Innovations you can use and build upon to inform and engage communities
KnightApps.org is the place to learn more about Knight News Challenge projects and the other Knight grants that have created and released open-source software.
You can learn how a project's technology is being used, but more importantly you can use the links here to download the open-source code to customize it, or otherwise add to or improve it.
Through their newspapers, our founders John S. Knight and James L. Knight provided the local news and information that helped citizens understand their common interests and opportunities. As traditional media models began to contract, Knight Foundation began to ask: what 21st century innovation would do what the Knight brothers used to do with ink on paper alone?
The foundation created the Knight News Challenge, a contest which has so far spent $27.1 million to spur media innovation. Knight’s work in this space addresses national media policy, technology innovation and the evolution of the World Wide Web, among other areas.
As part of the contest, Challenge winners are required to release their software open-source. Below are some of the most popular projects; their technologies are being used by hundreds of newsrooms. Since the News Challenge is a giant research and development project aiming to accelerate media innovation for all, using open-source has made sense. Once the base code is released, any organization, business or individual can download, modify, transform, improve and share the free software.
We hope this listing helps anyone interested in media innovation use this work to better inform and engage their communities.
Knight Foundation /@knightfdn
Ushahidi (www.ushahidi.com, Twitter: @Ushahidi) helps citizens report on a crisis via text messages and map the crisis by time and location, which was developed in Kenya to report on violence after the 2008 election, was also recently used to report on the oil spill in the Gulf Coast and the earthquake in Haiti, allowing aid organizations to be more effective in the relief efforts. Most recently the project received an award from the ICT4Peace Foundation to develop a platform to train and prepare citizens, nonprofits and governmental agencies for crisis situations.
Founder Ory Okolloh (Twitter: @KenyanPundit, MediaShift blog) graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She also writes one of the most popular blogs in the Kenyan sphere at Kenyan Pundit. and is the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament. She was previously a summer associate in Covington and Burling, Washington DC and a Chayes Fellow at the World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity. She is a frequent speaker at conferences including TEDGlobal and PopTech on issues around citizen journalism, the role of technology in Africa, and the role of young people in reshaping the future of Africa. She currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.
DocumentCloud (Twitter: @DocumentCloud) allows news organizations to index, share and annotate source documents and publish them on the web is being used by ProPublica, The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune. The list of who is using DocumentCloud keeps growing, but you can find it at: http://www.documentcloud.org/contributors
Co-Founder Eric Umansky is a senior editor at ProPublica, where he oversees daily reporting. From 2001 until 2006 he worked for the online magazine Slate, where he wrote the “Today’s Papers” column. He also has written, mostly on national security issues, for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The New Republic, and elsewhere. Earlier in his career, Eric was editor of MotherJones.com. Twitter: @EricUman
Co-Founder Aron Pilhofer is editor of Interactive News Technologies at The New York Times, overseeing a news-focused team of journalist/developers who build dynamic, data-driven applications to enhance The Times' reporting online. He joined The Times in 2005. Previously, he was at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, and before that at Investigative Reporters and Editors. Twitter: @pilhofer
Co-Founder Scott Klein is the Editor of News Applications at ProPublica. He directs a team of journalist/programmers building large interactive software projects that tell journalistic stories, and that help readers find the relevance of complex national stories to themselves and their communities. Prior to ProPublica, Scott worked at The Nation, and at The New York Times. Twitter: @kleinmatic .
SnagFilms (Twitter: @snagfilms) is allowing The Miami Herald and others to embed widgets in news stories that connect to 1,150 free documentaries from PBS, National Geographic, the Sundance Channel and other filmmakers.
Author Rick Allen (Twitter: @CRichardAllen) is the CEO of SnagFilms which he helped to found with Ted Leonsis. The two produced Kicking It; for the film and their work on homelessness, Leonsis, Allen and colleagues received the 2009 Stewart B. McKinney Award from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The two are producing a new documentary, A Fighting Chance, which will be released in the fall of 2010. Allen previously was President and CEO of Sporting News, the country’s oldest sports media company, leading a revitalization that saw it named twice to Adweek’s annual “Hot List” as a top-10 media property. Earlier, he served as President and CEO of the for-profit arm of the National Geographic Society, responsible for television and film; interactive products, websites and e-commerce; maps; travel; retail; catalog; and consumer products. Under his leadership, the National Geographic Channel was launched and became one of the fastest growing cable channels in recent history. Before coming to National Geographic, Rick was a senior executive at Discovery Communications, parent of the Discovery Channel, where he extended the company’s brand into filmed entertainment, education, technology and retail. He also served in the White House as a Deputy Assistant to President Clinton, helping to establish AmeriCorps (the domestic Peace Corps). Before his White House service, Allen was CEO of a privately-held group of 35 companies based in Los Angeles. He has written and lectured widely, and been active in civic affairs particularly dealing with education.
