Knight Foundation


Knight Foundation finds a foothold in for-profit tech startups

You read here with some regularity about Knight Foundation grants and Knight-funded research projects. But in recent years without notice, the leader in journalism philanthropy also has established a modest beachhead in the for-profit world.

The Knight Enterprise Fund, organizationally part of the unit that manages the foundation’s $2.5 billion endowment, has a $10 million kitty and has made 40 venture investments over the last three years.

Ben Wirz (photo courtesy of Knight Foundation)

Ben Wirz (photo courtesy of Knight Foundation)

It has a dual purpose, director of venture investments Ben Wirz told me in a phone interview.  Make money, yes, but also keep the foundation up to speed on promising digital tools and trends, the better to inform its grant-making.

Wirz, who spoke at Poynter for our Media Innovations Tour earlier this spring, was a journalist early in his career, reporting for Japan’s Asahi ShimbunRead more


Radiotopia, an early podcast network, is going strong and expanding

Reading headlines from the last year, it’s tempting to imagine that podcasting suddenly emerged fully formed in the world of media. Within the last few months, entrepreneurs like Slate and “This American Life”‘s Alex Blumberg both launched new companies that seek to capitalize on podcasting’s popularity among listeners, and old stalwarts like NPR and Chicago Public Media have joined the fray with offerings of their own.

But before Blumberg’s Gimlet Media got off the ground, before “Serial” lit up the iTunes charts, before Slate launched its own podcasting network, their creators were already working to develop an audience for the medium. And so was Radiotopia, a podcast network that arrived on the scene before the swell of publicity generated by “Serial.”

Radiotopia, an initiative from PRX that got its start in November 2013 with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, was an early entrant to a growing field of companies that seek to bring high-quality audio storytelling to a vast audience. Read more

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Knight Foundation reinvests in News University

Vicki Krueger is the Director of Interactive Learning and has been managing News University for 3 years and has been with the project for 10 years.

newsU-300Ten years ago, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made an investment in e-learning at Poynter. Since then, News University has grown to more than 325,000 users in 200 countries and territories around the world, 400 courses, and training in seven languages. About 2,000 people a week enroll in e-learning modules at NewsU. It has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

Now, in honor of NewsU’s 10th birthday, Knight is making a new investment of $195,000 in the leading online training site for journalists, educators and anyone interested in the craft and values of journalism. Knight funding will support the first phase of the most ambitious rethinking and retooling of Poynter NewsU since it was launched in April 2005. Read more

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Knight Foundation finds nonprofit sites’ revenue rising but sustainability elusive

knight-nonprofitsThe Knight Foundation finds progress in the nonprofit news sector in its latest report, released today, with average revenues up 73 percent in two years at 20 outlets it has been tracking.

“But the issues are not going away,” Jon Sotsky, Knight’s director for strategy and assessment, said in a phone interview. “They’re still over dependent on foundation grants,” with many potentially in trouble if key grants are not renewed or replaced.

Today’s report, third in a series, includes a bonus — a comprehensive study of Texas Tribune, a leader among regional sites in developing diverse revenue streams which built to a $7 million annual budget in five years.

On the positive side of the ledger, the report finds:

  • Earned income increased from 18 to 23 percent of revenues over the two years.
Read more

As Sunshine Week dawns, journalists, advocates, call for transparency

Sunshine Week, an annual initiative promoting government transparency, starts Sunday. To mark the occasion, several journalists and media organizations have taken public stands in favor of better open records laws and more transparent government.

Gary Pruitt, CEO of The Associated Press
Pruitt released a statement Friday that condemned the government’s lackadaisical responses to The AP’s Freedom of Information Act requests, citing its recent lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

Despite head-pounding frustrations in using them, the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws are powerful reporting tools. But it’s important to remember that they don’t exist just for journalists. They are there for everyone.

Massachusetts newspapers
The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, the The Patriot Ledger and Gatehouse Media papers in Massachusetts have all agreed to publish coordinated editorials in condemnation of a recent ruling by Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin that allowed Boston police to withhold the names of police officers who were driving drunk, said Ellen Clegg, interim editorial page editor at The Boston Globe. Read more


New newsroom training report shows gaps, some progress

For many journalists, this is the best of times for training. For others, it’s a missed opportunity, according to a new Poynter report.

