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Dec. 18, 2009, 3:58 p.m.

KNC 2010: Nearly 2,500 proposals, and 65% were in closed category

We’ll have to wait another six months to find out who wins 2010 Knight News Challenge grants, but early data does reveal one key thing: the future of journalism has an abundance of ideas. Nearly 2,500 of them, all told.

The News Challenge received 2,489 proposals for the 2010 contest, according to Jose Zamora, journalism program associate at the Knight Foundation. That’s on par with last year, when there were 2,323.

The big change with the 2010 Challenge, and something we covered previously, was the availability of open and closed submission categories. In an email, Zamora said 65 percent of proposals came through the closed category and 35 percent were open. That’s a pretty big shift from September, when the ratio was roughly reversed — a sign that the late submitters wanted to keep their entries private.

Of course, the application window was longer this year. The original deadline for entries was Oct. 15, but Knight pushed it back two months to diversify the applicant pool. Zamora said that worked: “We were able to reach to other networks of software developers and entrepreneurs.”

Anecdotally, I spent a fair amount of time digging through the open category, and I was struck by the number of data-driven projects. It wasn’t so long ago that words like “database,” “feeds” and “aggregation” seemed novel in a journalism context. That’s no longer the case. The line between editorial and programming gets blurrier every year.

Looking through the open category you can see that a lot of people waited until the last minute to submit their applications. Procrastination is nothing new with the News Challenge, but Zamora doesn’t recommend it. “It is all cons on this issue,” he wrote. “Throughout the application period we wrote a few posts asking everybody to submit early and avoid the deadline, but most of the applicants waited until the last day. This is not good. It creates a lot of traffic to the site, making it run slower than usual, which does not give applicants the best user experience.”

As far as next steps go, the culling has already begun. Promising applications will be invited to submit in-depth proposals by Jan. 31. Judges then select the top 50 projects sometime in February. News Challenge winners — usually a dozen or so — are finalized in the spring and announced in June.

You can find further News Challenge details and milestones here. Good luck to all the applicants!

[Editor’s note: The Knight Foundation is a supporter of the Nieman Journalism Lab.]

POSTED     Dec. 18, 2009, 3:58 p.m.
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