Whenever we open a contest, I always feel a little bit like when I throw a party: I’m never sure if anyone will show up, and am always relieved when they do. We closed the Knight News Challenge: Data Thursday afternoon with 881 applications - 813 are openly visible on the NewsChallenge Tumblr, another 68 were submitted privately. Knight staff, with the help of about 15 field experts, started the review process this weekend. It is way too early for us to have ideas about who the winners might be, but early indications are that we have a good batch. “Submissions this time around are really high quality,” wrote one of the reviewers this morning. In my first quick perusal of the applicants, I noticed organizations like McClatchy, the Chicago Tribune, the United Way (St. Louis), Personal.com, Sunlight Foundation, Code for America, the AP, NPR, the Chronicle for Higher Education, the Guardian, Partners in Health and the cities of San Francisco and Chicago. I’ve seen entries from Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Peru, Moldova, Georgia, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain, England, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Hong Kong and Germany. Among the themes we’re noticing so far:
- display of and access to government data;
- making obscure data more transparent;
- helping people improve themselves or particular target populations;
- analysis of money in politics and money in government;
- tools to help journalists analyze information.
Over the next week, we’ll read each of those entries a minimum of three times. After the 4th of July holiday, we’ll be hosting about 15 advisers to help us settle on a group of finalists. Knight staff will have the rest of July to interview those finalists, conduct due diligence, and come up with a set of proposals to recommend to the Knight trustees. Those recommendations will be decided upon at its September 10 meeting. We’ll announce the winners shortly thereafter. A note on public comments: For the Knight News Challenge: Networks, we weighed applicants’ ability to leverage attention and comments on their applications. We don’t have such a rule this time. As part of our consideration, we of course take note of what people are pointing and linking to online. This includes comments left on the Tumblr, using Disqus and comments on Twitter, Facebook etc. We will notice if particular apps garner a lot of discussion. Fundamentally though, we’re looking for ideas with the greatest potential for social impact. By John Bracken, director journalism/media innovation at Knight Foundation