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New $5m fund for experiments in community journalism

The Knight Foundation have launched the 'Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge', investing up to $5 million in its first year in web 2.0-style community news projects that best use the digital world to connect people to the real world.

The News Challenge is looking to fund new ideas, prototypes, products and leadership initiatives that use innovative news methods to help citizens better connect within their communities. The competition is open to anyone, not just the journalism community. Although the fund is based in the US, it is open to individuals, corporations and no-profits anywhere in the world.

 “News and information are the glue that binds communities. We want to help today’s high-tech news do in the 21st
century what the Knight brothers’ newspapers did this past century,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation.

“Through their newspapers, the Knight brothers helped build a sense of community in cities and towns across the country. They did it by providing news, information and commentary that helped citizens understand their common interests and opportunities. The Knight brothers helped define the geography where people lived. We want to continue that tradition using new media to do what the brothers used to do with ink on paper," said Ibargüen.

If the quality of entries warrant it, the foundation may spend as much as $25 million during the next five years in the search for bold community news experiments.

“We’d like to encourage the newest ways for people to pursue a great American tradition: the fair, accurate, contextual search for the truth,” said Eric Newton, Knight’s director of Journalism Initiatives. “We want to help the citizens of this new century get the news they need to run their governments and their lives.”

The Challenge web site, with an online application form, is at The competition will accept applications through Dec. 31, and expects to begin announcing winners in the spring of 2007.

The foundation and its special panel of new media advisors will look for innovative proposals that contain a unique combination of vision, courage and know-how in their ability to use cyberspace to better connect people to the physical space where they live and work.

Cell phone documentaries? New operating software for news collectors? Journalism games? Nothing is too far out to qualify.

“We hesitate to set too many rules,” said Knight journalism program officer Gary Kebbel, “because we expect the best entries will be ideas that totally surprise us.”

They are looking for:

  • New ways to understand news and act on it, including new ways to collect, prepare and distribute information, news and journalism that reveals hard-to-know facts, identifies common problems, clarifies community issues and points out practical courses of action.
  • New ways for people to communicate interactively to better understand one another, to generate real passion in solving local problems and to share the know-how they need to improve their communities;
  • New ways for people to use information, news and journalism to imagine their collective possibilities as communities, and to set and reach common community goals.