Knight Blog

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

News Challenge: Mobile Office Hours: Get your questions answered

Sept. 6, 2012, 9:28 a.m., Posted by John Bracken


Photo Credit: Flickr user girl_onthe_les

There are only four days left to submit your application to the Knight News Challenge: Mobile, which closes at noon ET on Sept. 10.

If you’re still thinking about how to form your idea, have questions that aren’t answered by our FAQ or want to clarify anything about the application, you can join us for News Challenge office hours.

At 1:00 p.m. ET, Friday Sept. 7, join us for a video/audio hangout with Knight’s John Bracken, director Journalism/Media Innovation, and Christopher Sopher, journalism program associate.

You can join the session by Skype or by phone:

Please note: You must have the latest version of Skype open and be logged in.

Dial in toll free number: +1 888 240 2560
Meeting ID: 820229184

A deeper look at the News Challenge application questions

Sept. 5, 2012, 2:49 p.m., Posted by Ted Han

We’re just a few days away from the deadline in the Knight News Challenge on mobile (noon EST Monday, Sept. 10). Below, Ted Han, project lead for two-time Knight News Challenge winner DocumentCloud, writes about the nature of the application process and highlights things to keep in mind as applicants fill out their proposals.

tedhanIn the span of about three weeks, 881 entries were written and submitted to the News Challenge on data. A number that large is impressive, especially on the heels of the challenge on networks, which garnered some 1,100 entries. If these numbers are the start of a trend, it says good things about the robustness and vibrancy of the News Challenge community and the News Challenge, which is ultimately only successful as its community.

For the third round of the challenge, on mobile, Knight Foundation is hoping again to host the community and shape the tone and context for our participation through the application they design for each News Challenge. It's worth talking about the form that applications for the News Challenge have taken this year to get a better sense of how entrants can better prepare their submissions.

The application for Knight News Challenge: Mobile, much like the questions for the data and networks round, consists of a few short questions. Those who follow the world of tech entrepreneurship may notice a similarity to the process that some angel investors use. Investors such as Y Combinator have written at some length about their selection process and rational (even going so far as to publish examples such as DropBox's successful application).

And while the specifics of their applications and goals are distinct from the News Challenge's, their general advice is sound: write clearlybe specifichelp the reader understand your project.

What applications like the News Challenge's or Y Combinator's are designed to do is to cut to the core of an idea. Software developers often discuss the notion of a minimum viable product (MVP), or in plainer terms, the smallest system that must be built in order to satisfy the basic needs of your users. MVPs are important to spirit of software entrepreneurship, as they serve as the basis from which an entrepreneur can test the viability of the basic proposition a product is built around. An MVP serves as an invitation to begin a dialog between an entrepreneur and the users they seek to engage.

Exploring the value of academic research in journalism

Sept. 5, 2012, 1 p.m., Posted by Eric Newton and Amber Robertson


Photo Credit: Flickr user eclecticlibrarian

Much has been written of late about the relatively low quality of academic research in the journalism and mass communication field. Since this is a critical time, the dawn of a new age of communication, there’s much to learn. The research gap is a major source of disagreement between professionals and scholars. Professionals argue that much research is unreadable and, frankly, useless. If you take the time, scholars counter, you’ll find important insights.

Why do we care about research? It’s important to the future of journalism education because publication in the so-called peer-reviewed journals traditionally has been the number one criteria for faculty promotion and tenure. Yes, research beats teaching.

In the professional world, journalism that makes a difference is measured by actual impact -- by the jailed people who are freed, by the criminals who are jailed, by new laws or policies that save lives or stop government waste. This “community service” (as it is called) is not given the importance it deserves at universities. Publishing in academic journals is what counts, even if it does nothing to further how journalism serves America. (See Geneva Overholser’s blog about “what’s missing” in the debate about journalism schools.)

Let’s look at the details: Three main journals boast the word “journalism” in their titles. Citation research, the tracking of how often scholars quote each other, paints a grim picture of these three. None of the three is considered among the most cited or prestigious of the journals in the communications field, nor in the social studies field at large.

For this comparison we used the helpful databases built by Thomson Reuters, which tracks thousands of journals and citations. The three journals in question all are published by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass CommunicationJournalism & Mass Communication QuarterlyJournalism & Mass Communication Educator and Journalism & Communication Monographs.

Of the three, only Quarterly has been selected for inclusion in the “Web of Science” database, and to receive a Journal Impact Factor in Journal Citation ReportsEducator was rejected in January 2010 but is up for re-evaluation in January 2013. Monographs is currently under evaluation. Having only one of the three “journalism-titled” journals in the database is not a good start.

To qualify for the database, Thomson Reuters considers: 1. The journals’ publishing standards 2. Editorial content 3. International diversity and 4. Correct metadata. A journal that has never been cited, for example, would not be picked up by Thomson Reuters.

We checked the Quarterly against all the communication journals in the dataset. Given how much it produces, how much was it cited in 2011? The Journal Impact Factor ranked Quarterly 48 of the 72 communication journals. Considering the importance journalists place on their profession -- “bedrock of democracy” – being in the bottom 50 percent would not sit well. Of the 2,943 social science journals, Quarterly ranks 1,950, according to impact measure. (The Journal Impact Factor, Thomson Reuters says, can be “used to provide a gross approximation of the prestige of journals to which individuals have been published.”)

Is there a conspiracy against communication journals? Do social scientists simply not like journalism or communication? Hardly. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking (number 1 out of 72 communication journals when ranked by Journal Impact Factor) ranks in the top 10 percent of all social science journals, again using citations in 2011. Note the words cyber and social networking in the title. We desperately need to know the social science of engagement and impact in the digital age.

Another benchmark that can be used to rate journals is Google Scholar. It lists the number of times articles or publications have been cited. In our Sept 4. search, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly produces 7,730 results, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator produces 1,140 results and Journalism & Communication Monographs produces 284 results.

These are bad numbers when you consider that there are 7,149 full-time and 5,162 part-time professors, who should be reading and quoting each other. But they get worse when you realize that only some of the articles are cited at all. The chart below is from SCImago Journal & Country Rank, which also tracks citations. Every year, at least half of the Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly articles are totally uncited. The latest year on record shows no citations for a whopping 69 percent of the articles. Remember, the Quarterly looks to us like the best of the three “journalism journals.”