Knight Blog

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

YouChoose Bay Area project brings Silicon Valley planning to life

March 14, 2011, 7:25 a.m., Posted by Susan Mernit

The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan has only emphasized the intense need for strong public policy planning for our most populated regions of the US. Back in 2009, The Silicon Valley Community Foundation applied to The Knight Community Information Challenge for support to help answer the questions of what the San Francisco Bay area should and could look like by 2035, when there could be 1.2 million new jobs and 900,000 new households.

The question the SVFoundation team wanted to answer was would it be possible to build an online planning tool that could be a focal point to help both regional planned and the informed public explore and answer regional planning and land use questions such as:

  • Where will all of these people live?
  • Where will the new housing be built? How will people get around?
  • Will the air we breathe and the water we drink be clean?
  • Will we still be able to enjoy extensive and accessible open spaces?

With the support of a $302,000 grant from Knight, the SV Foundation, in partnership with Greenbelt Alliance, TransFormCA and others, created a new tool--YouChoose Bay Area--that takes the questions of the Envision Bay Area project and turns them into an interactive online visualization tools. Working within a clear and easy to use interface, the website allows users to make choices that show them the impact of different policy choose and how they dictate future growth in the region. Participants get an understanding of...

Federal agencies only about halfway toward an open government, 2011 Knight Open Government Survey shows

March 14, 2011, 12:34 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Despite a presidential order to be more open, nearly half of federal agencies have not shown concrete action in handling Freedom of Information Act requests, the 2011 Knight Open Government Survey discovered.

Last year, the Knight Open Government Survey found that only 13 out of 90 agencies made concrete changes, making national headlines, and prompting the White House to require improvements from agencies.' The number is up to 49 this year, but clearly there is still much progress still to be made on the order the president issued at the beginning of his term.

'At this rate, the president's first term in office may be over by the time federal agencies do what he asked them to do on his first day in office,' said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation, which funded the study conducted by the National Archive. .

The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities concluded that public information belongs to the public, and the government must be more open. 'The purpose of the Knight Open Government Survey is to determine how well the federal government follows its own freedom of information rules.' The survey uses systematic Freedom of Information Act requests to require agencies reveal their own performance under the law.

These results have been released as part of this year's Sunshine Week, a series of events designed to promote government openness and freedom of information.

Read the 'story in the Associated Press and download a list of the 90 agencies surveyed and how they fared.


New interactive map illustrates income inequality and community division in U.S.

March 11, 2011, 1:05 p.m., Posted by Andries Vaisman

A new interactive map created by Patchwork Nation illustrates how income inequality in the U.S. divides whole communities on a major scale.  The graphic was featured in the Atlantic earlier this week.

Patchwork Nation aims to explore what is happening in the United States by examining different kinds of communities over time.  Last year, the organization received its second Knight Foundation grant to extend its system of county-by-county demographic breakdowns to individual congressional districts.

"We analyzed reams of demographic, economic, cultural, and political data to break the nation's 3,141 counties into 12 statistically distinct 'types of places,'' said Dante Chinni and James Gimpel, the project's founders and authors of Our Patchwork Nation.  "When we look at family income over the past 30 years through that prism, the full picture of the income divide becomes clearer'and much starker."

The mapping project presents the data in a captivating and digestible way, and also allows journalists to report more accurately on political events like the upcoming 2012 presidential election.

Said Eric Newton, Senior Adviser to the President at Knight, "There's no doubt there are serious implications to this information, we'll just have to wait and see who takes notice."

For more on how Knight Foundation advances quality journalism to promote informed and engaged communities visit