Politiwidgets (Twitter: @politiwidgets) a tool created by the Sunlight Foundation (Twitter: @@sunlightlabs) allows reporters and bloggers an easy way to insert in their stories information on how individual lawmakers voted, bills they sponsored and earmarks they obtained.
Author Bill Allison (Twitter: @Bill_Allison), is the Editorial Director at Sunlight Foundation. A veteran investigative journalist and editor for nonprofit media, Bill worked for the Center for Public Integrity for nine years, where he co-authored The Cheating of America with Charles Lewis, was senior editor of The Buying of the President 2000 and co-editor of the New York Times bestseller The Buying of the President 2004. He edited projects on topics ranging from the role of international arms smugglers and private military companies in failing states around the world to the rise of section 527 organizations in American politics. Prior to joining the Center, Bill worked for eight years for The Philadelphia Inquirer—the last two as researcher for Pulitzer-Prize winning reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.
A way for journalists to find the best sources and the best information in their communities (source code not yet available)...
- Original grant: $2.95 million awarded in 2008
- Link: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/publicinsightjournalism
- Download code: http://code.google.com/p/publicinsight
Selectricity (www.selectricity.org, Twitter: @Selectricity) Voting software for the masses helping groups make better decisions, through “proportional voting” - ranking a list of choices in order of preference.
- Author: MIT Center for Future Civic Media
- Download link: http://projects.mako.cc/source/selectricity/README
Spot.us (Twitter: @spotus) allows the public to pitch stories that should be reported and contribute $10 or $20 to fund them and pay professional reporters to do the local stories that would otherwise go unreported, has funded stories that have been published in The Oakland Tribune and The New York Times.
Author David Cohn (Twitter: @DigiDave | MediaShift Blog) has written for Wired, Seed, Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Times among other publications. While working toward his master’s degree at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Cohn worked as the editor at groundbreaking newassignment.net in 2006, which focused on citizen journalism and ways news organizations could explore the social web. Cohn also worked with Jeff Jarvis from Buzzmachine.com to organize the first Networked Journalism Summits, which brought together the best practices of collaborative journalism three years in a row (2007-2009). He has been a contributing editor at NewsTrust.net, a founding editor of Broowaha and most recently created Spot.Us, a nonprofit that is pioneering “community funded reporting.” He is currently a fellow at the Reynolds Institute of Journalism and is a frequent speaker on topics related to new media and beyond.
Open Block helps increase access to local information. It aggregates and publishes local data by zip code. Open Block enables the creation of online sites that graphically display local data by neighborhood. The project is currently being used by The Boston Globe and The Columbia Daily Tribune.
Its predecessor EveryBlock.com (Twitter: @Everyblock), was a News Challenge winning project that was launched in over 12 cities and allows around 200,000 people to find out public information and news about their neighborhood or block based on their zip code, was bought by MSNBC.com.
- Original Grant: $235,000 awarded in 2010 Knight News Challenge
- Related grant: $275,000 awarded in 2011 Knight News Challenge
- Slideshare presentation Open Source Hyper Local Data Platform by Nick Grossman (Twitter: @NickGrossman)
- Developer Link: http://developer.openblockproject.org/
- Link: http://openblockproject.org
Dan Pacheco, co-creator. (see above for bio details)
- "News Challenge Grantee FeedBrewer donates to Knight Media Innovation Fund" by Marc Fest on Knight Blog
- Link: Feedbrewer.com blog
- Download link: http://www.feedbrewer.com/about_us
Printcasting (www.printcasting.com, Twitter: @printcasting) will allow individuals to easily create ad-supported, customized publications with a mix of local news and information. The software will help aggregate feeds from news organizations, bloggers or newsletters, for example, so that would-be publishers can pick and choose among them to create a niche publication.
The Printcasting model then will guide users through placing articles, photos and ads onto a template that either could be delivered by e-mail or printed at home and distributed. For example, a publication for reef-diving photographers could include ads for nearby dive shops or underwater cameras. The idea is to pair localized ads and content to create targeted publications.
Co-creator Dan Pacheco (Twitter: @Pachecod) is the senior manager of digital products at The Bakersfield Californian, an independently owned newspaper where he and his colleague kick-started “citizen journalism.” Pacheco has more than a decade of experience with online media and community. After designing the first prototype for MediaNews Group’s Denverpost.com in 1994, he became one of the first online producers for Washingtonpost.com. He later spent six years as a programming director and principal product manager for community products at America Online.
He has won several awards, including the Newspaper Association of America’s “20 under 40” award in 2005, a 2006 “Edgie” award for Bakotopia.com, an online community for young adults, and a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism for the platform that powers the Bakotopia and Bakersfield.com web sites. Pacheco holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Hnews, the project developed by Tim Berners-Lee and Media Standards Trust, allows media organizations to give readers digital footnotes about news stories and allows readers to find exactly the quality of information they are looking for, the project has been adopted by the Associated Press and over 250 newspapers.
