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Knight Foundation Announces Winners of 2010 News Challenge


Twelve media innovation projects have been named the 2010 winners of the Knight News Challenge, a contest that funds ideas that use digital technology to inform specific geographic communities.

The winners will share $2.74 million as part of the fourth round of the five-year international contest.

Among this year's winners are:

  • CityTracking
    Award: $400,000
    Winner: Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design
    Web URL: http://stamen.com; http://crimespotting.org
    Summary: To make municipal data easy to understand, CityTracking will allow users to create embeddable data visualizations that are appealing enough to spread virally and that are as easy to share as photos and videos. The dynamic interfaces will be appropriate to each data type, starting with crime and working through 311 calls for service, among others. The creators will use high design standards, making the visuals beautiful as well as useful.
  • Local Wiki
    Award: $350,000
    Winner: Philip Neustrom and Mike Ivanov
    Web URL: http://daviswiki.org
    Summary: Based on the successful DavisWiki.org in Davis, Calif., this project will create enhanced tools for local wikis, a new form of media that makes it easy for people to learn -- and share -- their own unique community knowledge. Members will be able to post articles about anything they like, edit others and upload photos and files. This grant will help create the specialized open-source software that makes the wiki possible and help communities develop, launch and sustain local wiki projects.
  • WindyCitizen's Real Time Ads
    Award: $250,000
    Winner: Brad Flora, WindyCitizen.com
    Web URL: http://nowspots.com
    Summary: As a way to help online startups become sustainable, this project will develop an improved software interface to help sites create and sell what are known as "real-time ads." These ads are designed to be engaging as they constantly change — showing the latest message or post from the advertiser's Twitter account, Facebook page or blog. Challenge winner Brad Flora helped pioneer the idea on his Chicago news site, WindyCitizen.com.
  • GoMap Riga
    Award: $250,000
    Winner: Marcis Rubenis and Kristofs Blaus, GoMap Riga
    Web URL: www.gomap.org; www.KristofsBlaus.com
    Summary: To inspire people to get involved in their community, this project will create a live, online map with local news and activities. GoMap Riga will pull some content from the web and place it automatically on the map. Residents will be able to add their own news, pictures and videos while discussing what is happening around them. GoMap Riga will be integrated with the major existing social networks and allow civic participation through mobile technology. The project will be tested in Riga, Latvia, and ultimately be applicable in other cities.
  • Tilemapping
    Award: $74,000
    Winner: Eric Gundersen, Development Seed
    Web URL: www.developmentseed.org
    Summary: To inspire residents to learn about local issues, Tilemapping will help local media create hyper-local, data-filled maps for their websites and blogs. Journalists will be able to tell more textured stories, while residents will be able to draw connections to their physical communities in new ways. The tools will be tested in Washington, D.C. Ushahidi, a 2009 Knight News Challenge winner, used a prototype after the earthquake in Haiti to create maps used to crowdsource reports on places needing aid.

“The free flow of shared information is essential for communities to function in a democracy. More each day, that information flows through and because of digital technology,” said Alberto Ibarguen, president of Knight Foundation. "Until someone figures out the next big thing — the next killer app that might provide blockbuster connectivity and information sharing to masses of people — we can use the Knight News Challenge to experiment with ways to learn how to think in different ways about information sharing so we might discover the future of news.”

Nearly half of this year’s winners are private enterprises, up from 15 percent in 2009. Businesses are finding more ways to build on open source software, a requirement of the Challenge.

Knight Foundation announced the winners at the Future of News and Civic Media conference at MIT, where Challenge winners past and present gather to exchange ideas and collaborate.

Over the Challenge’s four years, Knight Foundation has reviewed 10,000 applications and funded 50 projects for $23 million.

Already, past projects have been adopted by other media organizations and are having an impact:

  • Hnews, which allows readers to see the source of information in online articles, is being tested by the Associated Press and 250 newspapers.
  • DocumentCloud, which allows reporters to share source documents, is being used by ProPublica, The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune.
  • Spot.us, the community-funded reporting site, has had stories published in the Oakland Tribune and The New York Times and has expanded to Los Angeles.

“The future of news is being advanced every day by Knight News Challenge winners, who are bringing critical information to communities in new ways,” said Jose Zamora, Knight Foundation journalism program associate.


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