Knight News Challenge Winners Announced; MIT Tops List With $5 Million

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By: E&P Staff

MIT, MTV, and various bloggers are among the first-year winners of the Knight News Challenge announced today at the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference and Trade Show in Miami.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded the contest with $25 million over five years to help journalism continue moving into a digital future. The initial winners — chosen from among 1,650 applicants — will receive $12 million, including several multi-year awards.

Awarded the biggest grant ($5 million) was the Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The money will be used to create a Center for Future Civic Media to develop, test, and study new forms of high-tech community news.

Other grants that were given included:

— $1.1 million to journalist/Web developer Adrian Holovaty, 26, creator of chicagocrime.org, to create a series of city-specific Web sites devoted to public records and hyper-local information. Among the cities getting the sites will be Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Jose, and Charlotte.

— $885,000 to VillageSoup in Maine to build free software to allow others to replicate the citizen journalism and community participation site VillageSoup.

— $700,000 to MTV to establish a Knight Mobile Youth Journalist (Knight “MyJos”) in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to report weekly — on cell phones and other media — on key issues including the environment, the 2008 presidential election, and sexual health.

— $639,000 to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for nine full journalism scholarships for students who have undergraduate degrees in computer science.

— $552,000 to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University for an “incubator” in which students will learn how to create and launch digital media products.

Eleven other grants of between $25,000 and $340,000 were awarded. Also, nine bloggers will each get $15,000 to blog about topics ranging from GPS tracking devices to “out-of-the-box” community publishing solutions.

“We want to spur discovery of how digital platforms can be used to disseminate news and information on a timely basis within a defined geographic space, and thereby build and bind community,” Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibarguen said in a statement. “That’s what newspapers and local television stations used to do in the 20th century, and it’s something that our communities still need today.”

Chris Csikszentmihalyi, MIT’s director of the Computing Culture Research Group, added: “We are moving to a Fifth Estate where everyone is able to pool their knowledge, share experience and expertise, and speak truth to power.”

Applications for the next Knight News Challenge round can be submitted at www.newschallenge.org starting July 1, with the application deadline Oct. 15.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has given out more than $300 million since its 1950 founding.

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