Author Martin Moore, (Twitter: @Martinjemoore) is the director of the Media Standards Trust, a nonprofit organization that aims to foster high quality journalism. He has been working in news and media for more than a decade, including for the BBC, Channel 4, NTL, IPC Media, Trinity Mirror and others. Moore studied history at Cambridge and holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics, where he was teaching and researching until summer 2006.
- Grant: $350,000 grant to Media Standards Trust
- "A dummy’s introduction to linked data (me being the dummy)" – Martin Moore
- HTML Structure with hNews Microformat
In an era of participatory media, news organizations need to find new ways to reach their audiences, particularly among the youth. While only 6 percent of young adults say they regularly read or listen to the news (State of the News Media 2008), a full 85 percent of college students say they use Facebook. NewsCloud (Twitter: @NewsCloud | Blog:NewsCloud) tests strategies for leveraging the power of social media to engage youth in communities of interest associated with news.
Author Jeff Reifman (Twitter: @Reifman) is a former Microsoft and MSNBC.com developer who started NewsCloud in 2006 as an open-source social media community focused on news and information. This project will create two social media publications on Facebook, using NewsCloud's open-source Facebook platform. Each is designed to assess the effectiveness of a different kind of "community of interest," and a different approach to outreach and marketing. The project will track the evolution of those communities to assess the impact of content types, outreach efforts, and marketing strategies in order to inform news organizations about their relative impact and effectiveness.
Data visualization works so well because the human brain is extremely well-equipped to process visual information. We can capture patterns and essential themes in huge data sets very, very quickly through visual means. The tools to create visual representations are usually too expensive and difficult for smaller news organizations and everyday citizens to use, creating a gap for the future of community journalism. VIDI, is a suite of powerful intuitive Drupal data-visualization modules for anyone to use on any standard set of data ranging from government databases to demographics and statistics.
Author Kristen Glover (Twitter: @kglover02) works with Jefferson Institute (Twitter: @jeffersoninst) based in Washington, DC. In addition to political science research in the US and Eurasia, JI designs and deploys digital tools and integrates them with research and education systems.
CityCircles (www.citycircles.com, Twitter: @CityCirc) is a hyperlocal communication tool for light rail's passengers, merchants and nearby residents. We are a Phoenix-based startup that puts you in the driver's seat of everything that happens around the train – within five blocks of every light rail stop, to be exact. You can read or write about news, events and community projects, and post classified ads around each stop from a computer and (soon) from a cell phone. Think of CityCircles as having the light rail community on your desktop or in your pocket. It's there when you need it.
Co-Author Adam Klawonn (Twitter: @azmusicians) is the Director of Content. For anything related to posts, story ideas, map questions, or other issues associated with how the community appears on the Web and on cell phones, this is your contact. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Author Aleksandra Chojnacka(Twitter: @alekssC) is the Director of Audience. For anything related to merchants, promotions, partnerships, sponsorships or other issues associated with business and events, this is your contact. She can be reached at email@example.com.
PANDA helps news organizations better use public information, the PANDA Project, in partnership with Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), The Chicago Tribune and The Spokane Spokesman-Review, built a set of open-source, web-based tools that make it easier for journalists to use and analyze data. While national news organizations often have the staff and know-how to handle federal data, smaller news organizations are at a disadvantage. City and state data are messier, and newsroom staff often lack the tools to use it. PANDA works with tools like Google Refine to find relationships among data sets and improve data sets for use by others. PANDA is a simple to deploy, allowing newsrooms without software developers on staff to integrate it into their work.
An Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE) project.
Article: "Share, interact with data more easily with a PANDA in your newsroom" on IRE.org
Grant project page: Panda Project
Twitter: @Pandaproject, @brianboyer and @IRE_NICAR
PublicLab is a community which develops and applies open-source tools to environmental investigation. It uses inexpensive Do-It-Yourself techniques to create a participatory research model. PublicLab began as the Grassroots Mapping project, an effort to produce Do-It-Yourself satellite imagery with balloons and kites, most notably during the 2010 BP oil spill. PublicLab is now broadening its scope to explore new inexpensive and community-led means to measure and explore and report on environmental and social issues.
LocalWiki (formerly WikiSpot) is an easy-to-use open source wiki platform tailored to the information needs of local communities.
Tilemill is a suite of open source tools that media can use to make custom, embeddable maps. NPR, The Boston Globe, Slate and the FCC are among the organizations that are using the project to create maps.
Front Porch Forum is open source software for neighborhood news. The core of Front Porch Forum's web application is built around the open source Open Porch.
Stroome is an online collaborative video-editing tool. It allows editing video online anytime, anywhere and with anyone. Just upload your own footage or remix thousands of user-submitted for free.
Armstrong is a free publishing system designed for news organizations that gives your team the technology edge it needs to report in a media-rich environment.