Articles by Katti Gray

  • Article

    In a digital, diverse America, the First Amendment matters more than ever, forum shows

    June 26, 2017 by Katti Gray

    In a digital, diverse America, the First Amendment matters more than ever, forum shows

    Free to State: A New Era for the First Amendment panel at the Newseum on June 20, 2017 Photo by Andrew Sherry.

    Is it unconstitutional for President Trump to block his Twitter critics?

    Should colleges have so-called safe spaces for students with opposing viewpoints?

    Should the United States, as do several other Western democracies, rigorously define and outlaw hate speech?

    In the eyes of, say, a brown-skinned American Muslim and an anti-Trump white American evangelical, how protected is the First Amendment’s freedom-of-religion guarantee?

    Such questions were unimaginable in 1791, when the nation’s then 14 states—all controlled by white men—ratified the First Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights. But those were among queries about constitutional rights to a free press, free speech and freedom of religion that legal, academic and religious experts considered during Free to State: A New Era for the First Amendment, last week’s Washington Post forum, supported by Knight Foundation.

  • Article

    New models for citizens to take media into their own hands on display at #PDF17

    June 14, 2017 by Katti Gray

    New models for citizens to take media into their own hands on display at #PDF17

    A shortlist of media innovations with potentially long reach, spotlighted during the 2017 Personal Democracy Forum, included an upcoming news site whose subscribers will help dictate what’s covered and a planned strategic expansion of Native American efforts to shape headlines about their concerns.

    Hosted by Civic Hall, the New York conference drew a global roster of artists, activists, politicians, journalists, technologists and other change-makers bent on enlarging the public discourse and public understanding of the mother lode of information online and elsewhere. This, the conferees said, at a time when disinformation is deliberately spread and often unchecked.

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    In defense of freedom: First event for Knight First Amendment Institute spotlights urgent challenges of the digital age

    May 3, 2017 by Katti Gray

    In defense of freedom: First event for Knight First Amendment Institute spotlights urgent challenges of the digital age

    Photo by Ed Uthman on Flickr.

    Fake news gets passed off as fact. Social media, technology and communications giants disproportionately dictate the flow of information. Polarizing public debates raise hard questions about what average people and presidents alike should and shouldn’t say—and about who, if any one, has the right to censor another.

    Such fraught realities of this hyperdigital era were fodder for a symposium on the U.S. Constitution’s promise of a free press and free speech, the inaugural event of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. The journalists, academics, civil libertarians, human rights monitors and other speakers at the May 1 discussion, “Disrupted: Speech and Democracy in the Digital Age,” also spotlighted global concerns about speech, press and related freedoms.  

  • Article

    Knight Prototype Fund winner Hollaback! convenes diverse groups to fight harassment

    March 10, 2015 by Katti Gray

    Knight Prototype Fund winner Hollaback! convenes diverse groups to fight harassment

    Photo courtesy of Hollaback!

    Brooklyn-born to Palestinian immigrant parents, Linda Sarsour offered her experience as Exhibit A of what sometimes happens when her presence offends another. For example, one New York day, while queued up with her then 4-year-old son at her local bank, a nearby customer started cursing her and her “kind” of people, she said.

    Loudly, that middle-aged man asked what kind of establishment dared to serve an obviously Muslim Sarsour, her face exposed but head and neck covered in her customary hijab, she said. His rant continued until the teller beckoned him to jump ahead of 14 other customers so she could handle his business and he could exit, Sarsour said.

    Of her other fellow customers, “Not one of them said, ‘Don’t talk to that woman like that,’” the National Network for Arab American Communities’ Sarsour told those gathered for Holla::Rev 2015 at The New School in Manhattan last Thursday.

  • Article

    Five foundations collaborate on building better digital society

    February 13, 2015 by Katti Gray

    Five foundations collaborate on building better digital society

    Photo by John Bracken.

    How well individuals and communities fare educationally, in the job market and other key spheres that increasingly are digitally driven partly depends on how easily they can access and navigate the Internet.

    With that belief in mind, Knight Foundation and four other international philanthropies are collaborating on how to expand Internet capacity and literacy. Access to an open Internet, foundation leaders say, is fundamental to our economic, civic and personal lives.

    “I’m not talking about the shiny new technology, the hot new wearable, the Internet of things … I’m talking about ensuring that the privacy and protections that were afforded in the analog world are equally distributed and protected in the digital world … Internet rights as civil rights,” said Darren Walker, Ford Foundation president.

  • Article

    New York Times execs guide company into innovative storytelling while diversifying revenue

    March 13, 2014 by Katti Gray


    "Inside the Minds of The New York Times" with guests Mark Thompson and Arthur Sulzberger Jr.  The panel was moderated by Alex S. Jones of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Photo credit: Gabe Palacio.

    Mobile apps for people who cook.

    Streaming video of charismatic reporters.

    Informational graphics and other tools, from an evolving digital arsenal, that quickly encapsulate the story or serve as a sidebar to long-form articles.

    Those are some of the storytelling techniques The New York Times is using to stay abreast of change in an evolving media world, according to its Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and President and CEO Mark Thompson. The two executives delivered an overview of the efforts underway at the Gray Lady to key players from global philanthropy, entertainment, government, the news business, Wall Street and other spheres during the third Media Minds breakfast sponsored by Knight Foundation, with media partners Gannett and USA Today. The series, which began last year, features conversations with news industry leaders.

    The missing airliner? When you start looking at a map … you get a clearer sense of what’s involved in the task of searching,” Thompson told that audience, noting the difference an interactive infographic can make in conveying this ongoing story.

    He continued:  “The heart of this is really trying to figure out how video [and other mediums] can work alongside … the experience of reading the best written journalism in the world. How does it complement? How does it enrich? How does it expand?”

