Knight Blog

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

Our next week: Hacks, stories and winners

June 15, 2012, 9:44 a.m., Posted by John S. Bracken

civic

Photo Credit: Flickr user Andrew Whitacer

Over the next few days, you may notice a couple of hundred of people moving towards the MIT Media Lab for The Story & The Algorithm, the 2012 Civic Media Conference. Knight Foundation and the Center for Civic Media at MIT collaborate on the conference. It’s an important occasion for us to gather friends, colleagues and new people - and to announce some news. Here is a list of conference participants on Twitter; we’ll be using #civicmedia and are also live streaming the conference.

In concert with the its theme, we will precede the conference with a day of coding and an evening of storytelling. On Saturday, our partners at Mozilla will hold a hack day, featuring “an all-star cast of developers, entrepreneurs, journalists, and media thinkers.” Their goal, according to Dan Sinker, is to “move the convergence of data and story into newer places still.” You can see what they’re work working on. On Sunday evening, we open the full conference with storytelling, brought to us by The Moth and PRX.

Monday morning, Media Lab director (and Knight Foundation trustee) Joi Ito will kick off the conference. In addition to the rock stars who run the Center for Civic Media, we’ll see have discussions moderated by Emily Bell, Susan Crawford, Benjamen Walker and Christina Xu. On Monday afternoon, we’ll announce the winners of the first Knight News Challenge of the year, on Networks. We’ll be live-tweeting the winners using #newschallenge. Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation at Knight, will talk about new funding tools we’re implementing.  

Tuesday includes a conversation about what has (and has not) worked with Open Government with Mark Headd of Code for America, Mike Norman from Wefunder and Chris Vein, Deputy CTO in the White House. A noon presentation will feature comic artist Michael Kupperman and a final panel focuses on “some of the more unexpected and provocative directions news and civic media may be taking in the future.”

The theme for the conference - the story and the algorithm - grew out of conversations I heard at last year’s NewsFoo, the un-conference organized by Google, O’Reilly and Knight. NewsFoo’s goal is to convene journalists and technologists to  “share projects and ideas, and tackle challenging problems together.” I saw conversations between bit wranglers like Matt Cutts and storytellers like Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast International Audio Festival about how the two areas can benefit each other. Brian Boyer, recently hired at NPR, captured this moment on Twitter:



In planning for this year's conference, we realized that mixing code and storytelling is core to what we’re trying to accomplish. My hope is that by the time the conference concludes, we will have provoked conversations and developed relationships that improve both.  

Lastly, next Thursday at noon ET marks the deadline for our Knight News Challenge: Data. We are looking for the most innovative ideas that help make data more useful, by collecting, processing, visualizing or otherwise making it available, understandable and actionable. Just eight questions - and 500 words - gets you a shot at a share of $5 million. If you’ve questions, send them our way @knightfdn or newschallenge@knightfoundation.org. 

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