Knight announces a data-centric class of News Challenge winners

The new class focuses on a set of tools for journalism and community information.

By Joshua Benton

Today at the Online News Association’s annual conference in San Francisco, the Knight Foundation will present its newest class of Knight News Challenge winners. This cycle — the second of three this year under Knight’s new harder-better-faster-stronger contest regime — was focused on data, and the six winners are unusually tool-heavy — and heavy on the information needs of communities, Knight’s inclusive framing for a lot of civic-minded data and information that isn’t necessarily transmitted through what traditionalists might consider journalistic enterprises. Ambient community data — in one case, literally from the air around us — can be collected and used in ways that don’t fit into traditional story models. The more notably journalistic grants are aimed at capacity building — like the construction of common databases of election and census data that could be used by journalists (or anyone) anywhere.

This shift to tools has been gradual — this year’s winners look quite different from, say, the first year’s winners, which were more likely to include community journalism projects themselves. I think it’s a smart move. There’s a new infrastructure of digital tools slowly being built that, collectively, will make journalism and journalism-like work easier to do. Many of those ideas come from people in news organizations, but their potential value spreads far beyond one outlet’s boundaries — perhaps making it harder for that outlet to invest the time and money in building and maintaining it. So it makes sense for an outside force to deal with that commons-based issue. (Obligatory disclosure: Knight has also been a funder of the Nieman Journalism Lab.)


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit