November 3, 2015

An app that “proofreads” datasets, a tool that evaluates how much readers care about a story and an automated fact-checker are among a list of projects that have received early-stage funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The foundation announced today that 20 projects aimed at fostering civic engagement and access to data have each received awards of $35,000 from its Prototype Fund. The recipients come from various media and nonprofit institutions including NPR, the New York-based digital media outlet Vocativ and multiple universities.

Per usual, the grantees span a broad variety of ideas related to efficient use of media. Carebot, a project spearheaded by NPR ‎Visuals Editor Brian Boyer, aims to devise a series of metrics that determine how valuable stories are to readers. Dataproofer, a tool from Vocativ, hopes to help journalists evaluate the veracity of their datasets and check for errors at the outset of the reporting process. And ClaimBuster, an initiative from the University of Arlington in Texas, is designed to help journalists fact-check claims made by politicians in real-time.

Knight’s Prototype Fund, which was launched in 2012, makes grants to cultivate innovative ideas that inform communities. Applications for the fund are accepted on a quarterly basis, and the next application deadline is Nov. 16.

Here’s the full list of projects:

Pilgrim by (Project leads: Daniel Pianetti and Charles Broskoski) (New York, New York): Helping researchers find related articles, images, academic papers, text and more through an open-source, intelligent web-crawler that gathers this online data.

Billcam by DailyCloudt, Inc. (Project lead: Stephanie Sharis) (Berkeley, California): Adding transparency to the legislative process through an embeddable, shareable legislative tracking tool that connects federal and state bills and corresponding community annotation with relevant news articles, information, topical blogs and more. by Startup Policy Lab (Project lead: Charles Belle) (San Francisco): Simplifying government data requests through a web-based application that helps startups navigate law enforcement requests for consumer data and protects user privacy.

Carebot by NPR (Project lead: Brian Boyer) (Washington D.C.): Changing how newsrooms measure and celebrate success by measuring the things that actually matter: Did people complete the story? What proportion shared it? Did we make them care?

Catamount (Project lead: Stacey Peters) (Montpelier, Vermont): Helping journalists provide their readers with more meaningful information by building a WordPress plugin that automates integration between news stories and datasets with contextual and historical details; for example, a story about a politician could provide a link to their top donors.

ClaimBuster by University of Texas at Arlington (Project lead: Chengkai Li) (Arlington, Texas): Helping journalists fact-check statements made by politicians in real-time using a machine-learning tool that automatically identifies factual claims likely to be important to the public.

CityGram by Code for Charlotte (Project lead: Jill Bjers) (Charlotte, North Carolina): Making it easier for local governments to connect with their citizens by creating a notification system that allows users to receive information from their government by selecting a geographic area, category and delivery method for the notifications. by ClearGov Inc. (Project lead: Chris Bullock) (Hopkinton, Massachusetts): Helping citizens better understand local government finances through a website, which will include easy-to-understand infographics and benchmarking data that allows them to compare these finances to similar towns. The site will also serve as a platform for local governments to engage with citizens and improve transparency.

Dataproofer by Vocativ (Project lead: Gerald Rich) (New York): Helping data journalists and others check whether a dataset is accurate or contains errors through an app that lets users assess the quality of their data before they begin reporting, analyzing, or visualizing it.

Hudson App by Run Hop (Project lead: Pete Davies) (San Francisco): Making it easy and fun to discover things to read, watch and listen to through an app that sources from social signals and curated channels. Join the beta at:

Local/Municipal Election Dates and Deadlines Data Management System and API by U.S. Vote Foundation (Project lead: Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat) (Arlington, Virginia): Helping to increase voter engagement by creating a nationwide system to collect, maintain and distribute information on upcoming local election dates and deadlines.

LPFM Radio Impact Maps by Prometheus Radio Project (Project lead: Paul Bame) (Philadelphia): Helping radio stations understand and better engage with audiences, funders, and volunteers by creating software that maps interference and population demographics for low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations in an inexpensive and straightforward way.

IdeaMapr by Bouldin Labs (Project lead: Matt Hall) (Austin, Texas): Helping communities collaborate with local government on complex civic decisions by developing an online tool that guides people through the decision-making process and creates a map of conversations that charts questions, ideas, and pros/cons.

Mapquery by Quartz (Project lead: Keith Collins) (New York, New York): Making the creation of geographic maps easier and more accessible by creating a system for finding, merging and refining geographic data.

Municipal Financial Index by Centro de Investigación y Política Pública (Project lead: Arnaldo Cruz) (San Juan, Puerto Rico): Providing people with straightforward information on municipal finances through an interactive user-friendly graphic interface that people can use to assess the fiscal condition and spending priorities of their city.

OpenStreetMap Data Quality Analysis Tool by Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team United States Inc. (Project lead: James Blake Girardot) (Washington, D.C.): Helping journalists, humanitarians, academics, government officials and others determine the quality of data in the OpenStreetMap database for a user defined area depending on their topic of interest.

Pteraform by Simiary (Project lead Ben Adams) (Santa Barbara, California): Helping users learn more about places around the world and how a particular topic varies geographically through an open platform that uses an interactive world map to chart search results. The project is a follow-up to Frankenplace.

@Stake by The Engagement Lab at Emerson College (Project lead: Mariko Davidson) (Boston): Increasing civic engagement through a role-playing game that fosters democracy, empathy, and creative problem solving for civic issues.

Street Quality Identification Device (SQUID) by Argo Labs (Project lead: Varun Adibhatla ) (New York): Helping city agencies make better decisions on street maintenance by creating a low-cost sensor platform that collects and analyzes data through street surface imagery.

Together We Listen by New York Public Library (Project lead: Alexandra Kelly): Making digital audio collections from libraries and public media organizations more accessible by combining the auto-transcription services of Pop Up Archive with a community engagement model that will involve the public in updating and enriching these collections. New York Public Library will collaborate with The Moth on the project.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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