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Key links:
Primary website:
knightfoundation.org
Primary Twitter:
@knightfdn

Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

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:

Peers, allies, & competitors:
Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
Jan. 23, 2018 / Ricardo Bilton
A new $650K grant will help pay for newsrooms to adopt tools like Hearken and GroundSource — For news organizations, the extended period of self-reflection after the 2016 election produced a handful of resolutions. One big one: the need to get better at listening to and engaging with audiences, not just producin...
Jan. 16, 2018 / Ricardo Bilton
Americans say greater access to news sources is actually making it harder to stay informed — Another survey, another set of a sobering findings about how little Americans trust the current news ecosystem to keep them properly informed. According to “American Views: Trust, Media and Democracy,” a new ...
Nov. 16, 2017 / Laura Hazard Owen
Knight shares what it’s learned over 10 years of the Knight News Challenge (and announces eight new winners) — Ten years, 190 projects, and $49 million later, the Knight Foundation has released a report about what it’s learned over a decade of funding the Knight News Challenge. It’s also giving eight previous award wi...
Nov. 16, 2017 / Laura Hazard Owen
The Trust Project brings news orgs and tech giants together to tag and surface high-quality news — Will readers trust the news more if they have more information about who’s behind it? It’s worth a try. Thursday marks the launch of The Trust Project, an initiative three years in the making (but feeling oh-...
Nov. 14, 2017 / Nicholas Quah
Who are podcast “super listeners,” what do they do, and how do we build podcasts for them? — Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 140, published November 14, 2017. Hello from Chicago, where I’m writing this in the lovely Hearken offices. Much thanks to the team for letting me in from ...

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