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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Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate.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:
Nov. 18, 2019 / Hanaa' Tameez
Americans are more willing to pay for local news when they know local newspapers are in trouble, a new study says — More than half of Americans believe that local news organizations are doing well financially, according to a new report published today by the Knight Foundation and Gallup. But if you tell them otherwise, they’re m...
Oct. 29, 2019 / Christine Schmidt
People might not trust local news that much after all — and the way to improve it increases the risk — Local news is more trusted than national news, yes. But that’s largely because national news is not very trusted, especially by Republicans, according to a new study from the Knight Foundation and Gallup. The 2010s...
Oct. 25, 2019 / Ken Doctor
Why I’m starting a company to build out a new model for local news in the 2020s — Over the past decade here at Nieman Lab, I’ve reported a lot of news industry news. Today, I’m sharing some of my own. After months of work, I’m happy to begin introducing the new company that I’m...
Oct. 3, 2019 / Christine Schmidt
The business case for listening to your audience is still murky (but early results are promising) — Does audience engagement-focused reporting actually improve a news organization’s revenue? After $650,000, nearly three dozen newsrooms’ experiments, and one year later, it’s still unclear. Four major j...
Sept. 6, 2019 / Christine Schmidt
How to experiment with local TV news: It’s really about choosing your own adventure — Choose Your Own Adventure books were a big hit. But what about choose your news? This isn’t quite personalizing algorithms on a news site’s homepage or platforms surfacing different items in your feed. One lo...

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: October 17, 2013.
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Encyclo is made possible by a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The Nieman Journalism Lab is a collaborative attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age.
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