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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is a national foundation that funds a variety of causes, including journalism projects and organizations.

The foundation was founded in 1950 by the Knight brothers, who owned the Ohio-based Knight Newspapers, which later became Knight Ridder.

Since 1950, the foundation has invested nearly $400 million in journalism through midcareer training programs, endowed journalism chairs at universities, newsroom diversity projects, high school journalism training, the International Center for Journalists, the Knight Citizen News Network, the Knight Digital Media Center, and many other initiatives.

In recent years, Knight has increased its funding interest in journalism innovation, most notably through the Knight News Challenge, but also through other efforts. In early 2011, Knight launched a four-year, $4.2 million “test kitchen” at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, for instance, and partnered with the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation to embed technology fellows in newsrooms, a partnership that was renewed in 2013. Knight regularly gives grants to new journalism projects and news organizations and in 2011 began investing in news projects with the Knight Enterprise Fund. It also launched a smaller, quicker way of funding news projects in 2012 with the Knight Prototype Fund. However, it generally does not provide ongoing funding for individual outlets.

The Knight Foundation also gives grants to more established organizations, such as grants in 2013 of $985,000 to TED to measure the impact of innovative ideas and $3.1 million to New York University to provide community technology training.

(The Knight Foundation provides funding to the Nieman Foundation and the Nieman Journalism Lab, including for the creation of Encyclo.)

Knight News Challenge

The foundation runs the Knight News Challenge, a five-year annual contest that awards startup grants to innovative news projects around the world. The challenge gave its first awards in 2007 and its fifth round in June 2011. After its initial five-year run ended, the foundation announced that the News Challenge would be continued with three annual contests starting in 2012. The first of those contests focused on networks and resulted in six awards, and the second contest focused on data.

Through 2010, the challenge has funded 50 projects for $23 million. Past winners include EveryBlock, Spot.Us, Ushahidi, DocumentCloud, Chi-Town Daily News, Gotham Gazette, Global Voices, and Spot.Us.

The foundation and News Challenge’s primary purpose is to fuel innovation in journalism, and they have done so by broadening their focus to include the broader information needs of communities as well. The News Challenge also represented a shift toward a more open and participatory process for the foundation. The foundation requires each winning News Challenge project to release its code as an open-source resource for other organizations.

A video on the Knight Foundation’s mission:

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Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
Nov. 17, 2015 / Madeline Welsh
Here’s how the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab wants to experiment with news on phones — Back in June, The Guardian’s U.S. operation announced the creation of the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab. Funded by a $2.6 million grant from the Knight Foundation, the Lab is developing and creating new approaches...
Nov. 5, 2015 / Shan Wang
The 2016 Knight-Mozilla fellows will bring their technical skills to newsrooms around the world — The fifth class of Knight-Mozilla fellows have been announced at the Mozilla Festival in London, a group of data and design geeks and developers who’ll work for ten months next year on projects in newsrooms around ...
Nov. 3, 2015 / Joseph Lichterman
20 new projects are awarded $35,000 Knight Prototype Fund grants — The Knight Foundation announced today that it was awarding $700,000 in new funding to 20 new projects focused on media or information through its Knight Prototype Fund. Each project will receive $35,000 in funding. Many ...
Oct. 22, 2015 / Laura Hazard Owen
A new project from Knight and Temple helps metro newsrooms get digital faster (and on a deadline) — Jennifer Preston spent the past few months visiting newsrooms around the country and found that, “while they have made headway toward a digital transformation, they wanted support to accelerate that.” When Th...
Oct. 7, 2015 / Joshua Benton
Get AMP’d: Here’s what publishers need to know about Google’s new plan to speed up your website — Google unveiled its new plan to speed up the mobile web today — Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP — and it’s the latest attempt by a technology company to deal with the problem of the slow mobile web. Facebook h...

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: October 17, 2013.
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