Knight Blog

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

In first public comments since plagiarism scandal, Jonah Lehrer blames "arrogance, need for attention" for lies

Feb. 12, 2013, 2:38 p.m., Posted by Elise Hu



To the legions whose trust he betrayed, science writer and author Jonah Lehrer says he is profoundly sorry. “It is my hope that someday my transgressions might be forgiven,” he said. “I am convinced that unless I talk openly about my failures so far  … the lessons will not last.”

Lehrer broke the basic code of journalism. The 31-year old, who had made a name for himself as a leading explainer of how the brain works, was caught cut-and-pasting his own stories, inventing quotes and reproducing errors even after sources pointed them out.

Before a crowd of 300, and even more watching on livestream at Knight Foundation’s Media Learning Seminar, Lehrer sought to explain his ethical lapses while knowing he was bereft of the credibility he once enjoyed. “I found the broken part of me and that part has a name. My arrogance, need for attention, carelessness, the ability to make excuses to explain my carelessness and my tendency to believe my own excuses,” said Lehrer. He couldn’t protect himself from himself.

Knight Foundation invited Lehrer to explore the neurocience of decision-making, both good and bad, including in his own life. By the time he took the stage for his first public remarks since getting caught reusing his own material and making up quotes, online debate about whether he should even be addressing audiences was cycling well into its second day. As he spoke, Twitter comments flowed down a giant screen next to the stage, a barometer of the response to his remarks.

“There are important lessons here for all of us as decision makers and supporters of information projects,” Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen said.

Going from sustainability to “thrivability”: success stories from Sundance, The Texas Tribune and KCRW

Feb. 12, 2013, 11:54 a.m., Posted by Elise Hu



Sustainability is formally defined as the “capacity to endure,” but non-profits know that simply enduring isn’t enough. Instead, the real goal for media ventures or collaborations should be something like “thrivability,” says Knight Foundation’s John Bracken.

At this year’s Media Learning Seminar, leaders from KCRW, the NPR member station in Los Angeles; the Sundance Institute, which puts on the fabled festival; and The Texas Tribune, a digital news startup in Austin, shared what they learned on the path to “thrivability.”

Big brands make you bigger.
Sundance partners with the online crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, to help filmmakers get their work seen and distributed. “Big brands amplify and magnify what artists are doing already,” said Joseph Beyer, director of digital initiatives at Sundance. The Kickstarter partnership showed Sundance the power of working with an established brand and taught it a lesson about engagement. “The dollar amounts are less important than the emotional connection with the supporters,” he said.

Consider a live events strategy.

News Challenge launches with an OpenIDEO twist

Feb. 12, 2013, 9:38 a.m., Posted by Chris Barr

About Knight News Challenge: Open Gov from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Today, as we open the first Knight News Challenge of 2013 on Open Gov, we’re looking for answers to one central question:  “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?”  We think that new tools and approaches are giving citizens to drive change, and we’ve crafted a News Challenge to help deliver on that potential.

To get there, we are partnering with OpenIDEO, a division of the design and innovation firm IDEO, on a new platform we hope will  not only improve the challenge application process but also open the conversation to more people while pushing creative thinking.

The first difference you'll notice is the introduction of contest stages -  the Inspiration phase starts today. We are looking for a range of people - innovators, community leaders, government officials - to share their ideas, hopes and needs for improving civic life.  

We’ll be featuring these inspirations throughout the challenge to help spur more ideas. When that stage ends on Feb. 19, we’ll open the contest to submissions. (A full list and timeline of the stages follows.)

In the end, we hope to find and fund ideas - big and small - that rethink the relationship between people and governments. Our definition for Open Gov is broad, and includes innovative ideas for anything from data transparency to citizen participation.

We’re looking forward to this, and hope you’ll join us on this journey.

Here’s the timeline for the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov.