to the idea of supporting media and information projects.

Knight Foundation encourages community and place-based foundations to fund news and information projects through the Knight Community Information Challenge. So far, 65 locally-focused foundations have received $13 million through the challenge's matching grant program. Applications will be accepted again in January.

Read the entire survey and report he

Knight-Sponsored Ted Women Conference Focuses on Ideas By and About Women

Dec. 6, 2010, 11:14 a.m., Posted by Robertson Adams

Knight Foundation/TEDWomen Conference from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Knight Foundation is sponsoring this week's TED Women, a conference of ideas by and about women, focusing on how women and girls are reshaping the future. 'The conference is being held this Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

For the event, Knight produced a short video highlighting the extraordinary work women grantees are doing to promote informed and engaged communities. Ory Okolloh, a media innovator and founder of'Ushahidi,'Diana Wells, president of Ashoka, and Emily Zimmern, president of the Levine Museum of the New South are all featured, as are Knight Foundation Vice Presidents'Belinda Lawrence and Paula Ellis, in addition to'Bahia Ramos-Synnott, director, community foundations'and Jessica Goldfin, journalism program associate.

Find out if there is a Ted Women group screening near you.

Maria Thomas on Her Lens for Reading the News Challenge Applications

Dec. 3, 2010, 4:25 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Cross-posted from When the Knight Foundation 'asked if I would help judge this year's Knight News Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity.' In only its fifth year, the Knight News Challenge has a strong track record of attracting highly innovative proposals capable of shaping the methods, matrix, and message of our civil discourse. By providing capital in support of early-stage ideas that stretch the boundaries of traditional journalism, the Knight News Challenge has itself become an innovator helping to fulfill journalism's promise in this new era.

I am eager to discover what's inside the minds of today's innovators and creative thinkers around the world.' My role is to sieve through the proposals trying to identify the most innovation and sustainable ideas across all four themes: mobile, authenticity, sustainability, and community.

I will be reading the applications through the lens of my personal journey through the digital world over the last twelve years.' It has included some stops most impacted by the digital revolution: a large consumer-facing web portal, a major news and information outlet, and an online start-up.' Back in 1999 at, what seems now like digital's pre-school days, I learned the importance of long term thinking from Jeff Bezos who is still one of the great innovators of this generation.' From 2001-2008 I led NPR Digital, during one of the most disruptive and simultaneously innovative periods in the journalism and media worlds.' The monoliths of the old news empires, TV network news and daily newspapers, were beginning to see irreversible audience declines while new media, cable, and the internet gained share.' Most recently, I led Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, where I experienced first-hand the powerful force that enabling technology can be in the hands of a creative community.

Through these experiences I've learned first-hand that it takes time and capital' ' though increasingly less of both -- for the power and utility of new ideas to take hold.' The Knight News Challenge awards provide a bit of both to entrepreneurs and industry leaders alike.' In doing so, the Knight Foundation is spurring innovation and spawning ideas.' As the Knight organization itself says, '...the more experiments we seed, the more approaches we explore, the more likely we are to find innovations that will serve communities and strengthen journalism in the digital'age.'

It is with great anticipation that I wait for my opportunity to see the next wave of applications and to find out which innovative ideas will eventually win the 2011 competition and go on to help shape our shared future.


You can follow Maria on Twitter @pesmou or find her online at at

Launch of 'Jumo' Is Only the Beginning for Knight Technology for Engagement Initiative

Dec. 3, 2010, 12:21 p.m., Posted by Robertson Adams

Tuesday this week, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes launched a beta of', a new social network that aims to connect people with the issues and organizations that interest them.

Facilitating action for a cause, rather than just showing an affinity for the cause or 'liking' it, is what's different in Jumo. It matches users with relevant organizations, then engages them through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other applications to encourage contributions of time, skills or money.' '(Hughes spoke with Knight Foundation about the project here.)

Chris Hughes

Hughes told the L.A. Times:

'I really want to move away from the old model in which you have to rely on people giving $10 after a humanitarian crisis to a newer model where people give money but also their time and their skills, whatever they have, to the causes that are personally meaningful to them well before the crisis moment presents itself.'

He told The Washington Post that Jumo will measure success in "users who are more meaningfully involved in the world around them." The New York Times reported that individual charities, projects like building a school in rural Africa and broad issues like gay rights will all have dedicated pages on Jumo.'And, InformationWeek reported the servers were overloaded on the first day.

