Knight Blog

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

News partnership explores the rural Dakotas

May 9, 2012, 2:58 p.m., Posted by Michele McLellan


The first issue of Dakotafire, a 2011 Knight Community Information Challenge winner, is online.

Dakotafire works with eight local newspaper partners to produce a quarterly publication that explores important regional issues in the James River watershed area of North and South Dakota. The project is funded by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

“Dakotafire’s alliance of reporters and editors work together to produce in-depth, regionwide coverage of issues vital to the sustainability of the area’s rural communities,” the site says in describing its mission. “This alliance, which connects these journalists online, allows them to cover topics they could not address as successfully alone.”

The inaugural spring 2012 issue of Dakotafire focuses on an issue that is dear to editor Heidi Marrila-Losure, a co-founder.

“Learn, then Return” explores “Seven ways to help rural youth see a future back home.” In the issue, Marttila-Losure shares her own story of return:

Miami’s Ashoka office to help build social entrepreneurship in South Florida

May 9, 2012, 8:50 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

After spending nearly three years boosting social entrepreneurship in the Americas, Ashoka’s Lorena García Duran is setting her sights on South Florida.

lorenaIn addition to launching the Miami office for the international group promoting social entrepreneurship, García Duran is busy preparing for its upcoming Miami Ashoka summit, scheduled for May 9-11. The event will bring together business people, journalists and the social sector to network and collaborate on ideas. The conference, supported by Knight, looks to connect social entrepreneurs based in South Florida like Connie Siskowski, whose Palm Beach County-based organization helps empower students who are the primary caregivers to elderly, ill or disabled family members.

Today's opening session "The Future of Social Entrepreneurship" will be livestreamed starting at 1:30 p.m. EST. The session features Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka, Alberto Ibargüen, President and CEO of Knight Foundation and Matthew Bishop, editor of the Economist.

In a conversation with Knight, García Duran described the opportunities for changemaking in South Florida.

Knight Foundation: Why did Ashoka decide to open an office in Miami? What were some of the opportunities? 

LD: Our researchers gave us four cities to explore: Chicago, L.A., New York and Miami. In Miami, we found a region that not only had significant ties to Latin America, but also had a broader perspective and more potential for impact. Of course, South Florida is more than just Miami and we found that the larger community was becoming a hub of successful young business people from all over the world. There were strong ties to the Latin American community, the Jewish community and the Indian community. When we started meeting and connecting with successful business and professional people, we learned they wanted to be part of change, but that they weren’t necessarily attracted to common philanthropy or charity, even though they wanted to be involved in social change. We started to build that hub of people as we continued to learn about what was really going on in the community. We found the community was an interesting hub that has huge potential for growth. We want to grow that hub, to connect successful business entrepreneurs and professional people with the concepts around social entrepreneurship.

What do you hope to accomplish here?

Who are the journalism and media funders, why do they meet…and now what?

May 8, 2012, 9:47 a.m., Posted by Eric Newton


Today I’m in Oklahoma at the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to meet with our informal journalism and media funders group. Because the event is at Ethics and Excellence, this meeting feels like a milestone. I’ll explain that, tell you who we are and why we meet and wonder out loud a bit about our future.

I came to Knight Foundation in June 2001 from The Freedom Forum, which was phasing out grant-making to focus on its successful news museum, the Newseum.  Nonprofit journalism groups and j-schools were worried about “traditional journalism funding” drying up. I wanted to get a handle this, and recruited Vivian Vahlberg at the then-named McCormick Tribune Foundation and Roz Stark at the then-named Radio and Television News Directors Foundation because they’d held previous funders meetings.

That started our movable feast. It had no budget, no staff, and after a decade, it’s still going strong.

At first we only invited foundations with annual journalism investments of at least $5 million. Charles Overby came from the Freedom Forum; Jon Funabiki, from Ford Foundation; Gordana Jankovic, of the then-named Open Society Institute;  Don Kimelman came from Pew Charitable Trusts, and Vivian and Roz. We met in Miami in January 2002. Hodding Carter, then Knight president, had OK'd a world-class facilitator, David Sibbet of Grove Communications in San Francisco, whom I knew from my Oakland Tribune days. As we talked, David drew a wall-sized graphic that recorded and focused our conversation.