The results of a new report “Constant Training: New Normal or Missed Opportunity?” were released today by The Poynter Institute and the Knight Foundation. Two-thirds of journalists report that they have received training the past 12 months. In addition, more than half, 56 percent, of those journalists were mostly satisfied or very satisfied with the training.

That’s a significant improvement from the 1993 “No Train, No Gain” report, published by the Freedom Forum, which revealed that only 14 percent of the journalists surveyed received regular weekly or monthly training at their newspapers. A follow-up report, “Newsroom Training: Where’s the Investment?” in 2002 painted a similar picture, with more than two-thirds of the journalists surveyed saying they “receive no regular skills training.”

However, Poynter’s 2014 survey shows that training varies wildly between newsrooms, with several reporting less than half of staff members have received training in the past year.  Read more


Jennifer Preston joins Knight Foundation

Jennifer Preston, the New York Times’ first social media editor, will become vice president for journalism at the Knight Foundation. Preston also helped launch the Times’ “Watching” feature, which Justin Ellis wrote about for Nieman recently.

Other Knight moves accompany the Preston hire and are part of a “reorganization designed to boost Knight Foundation’s ability to help accelerate digital innovation at news organizations and journalism schools, while accelerating the pace of experimentation that drives that innovation,” a release, below, says.

MIAMI – Oct. 6, 2014 – Jennifer Preston, an award-winning New York Times journalist and digital innovator, will join the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as vice president for journalism beginning Oct. 20, 2014.

The move completes a reorganization designed to boost Knight Foundation’s ability to help accelerate digital innovation at news organizations and journalism schools, while accelerating the pace of experimentation that drives that innovation.

Read more

Knight Fellowship Program to create workshop for top editors and publishers

The Knight Foundation Tuesday announced a $1.8 million investment in the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships Program at Stanford University for a series of new initiatives, including the establishment of a workshop on transformative news leadership.

The program will use the money to “strengthen the fellowship curriculum and help spread the program’s impact into newsrooms and beyond,” according to a release from the Knight Foundation (full release below).

The initiatives include:

  • Hiring a coordinator to help fellows “build on the innovative ideas they examined during their fellowship year.”
  • Holding an annual “networking and mentoring event” for 20 former fellows.
  • Starting a workshop where “top editors and publishers” can collaborate and learn with fellows.
  • Create a technology curriculum for journalists.

Here’s the release:

STANFORD, CALIF.—Oct. 7, 2014—The John S.

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Career Beat: Tom Knudson joins Center for Investigative Reporting

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Tom Knudson is now a senior reporter at The Center for Investigative Reporting. Previously he was a staff writer at The Sacramento Bee. (Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Mark Smith will be mobile web editor for The Washington Post. Previously, he was senior manager of social media marketing at USA Today. (Washington Post)
  • Brian Gross will be deputy design director at The Washington Post. Currently, he’s lead senior designer there. Emmet Smith will be lead senior designer at The Washington Post. Previously, he was a senior designer there. (Washington Post)
  • Julia Cheiffetz is now executive editor at Dey Street Books. Previously, she was editorial director at Amazon. (@rachelsklar)
  • Stephen Collinson is now a senior enterprise reporter for CNN’s digital politics.
Read more

Knight Foundation announces new journalism division

Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation will split its journalism and media innovation division into two separate teams, adding a vice president for journalism, the nonprofit announced Wednesday.

Under the new structure, the media innovation division will administer programs such as the Knight News Challenge and the Knight Prototype Fund, John Bracken, vice president of the new media innovation division, said in a phone interview. The journalism division will focus on leading transformational change in newsrooms. The two divisions will divvy up the current combined grantmaking budget, though the specific breakdown hasn’t been determined yet. This budget varies from year to year depending on a variety of factors including the performance of the stock market.

Knight announced a slew of promotions in concert with the reorganization. Bracken was formerly director of media innovation. Read more

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