Jumo received $750,000 earlier this year as one of five initial grants from the Knight Technology for Engagement Initiative spearheaded by Knight Vice President for Strategic Initiative Paula Ellis.

Jumo is a major partner for the initiative but Knight is also looking to expand with high-quality ideas that use technology to cultivate community engagement. Visit to see if your ideas might fit in to the plan.

And Now the Fun Begins

Dec. 3, 2010, 11:20 a.m., Posted by John Bracken

Effective Feedback Photo: Cross-posted from

Welcome to post-December 2nd. The pace of our posting will slow down as we've a lot of proposals to review over the next month.

We're too early in our review process to share details about what we're looking at. Suffice it to say that we are excited to dive into the proposals and learn more about what you all have been thinking. From a cursory scan of Twitter, Knight Foundation mail boxes and the Open Applications I can say that we've received inquiries from an array of individuals and organizations.

I realize that waiting a month must not be easy after pouring so much energy into articulating your ideas. For those of you who' have applied,' I ask you to be patient. We are not able to answer questions about particular proposals. We will, however, try to share thoughts in coming days about what we're seeing generally in the contest. In particular, expect to hear from Maria Thomas, a Knight Foundation consultant tasked with reading every proposal.

Thanks to everyone who's applied, commented and talked about the Knight News Challenge. 'It was not until last night, as we field questions from Indonesia, Italy and Charlotte, that I appreciated the full reach of the contest. Speaking on behalf of Knight Foundation, and of the reviewers' we've asked to assist us, I can't 'wait for the next few weeks.

Detroiters Show Unwavering Passion for Their City at Town Hall Meeting

Dec. 1, 2010, 5:03 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

By Paul Wiseman

Detroit is unique because its young people are consistently among the most attached age group in the community, according to the 2010 Soul of the Community study – a characteristic many cities hungry for talented college grads would love to have. The city’s schools and universities are also now a strong driver of attachment, along with social offerings and openness.

These were the main themes yesterday morning at a meeting in the Detroit Public Library auditorium where a diverse group of about 300 people gathered to discuss the findings of the 2010 Soul of the Community study. The presentation was about survey results for the Detroit metro region – the metropolitan statistical area – which includes six neighboring counties.

There was a palpable passion for the area in the room that reflects what the study found – attachment to the Detroit metro region is higher than when the survey started in 2008.  The questions were probing, and, at times, applause broke out signaling approval of a question or its answer. The Detroit Free Press called the presentation a silver lining on a day with plenty of dark clouds overhead.

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) for Southeast Michigan was the event organizer, and Detroit Public Television was on-site to film the meeting for a program they are producing. NEI is now exploring ways to use the SOTC findings, and CEOs for Cities received a grant from Knight Foundation to put the SOTC findings to use in the Detroit metro area. So the work has already begun.

We thank NEI and the residents of Detroit who showed us again that their intense passion for and loyalty to their city can’t always be quantified.  You just have to be there to understand it.

Paul Wiseman works with Knight Foundation and Gallup on the Soul of the Community project

News Challenge Step By Step Application Guide, With Screenshots

Dec. 1, 2010, 1:35 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

For the purpose of answering questions applicants might have about the process of applying ' how to complete an application, how to save it, submit it and edit it, I created the steps below with the accompanying screen shots. This should help you understand the process and guide anyone through it. If you are logged-in, you will need to click on the apply tab again to be able to submit a new application or to get back to a saved or submitted application for editing.









Dear Jose Zamora:


This e-mail is to confirm the receipt of your Knight News Challenge application. We will be reviewing your application and will respond to you at this e-mail address with a decision.


Knight News Challenge Staff
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation




News Challenge Step by Step Guide to Editing Your Application

Dec. 1, 2010, 12:58 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Below is a shorter version of the steps an applicant needs to take to get back to her/his saved or submitted application.

To open an existing Saved or Submitted application:

1)'''''' Sign into site from the 'Apply' or 'Read & Comment' page

2)'''''' Click Apply from the top menu (if not already on page)

3)'''''' Click 3. APPLY (see screenshot).' It may take a few seconds to load application(s) depending on connection.

4)'''''' On the top of the page are applications that have been selected for submission. To edit an existing saved or submitted application, scroll to the bottom of the page under the 'Apply now' header to 'If you need to edit an existing application, please select from the lists below:' (See screenshot). 'From here, select the saved/submitted application you wish to edit and resave or resubmit.