Creating the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge
Every day thousands of teenagers read a newspaper online for the first time, creating a habit that – for them – might never include subscribing to a print newspaper. The news universe and the journalism world are rearranging themselves to allow for the emergence of this large new interactive audience.
The ever-growing numbers of people visiting portals, blogs and news web sites show that the flow of news itself is not in jeopardy. In fact, all media offering free, targeted, convenient, engaging journalism, news and information are growing.
But the technology that allows information to be consumed on demand and on the go – through iPods, cell phones, PDAs, PlayStations or wireless computers – obviously has the potential to separate and isolate us. Sometimes it reassembles us into communities that exist only in the electrons.
Yet these devices also can bring us physically together in ways undreamed of even five years ago -- witness the flash mobs protesting in South Korea's streets.
In what other ways will computers create community? How can cyberspace improve life in physical space? How will digital news improve the world of journalism?
That's the Knight Brothers 21st Century Challenge.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation plans to seek people and organizations that will do in the 21st century what the Knight brothers' newspapers did in the 20th century. Those newspapers helped define communities. They described the happenings and defined obstacles and opportunities. They created a sense of place by creating a shared experience. They did it with integrity and insight. They reached a mass audience, creating a critical mass of thinking and feeling. Their news was the glue that held communities together.
In a democracy that is organized by geography, the fate of every American village, town, suburb and metropolis depends on citizens being able to get the news they need to run their lives and their governments. The Knight Brothers 21st Century Challenge hopes to recognize transformative ideas, pilot projects, leadership initiatives and investment opportunities that will help improve the flow of journalism, information and news in the public interest in America's communities.
Starting this fall, the foundation will seek proposals for innovative ways to shape the future of news and community.
We're looking for:
• New ways to understand news and act on it, including new ways to collect, prepare and distribute information, news and journalism that reveals hard-to-know facts, identifies common problems, clarifies community issues and points out practical courses of action;
• New ways for people to communicate interactively to better understand one another, to generate real passion in solving local problems and to share the know-how they need to improve their communities;
• New ways for people to use information, news and journalism to imagine their collective possibilities as communities, and to set and reach common community goals.
We want proposals that increase the clarity, not the cacophony. We're looking for ways to increase a community's capacity to both understand what's wrong and to fix it.
We will issue this request in the fall, but now we want to hear your ideas on the process. How should we find the best ideas or products?
Let's get a discussion started! We have a lot of questions:
• Should individuals, educational institutions and companies all be eligible?
• Is this closed to anyone or any type of group or company?
• Should there be a special category for Knight communities, an idea that will help to connect them better?
• Should there be a minimum age limit for individuals?
• Should we reach out to the gaming community?
• Should we reach out to international applicants?
• Should we focus on new ideas, advancing current ideas, developing prototypes, establishing leadership projects -- or all of these?
• Best short-term and best long-term solution to a problem?
• Greatest potential to disrupt current thinking, operations, processes, business plans?
• Best Idea, prototype or pilot project?
• Can a winner in one category this year (like Best Idea) compete next year for Prototype or Pilot Project?