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[liberationtech] Knight News Challenge to focus on strengthening the free & open Internet » Nieman Journalism Lab

Yosem Companys companys at
Thu Feb 27 14:28:26 PST 2014

The Knight Foundation wants to delay the death of the Internet as we
know it -- at least for a little while longer.

Today Knight is launching the latest installment of its Knight News
Challenge, and this round will focus on a subject on many minds these
days: how best to support a free and open Internet. Specifically,
Knight is asking people how they would answer this question: "How can
we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?" Those
who come up with a good answer -- or at least an idea that can pass
muster with Knight's experts and advisers -- will get a share of $2.75

Knight has funded the contest for media innovation since 2007 and
awarded more than $37 million over that span. This time around, Knight
is partnering with Ford Foundation and Mozilla to administer the News
Challenge. The contest is open to anyone, with a simple application
form on, with a deadline of March 18. Winners of the
News Challenge will be announced at the annual MIT-Knight Civic Media
Conference this June.

With the FCC attempting to rewrite its open Internet rules after
having them struck down by a federal appeals judge, and the pending
merger of cable companies Comcast and Time Warner(not to mention
Netflix brokering a deal for better service on Comcastbroadband
network), there has been growing concern about the future of the
Internet from consumer advocates and other technology watchers. (Not
to mention those three letters N, S, and Aand attendant concerns about
surveillance and privacy.)

"We see the Internet as a really important resource for expression,
for learning, for journalism, for connecting to one another as
neighbors in the community -- we want to make that stronger," said John
Bracken, Knight's director of journalism and media innovation.

With the events of the past few weeks, the News Challenge might seem
particularly timely, but Bracken said protecting the free flow of
information has been among Knight's main concerns for years. He
pointed to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of
Communities in a Democracy, a collaboration with the Aspen Institute
that aimed to "maximize the availability and flow of credible local
information" and "enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of
knowledge and exchange."

Bracken said recent events will only add more urgency to the News
Challenge. "Clearly it's a topic on a lot of people's minds," he said.
"It'll be exciting to see what it yields in terms of ideas and
broadening our idea of the topic."

In the most recent round of the News Challenge, which focused on
health, applicants were asked to answer the question "How can we
harness data and information for the health of communities?" The
latest round offers a similarly open-ended question on the subject of
the Internet. Bracken said that was done be design to try to spur as
many new ideas as possible. (Knight is again using IDEO'sOI Engine to
channel ideas through the contest.)

Making the ask appealing is one part of the equation; another is
taking an active approach to finding people to apply. One of the
reasons Knight partnered with Mozilla and Ford is to tie into their
networks. In the Venn diagram the three organizations share, Internet
openness and democratic access to information slots nicely into the
middle. Knight and Mozilla already collaborate on the Knight-Mozilla

"We want to expand the network of people we're reaching. You look at
the Internet and open web and building useful tools, and Mozilla and
their community come to mind," Bracken said.

Bringing partners into the News Challenge is only the latest tweak
Knight has made to the competition in the last several years as it
re-evaluates the way it funds innovation in journalism. Since 2012,
the News Challenge has been broken up from one annual call into
smaller, shorter, themed contests. But the long-term future of the
News Challenge remains under examination. (As Knight president and CEO
Alberto Ibargüen said at the MIT-Knight Civic Media conference last
year: "It may be finished. It may be that, as a device for doing
something, it may be that we've gone as far as we can take it.")

Bracken said they're still re-tooling the competition, as well as
expanding the funding opportunities for new projects through other
programs like the Knight Prototype Fund. "We want to constantly extend
the network of people we work with, and one way to do that is
collaborating on a new News Challenge," Bracken said.

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