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

Nov 13, 2012

@ICFJ Knight Fellows to accelerate media innovation worldwide

Posted by Joyce Barnathan

Above: Citizen journalists in rural India break news using a cell phone-based news network CGNet Swara, created by Knight International Journalism Fellow Shubhranshu Choudhary. Photo credit: Purushottam Thakur

We're delighted to receive a $3.15 million, three-year Knight Foundation grant to support ICFJ's new Knight International Journalism Fellowships. By name, this program is nearly two decades old. What began as an effort by U.S. journalists to train colleagues overseas has radically morphed over the years into a force that creates lasting, tangible changes in news media and drives media innovation around the world.

By design, we have continually reinvented our Knight Fellowship program to take full advantage of technology and its power to improve the quality of news.

In India, for example, a Knight International Journalism Fellow pioneered the use of mobile phone technology to give isolated, rural communities a way to create and share news for the first time. In Brazil, our Knight Fellow is helping journalists track Amazon deforestation with new multilayered maps that use satellite feeds.

ICFJ constantly experiments to see what works best to enhance our craft. Our online learning platform reaches thousands in many languages—at marginal costs. We've even taught a course for Western and Arab journalists simultaneously, translating participant comments every day. That created robust debates—and exciting collaborative reporting projects. 

Our new Knight Fellows will look for ways to accelerate the spread of transformative technologies, so that new tools quickly cross borders, storytelling becomes more vivid, data spring to life, and audiences join the news stream as integral parts.

The fellows will seek opportunities to leapfrog technology—catapulting news organizations in the developing world into the future. They will help create environments in newsrooms that encourage innovation, not stymie it. And they will foster standards of trustworthy news in this age of real-time delivery. It's all too easy to deceive with fake tweets, doctored photos and other media manipulation. News innovators must devise ways to provide accurate, contextual, responsible coverage and nothing less.

Standards matter. Our Knight Fellows have their eye on the prize: top-quality information that enriches coverage, provides access to the underserved and engages the public. And they’ll keep us all updated by blogging about the experience at We're privileged to receive this grant, and I look forward to sharing with you the tremendous impact our program will deliver.

By Joyce Barnathan, President of the International Center for Journalists

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