Data Visualization, Community Involvement Among Winning Ideas in Knight News Challenge

Twelve winners of the Knight News Challenge will share $2.74 million to create data visualizations, build upon previous Knight-funded work and organize community members in ways that would make Clay Shirky proud.

The winners were announced at the Future of News and Civic Media conference at MIT on Wednesday. The announcement was streamed live from 2:30 to 4 p.m. ET, and you can follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #fncm.

A few themes emerged as I reviewed the list of winners and discussed the list with Marc Fest, vice president of communications for the Knight Foundation:

Several of the projects enable community input and action, in keeping with the News Challenge's focus on specific communities.

Local Wiki, which will build on Davis Wiki, aims to help communities create and sustain local wikis by creating specialized tools. CitySeed, based in Phoenix, will be a mobile application that enables users to mark a location (or "plant a seed") and share an idea for what can be done with that space.

GoMap Riga, based in Latvia, will use a map interface to let residents add their own news, pictures and videos and to discuss what is happening around them. Another grant went to rebuild and expand Front Porch Forum, an existing neighborhood forum and news site in Burlington, Vt.

Two of the projects build on the work of previous winners.
PRX StoryMarket will fund public radio stories using the "crowdfunding" model developed by, which received $340,000 in the 2008 News Challenge.

Tilemapping, to be tested in Washington, D.C., will help media create hyperlocal, data-heavy maps for websites and blogs. A prototype of Tilemapping was used by Ushahidi, which received $70,000 from the News Challenge in 2009, to map areas in Haiti that needed aid after the recent earthquake.

Fest said the foundation encourages collaboration in general but doesn't give them special consideration.

Finding ways to fund journalism remains a priority. In addition to StoryMarket, Knight awarded money to the Chicago site Windy Citizen to create real-time ads that pull from companies' Facebook pages, Twitter accounts or blogs.

More of this year's winners are private enterprises than in previous years
, rather than nonprofits or individuals. Fest said that may reflect the foundation's effort to reach people outside the journalism community and the increased number of developers and businesspeople on the selection panel.

Knight extended the deadline by two months last year in an effort to reach out to software developers, engineers, venture capitalists and others who would share an interest in innovating journalism. As part of that effort, Knight struck up relationships with the Sunlight Foundation, which uses technological means to make government more transparent, and the Mozilla Foundation, which promotes openness and is behind the Firefox Web browser.

Two winners focus on data visualization. In addition to Tilemapping, Stamen Design's CityTracking will enable people to use municipal data (such as crime and 311 calls) in ways that are visually appealing and easy to share.

Those projects don't appear to have anything to do with one of the most high-profile News Challenge winners, EveryBlock, which delivers data-driven news on the block level. bought EveryBlock last year.

One year left for the News Challenge

The News Challenge was set up as a five-year program to distribute at least $25 million; in four years, it has disbursed about $22 million. The amounts awarded in 2010 and 2009 are smaller than in 2008 and much smaller than the $11 million handed out in the program's first year.

Fest said it's possible that the foundation would create another way to fund journalism innovation, but that would be up to the trustees. It's also possible that the program would end up granting more than $25 million.

"The size of the grants is really a function of the ideas that are presented to us," Fest said. "Even though we said $25 million, if some terrific idea comes to us that fits into the paradigm of the News Challenge, I think our trustees would find ways to be flexible."

This year's winners were chosen from about 2,400 applicants, up slightly from 2009's figure of about 2,300.

A complete list of winners is below the chat window.

Live chat

On Thursday, Jennifer 8 Lee, a News Challenge judge, joined us for a live chat about what the judges looked for and themes that emerged among the entries. Philip Neustrom of Local Wiki, one of the winners, talked about his project.


Embedded & easy to share data visualizations for cities


$400,000 to

Eric Rodenbeck


The Cartoonist

Free tool newsrooms can use to create editorial cartoon games that engage readers on community issues

$378,000 to

Ian Bogost & Michael Mateas


Local Wiki

Open-source software for communities to develop local wikis


$350,000 to

Philip Neustrom & Mike Ivanov

@philipn, @mivanov

Windy Citizen's Real Time Ads

Software for online startups that enables constantly current ads


$250,000 to

Brad Flora


GoMap Riga

Live map with local news & activities (some automated, some user-generated), initially tested in Latvia


$250,000 to

Marcis Rubenis & Kristofs Blaus

@kristofsblaus @marcisrubenis

Order in the Court 2.0

Boston-based demonstration of best practices for digital court coverage, including live blogging, live streaming & a wiki

$250,000 to

John Davidow


Front Porch Forum

Expansion of Vermont community news site to 250 towns


$220,000 to

Michael Wood-Lewis



Chronicle of a battalion in Afghanistan with embedded journalists & user-generated content from Marines in active duty

$202,000 to

Teru Kuwayama



Collaborative virtual editing studio that enables people to upload, edit & remix videos

Related:, USC Annenberg News

$200,000 to

Nonny de la Peña &

Tom Grasty

@nonnydlp, @stroome


Mobile app that "seeds" & geo-tags location-based ideas for sharing, discussion & community action

$90,000 to

Retha Hill &

Cody Shotwell



PRX StoryMarket

Community pitches & funding for public radio stories, built on foundation of software

$75,000 to

Jake Shapiro



Hyper-local, data-driven maps tested in Washington, D.C., prototyped by Ushahidi's Haiti earthquake project

$74,000 to

Eric Gundersen


  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.


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