Knight Blog

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

Expanded News21 program to focus on voting rights this summer

May 11, 2012, 10:18 a.m., Posted by Kristin Gilger


Each year, with support from Knight and its partners, students in the News21 program study a topic in-depth during the spring seminar and then follow with a 10-week reporting fellowship. Here, Kristin Gilger, associate dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, writes about this year's expanded program. Above: Leonard Downie Jr. teaches a spring seminar for students around the country. 

On May 14, students from journalism schools all over the country will begin arriving in Phoenix for this year’s expanded News21 program.  They have spent the past semester immersing themselves in the topic of voting rights and they’ll spend the summer reporting and producing a national investigative project on voting rights in America.

Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post, who taught the spring seminar that teleconferenced in students from a dozen universities, said the goal is to release the voting rights project before the first national political convention in August. Downie will be working this summer with an editing team that includes Sharon Rosenhause, former managing editor of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Steve Doig, Knight Chair in Journalism at Arizona State University.

Downie said the time is right for a project on voting rights because of recent extensive changes in election laws and voting procedures in many of the 50 states.  Students will consider whether voting fraud is a serious problem in American elections, whether new identification requirements at the polls disenfranchise prospective voters among minorities, college students or the elderly, whether ex-felons who have served their sentences should be allowed to vote -- and even whether voting machines are reliable.

Students will be based out of a newsroom at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and will travel the country to report their stories.

The Civic Commons needs your help to turn talk into community action

May 10, 2012, 2:09 p.m., Posted by Dan Moulthrop

Knight Foundation funds The Civic Commons to build on existing citizen engagement efforts to provide new ways for citizens to learn about local issues. Here, its curator of conversation, Dan Moulthrop, writes about its new and improved website. 

Last month, we released version 2.0 of our website It may be too lofty and overreaching to say this is the coming to fruition of months and months of work, dreaming, and something in between the two, but on our good days, that's kind of what it feels like. There's a little bit missing, though, to be sure, and we need some dreamers and doers in different communities to help us get it to the next level. 

So what's new? Well, ever since we launched the website eighteen months ago, we've been saying over and over that we were giving community members a chance to turn talk into action. Thing is, while we said that a lot, we hadn't really given anyone the tools to do so. Until now. In our new and improved website, Commons activity has three basic steps--conversationaction and reflection.

Amara - making Internet video truly global

May 10, 2012, 9:13 a.m., Posted by Nicholas Reville

Knight Foundation and Mozilla announced today a $1 million investment in Amara, which makes video more accessible around the globe by simplifying the way to caption and subtitle it. Here, Amara's Nicholas Reville write about the service:

The famous (and maybe infamous) KONY 2012 video from March was a global sensation, both in viewership and in production. The video is about Africa, it was produced by a team in the U.S., and was looking to spark global activism-- and yet it was posted exclusively in English. That means the audience it could reach was dramatically restricted.

Using Amara, volunteers translated KONY 2012 into more than 34 languages in just four days. Look at the language list:


And KONY 2012 is just a microcosm of online video. Video is the most popular medium in the world, and the online video revolution has made everyone a potential global video publisher. But when a video is posted in language that we don’t speak, how can we enjoy it?

To truly have access to video around the world, we need a way to watch and understand it. For people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, the challenge is even greater -- without captions, all videos are inaccessible.

At Amara, we want to solve this problem at a mass scale -- we want to remove all the barriers that have made subtitling and captioning so rare online. We’ve built the simplest subtitling interface anywhere online. We are making it easy for companies and organizations to manage subtitle workflows, and most importantly, we’re involving viewers in making videos accessible. And inviting viewers to subtitle is the key to reaching hundreds of millions of online videos. Without their help, the problem becomes impossible.