Winners in Knight News Challenge: Networks

technology / Article


Four months after opening the Knight News Challenge on networks, I’m happy to announce the six winners. We selected them after reviewing 1,100 applications over the last three months.

For us at Knight, the fun part starts now. Over the next month, we’ll sit down with each of the winners to ask one question: “How can we help?” In fact, we’ve already started. Each project has different needs, but we’re talking with each of them about how to measure their progress, how to better communicate their work and how to handle back office tasks such as accounting and hiring.

Without further ado, the six winners of the Knight News Challenge on networks: Behavio (formerly known as funf): Nadav Aharony, Alan Gardner, Cody Sumter $355,000 program related investment Behavio will enable users to collect and anonymously share data from their mobile phones. It will collect data such as video, movement, location and available light. Users can then analyze, visualize and draw insights from that data.   My colleague Elizabeth Miller interviewed Nadav, Alan and Cody after they won the News Technologies Accelerator Competition that Knight Foundation sponsored at SXSW earlier this year. Some of what Nadav told Elizabeth highlights the open approach that we found appealing. “We intentionally give the freedom of configuration to the user and hope that they’ll tell us what works and what doesn’t,” said Nadav. PeepolTV Felipe Hausser, Jeffrey Warren $360,000 grant PeepolTV will build an interactive collection of every livestream on the planet, searchable by map, tags, semantic analysis and other attributes. The project aims to help users document events as they take place, for example by tracking a protest through a collection of livestreams shown on a map of the area. In an email, one of our external reviewers called PeepolTV a “big, ambitious project” that could become “a channel guide for the entire Internet...having a directory to find out what's live on the web right now would be invaluable." Last year, Jeffrey Warren and Felipe Heusser took home $2,000 for winning second prize in the MIT Knight Civic Media Conference Collaboration Contest. This year, their project (originally called Streaming Screaming) will receive a $360,000 grant.  Warren is a co-founder of 2011 News Challenge winner Public Laboratory; Felipe is an Ashoka fellow and a Berkman fellow at Harvard and founder of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente. Alvin Liang, Caitria O’Neill, Morgan O’Neill $340,000 grant After a tornado roared through their home of Monson, Mass. last year, sisters Caitria and Morgan O’Neill decided to dive into disaster recovery. Caitria, Morgan and their CTO Alvin Liang (whom they met at a poker game) are building tools to help communities get back on their feet more quickly and effectively after a disaster. They’ll be working on a recovery dashboard that will help coordinate volunteers, physical donations, monetary donation with community needs and to improve communication among local governments, aid groups and others who want to help.

Tor Project Andrew Lewman, Karen Reilly $320,000 grant Tor has been protecting Internet communications worldwide for the last 10 years. The Tor community, and the open-source tools it develops, promotes free speech by seeking to ensure that we communicate more safely online. People use Tor to protect themselves from harassment and surveillance by governments and non-state actors like organized crime. Tor will use News Challenge funds to develop open source software designed to protect journalists. It will adapt some of its secure Web browser and design a set of tools with and for journalists working in dangerous zones. Earlier this year, we unveiled the Knight Enterprise Fund as a means for investing in commercial start-up ventures. Two of the News Challenge: Networks winners are being funded through this vehicle. Both also happen to come from veteran entrepreneurs. They are: Mohamed Nanabhay, Haroon Meer Nanabhay built a reputation for news innovation during his eight years running the interactive newsroom at Al Jazeera. (Mohamed spoke about his work at Al Jazeera at last year’s Civic Media conference.), his first venture since leaving Al Jazeera, is a collaboration with Haroon Meer. They’re building a dashboard that will make it easier for newsrooms, and potentially consumers, to understand how stories emerge and spread. Watchup Adriano Farano, Jonathan Lundell Watchup is an iPad app that helps users find, collect and interact with video news content. Watchup is the latest venture from Adriano Farano, who previously founded and ran European news sites OWNI and Cafe Babel. Adriano is also a former Knight Fellow at Stanford and served in 2010 as a reviewer on the Knight News Challenge. His co-founder is Jonathan Lundell, a hardware and software engineer with 30 years of experience. (and they’re hiring!) Those six projects represent about .5% of the nearly 1100 applications we received. As I anticipated when we closed the contest in March, to get to these six we had to leave a lot of exciting, worthy projects by the wayside. We are funding other News Challenge entries through our new prototype fund -- my colleague Chris Sopher has the details here. You can apply for the Knight prototype fund now. I want to thank the 43 people who helped us review the applications. Knight Foundation selected the winners, but we would not have been able to conduct the contest without the help, counsel and criticism of the people who hopped on Google hangouts, fielded late night questions over email and IM, flew to Miami to meet with us and conducted in-person interviews with us. Three of those reviewers shared thoughts on the experience, Ryan Jacoby, Raina Kumra and Aron Pilhofer. We have another cohort of reviewers standing by to start reviewing entries in the current Knight News Challenge, on data, once it closes at noon ET on Thursday, June 21. We’ll be awarding a share of $5 million to another set of winners in about three months. You can check out the entries and apply here. For people with last minute questions, hit us up at [email protected] and on Twitter at @knightfdn using #newschallenge.

By John Bracken, director/journalism and media innovation at Knight Foundation

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Visualizing the News Challenge on Networks apps