    Thompson, former chief executive for the British Broadcasting Corp., joined The New York Times in 2012 to lead a revamp of the company’s overall business strategy. He has been credited with keeping his former employer on the cutting edge technologically, steering such groundbreaking projects as free digital TV subscriptions and paid, on-demand video services at the BBC. Each week 95 percent of United Kingdom residents tune in somewhere along the BBC’s line-up of television, radio and online news and entertainment stations and sites, on average for about 19 hours, he said.

  • Article

    Philly residents prepare for battle in Shakespeare in the park

    July 30, 2014 by Katti Gray

    Philly residents prepare for battle in Shakespeare in the park

    Shakespeare's Henry IV in West Philadelphia's Clark Park. Credit: Brian Siano on YouTube.

    When a staging of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” opens tonight in Philadelphia, city native Brian Anthony Wilson, a black actor perhaps best known for being Detective Vernon Holley in the award-winning “The Wire” television series, will take the stage as king.

    “I’m here because I am an actor,” Wilson said. “And I’m selfishly doing this. Playing a king is a challenge but the bigger thing, the key thing, is that I’m showing kids of color and people of color more of what we can do and see.”

    That’s an important message for West Philadelphia, the neighborhood where the adaptation kicks off a four-night run in Clark Park, a block off the 43rd Street trolley stop on Baltimore Avenue. Three-quarters of the neighborhood’s residents are black—a demographic not usually counted among Shakespeare fans—and some of them will help stage a battle scene in the production.

  • Article

    Panelists: More understanding, collaboration needed to advance Open Gov

    November 7, 2014 by Katti Gray

    Panelists: More understanding, collaboration needed to advance Open Gov

    "Open Government: State of the Union" panelists (from left to right): Kathy Conrad, Andrew Hoppin, Waldo Jaquith, Seamus Kraft and John Bracken. Photo courtesy of the Paley Center for Media.

    Digitizing government data aids the everyday decision-making of ordinary people. Nevertheless, users of that data can’t always readily access government information nor employ it in ways that boost civic involvement and hold government accountable, or help create the kinds of communities they desire.

    That was the broad consensus of tech developers, community organizers, government watchdogs, government officials and others at “The Next Big Thing in Open Government,” a forum co-sponsored by Knight Foundation and The Open Society Foundations at the Paley Center for Media in Manhattan Thursday.

    “We were founded on the [ideal] that government can work ‘for the people’ and ‘by the people’ but only if we make it so,” said the event’s keynote speaker, Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of San Francisco-based Code for America, a Knight grantee.

    To be sure, there have been strides in local, state and federal government efforts to make it easier for the average Jane to view and download information on such far-flung subjects as education, elected officials, the environment, health, human services, policing and so forth. But that system of providing information remains piecemeal, varying in quality, content and intent from locale to locale and, sometimes, from agency to agency within states and on the federal level, experts said.

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    Neil deGrasse Tyson accepts Knight Innovation Award

    October 16, 2015 by Katti Gray

    Knight Innovation Award Winner Neil deGrasse Tyson and CUNY J-School's Jeff Jarvis Do a Mic Drop. Photo by Ryan Wallerson/CUNY

    With his trademark wit and skill at putting high science in lay terms, celebrity astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, at a New York salute to him and other science information innovators, faulted the news media for largely not knowing enough about science to report it accurately—and for what he sees as the industry’s reluctance to address that shortcoming.

    “One-hundred percent of the time I’m journalistically profiled, something is wrong that they don’t know is wrong that could have been corrected instantly. But they thought something else might need to be checked and that’s what they send to me—but not anything else,” said native New Yorker Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, podcaster, TV show host and author of several bestselling books.

    “What do you care if I read what you wrote [in advance]? … Suppose I do complain? So what … ” asked Tyson, citing journalists’ longstanding tradition of not letting sources review their work before it’s published or broadcast. “If you care about what’s accurate … [do] whatever is required for you make an accurate story... ”  

    Journalists charged with reporting on science need basic training on what constitutes science, Tyson said, and, as one example, how newly announced research findings still must be proven or disproven with additional research—despite those findings’ publication in a presumably peer-vetted scientific journal.

  • Article

    Paley Center forum on data journalism explores expanding opportunities for storytelling

    December 11, 2015 by Katti Gray

    Paley Center forum on data journalism explores expanding opportunities for storytelling

    Above: Lee Glendinning, editor of the Guardian US, speaks with Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation journalism program director. Photo by Paley Media Center on Flickr.

    Even as news organizations fight to gain financial footing in an Internet age that has eroded advertising revenues, this era is birthing innovations in digital journalism that can enlarge storytelling and news audiences.

    That was the broad message from journalists—and non-journalists who increasingly are helping to direct and shape newsroom staffs—during the latest installment of the “Next Big Thing” at the Paley Center for Media in New York, a forum supported by Knight Foundation.

    “I regard the rise of data journalism and associated digital capabilities as the biggest reinvention of anything this side of the printing press … that has fundamentally changed journalism,” ProPublica Executive Chairman Paul Steiger said, at the start of the “2020 Vision of Data Journalism” panel he moderated.

    The Internet, he added, has upended traditional journalism, especially its revenue models. “On the other hand, the opportunities it’s opening up are phenomenal, ” said Steiger, who also serves on Knight Foundation’s board of trustees.

    Paley and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate School of Journalism, both Knight Foundation grantees, co-hosted the Wednesday morning forum. The event honored data journalism innovators: former software developer Meredith Broussard, a New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute professor who researches the use of artificial intelligence in investigative reporting; former financial software developer Brian Chirls, chief executive officer of datavized, a consultancy on data visualization tools; and statistician Rachel Schutt, senior vice president for data science at News Corp., owners of The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswire and the New York Post.