Last night was the fourth of the Knight News Challenge North American meetups, this one in Chicago, hosted by Columbia College's Barbara Iverson. (If you didn't know, the Knight News Challenge is in the third year of a program that gives away $5MM a year to digital innovations.)
With about 30 curious innovators attending last night, The Knight Foundation's Kristen Taylor led the BarCamp-style workshop, clarifying the Knight News Challenge mission, requirements and finally taking questions on the application process.
Past KNC project winner ChiTownDailyNews, represented by Community Manager Frank Edwards, showed up and shared an update on how that project is progressing--now ChiTownDailyNews has expanded to 75 reporters representing 45 Chicago neighborhoods and hosts workshops on video, radio and photo journalism in an ever-expanding training program.
Also, Brian Boyer, who was recently awarded a Knight scholarship as part of a program to train software developers to become journalists, shared his experiences as a developer pursuing a Master's degree in journalism at Medill.
And there were a lot of questions! The group was highly engaged and ready to shape their own applications. A few of the questions that came up, with the answers:
How do you define "news," and how timely does it need to be?
Kristen pointed folks to the list of past winners for examples of what could be considered "news," including projects like Dan Pacheco's Printcasting and Alexander Zolotarev's Sochi Olympics Project; she also pointed out that if you're submitting a mobile application, the definition of "timeliness" might be different than, say, for a blogging idea.
How does activity in the Garage affect the application process or outcome?
The judges don't specifically consider activity in the Garage as criteria for winning the Knight News Challenge; you don't get points for page views.
Is participating in the Garage mandatory?
No, in fact, keep in mind that while the Garage is for incubating your application, remember that you must eventually apply directly from the News Challenge site. However, the benefits of participating in the Garage are still the same: you can sign up to have a mentor help you shape your application, you can get feedback from the community and other applicants, and you can network to fill any talent voids in your application through the job list.
Why can we only use 300 words?
In general, we've discovered that if you can't clearly explain your vision in 300 words, you probably need to spend some time honing it down. A clear elevator speech is the first step to a viable idea.
Is there overlap between judges and mentors? Who are the judges and what is their background?
Mentors are past winners who have been through the process and are putting their winning ideas into motion. Mentors aren't judges. There are about 15 Knight News Challenge screeners whose job is to take the approximately 3,000 applications to about 64, and those screeners are rock stars of digital innovtion and social media, like Andrew Hyde of StartupWeekend, Brian Oberkirch, Chris Messina, Mary Hodder, Debbie Mobile Jones and George Kelly. The judges are a smaller team that take the applications to the final round and make the final determination of winners, and they have similarly diverse backgrounds in digital innovation.
Thanks to all who attended and participated for making this a great interactive meetup!
Reminder: the deadline for application is November 1st, follow this link to apply now!