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

Mar 15, 2012

News and tips as News Challenge on Networks draws to a close

Posted by John Bracken

Note: To apply for the News Challenge, and read our FAQ, visit

As we enter the last 48 hours of the Knight News Challenge on Networks, I want to share some news and tips.

First, we’ve mentioned that one of the challenge’s criteria is the ability to leverage networks to generate interest in your proposed project. To make that more concrete, the five applications that receive the most likes and reblogs will automatically become semi-finalists. While we will close the contest for submissions at midnight (EST) on Saturday, you will still be able to drum up support for, and discussion about, your proposal.

Over the last week I’ve spoken with a lot of potential applicants. Some things I’ve heard, and how I’ve responded: 


Anu Sridharan


  1. “I’m not newsy enough.” The “News” part of the Knight News Challenge seems to put some people off. We have a broad definition of “news” in this contest. Does providing information about water delivery in your neighborhood sound like news? Last year, Anu Sridharan and her colleagues at NextDrop were not sure, and they almost did not apply. In June, they were one of the 16 projects that won the 2011 Knight News Challenge. Two other of last year’s winners also told me that they nearly didn’t apply, out of concern that they were not “newsy” enough. They almost left money on the table. Don’t let that be you.
  2. “I don’t have time.” I get it. We’re a foundation, and the process for getting funding from a foundation is notoriously process-ridden and bureaucratic. With this contest, we’re trying to do things differently. We’ve crafted a 450-word application, on Tumblr, that’s taken some people as little as 10 minutes to complete. That’s no longer than the amount of time you’ve spent reading this post. Ten minutes and 450 words gives you a shot at some of the $5 million Knight Foundation is awarding.
  3. “I’m not a non-profit.” See #2. We don’t care. Do you have a good idea? Are you awesome? Bring it.
  4. “I can’t decide which idea is best.” That’s a good problem to have. Don’t worry about overloading us - you can submit as many as you like.
  5. “What are you looking for.” We want you to propose an idea that leverages existing networks in new ways. I explained it a bit more here.
  6. “I have an idea, but I don’t want to let others see it.”  That’s cool. We think ideas are better when they’re open for all. But if you want to keep it private, just email it to us at

So, best of luck. We won’t be doing any more hangouts, real or on Google+, but if you have questions, hit us up at and @knightfdn.

By John Bracken, director/journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation

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