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

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:
July 25, 2014 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of how and why — Try this: Make a list with two simple columns. On the left, write Who, What, When, and Where. On the right column, write How and Why. Then, go to any news site — local, national, or global — or even to a print ne...
July 17, 2014 / Justin Ellis
Public records tools, reader metrics, and more among new Prototype Fund winners — The latest round of small grants from the Knight Prototype Fund includes several projects and digital tools that could eventually prove useful to journalists. A developer from Grist wants to build tools to measure audien...
July 3, 2014 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of The Oregonian’s new editor’s challenge — It’s tough to find a place with more news change than Portland, Oregon. At the center of that change is the new Oregonian. Like New Orleans, Cleveland, Syracuse, and most other Advance Publications dailies, it̵...
June 25, 2014 / Joseph Lichterman
Here’s what you missed at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference — The annual MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference wrapped up here in Cambridge yesterday. This year’s theme was “The Open Internet and Everything After,” and over the course of two days, speakers highlighted...
June 23, 2014 / Justin Ellis
New Knight News Challenge winners receive funding to help strengthen the Internet — The Knight Foundation is out with the most recent group of winners in the Knight News Challenge, with $3.4 million going to projects that help promote innovation on the Internet. The 19 winning projects will expand acces...

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: October 17, 2013.
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The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a nonprofit organization that focuses on investigative reporting at state and local levels. The center, based in Bismarck, N.D., was founded in 2009 by the Sam Adams Alliance, a conservative thinktank, and several of its employees have come from positions in conservative publications and political offices,…

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