I’m at the Editor and Publisher and Adweek “Interactive Media” conference today because the Knight Foundation is announcing its News Challenge winners this morning at the conference. Global Voices has won one of the 24 awards, a $244,000 two-year grant that’s going to support our Rising Voices, our new outreach program. We’re going to support projects to help diversify the range of blogs and media featured on the Global Voices site. We’re going to invite people throughout our network to suggest new projects that would introduce citizen media to broader audiences, inviting in people from rural areas, people who aren’t experienced computer users, people from outside the early adopter communities. David Sasaki, our new Outreach Director, is heading up this new initiative, and we’re hugely looking forward to seeing what sorts of outreach ideas our community comes up with over the next two years.
Actually, it’s been a brilliant day for Berkman in general, as my colleague David Ardia is here as well, representing the Citizen Media Law Project, a collaboration between Berkman and Dan Gillmor’s Center for Citizen Media, a project that will produce online materials to suggest best practices for citizen authors and track chilling effects against bloggers and citizen media. The Berkman site has our press release about the prize, and the Boston Globe points out that New England organizations took more than half the prize money from the Knight contest.
Actually, that’s mostly MIT’s fault. The Knight Foundation gave over $12 million in this grant cycle, $5 of which went to MIT in a “leadership grant”, supporting projects by Henry Jenkins in the Comparative Media Studies department and Chris Csikszentmihályi work with the Computing Culture Research Group at MIT’s media lab. They’re also responsible for bringing together the winners of these prizes together to share ideas, technology, strategies. We’ve already had a good start on this with hallway meetings over the last day – there’s a great set of award winners from around the US represented here, and a lot of ideas with exploring further.
Ian Rowe from MTV received a $700,000 grant to support a youth mobile journalism project, covering the presidential elections with youth reporters in every state. Rich Gordon at the Medill School of Journalism won a grant to extend full scholarships to computer scientists who’d like to become reporters – this is a very cool idea, and one that I can imagine considering if I hadn’t already fallen into citizen media. Lisa Williams from Placeblogger.com will be using her grant to create a pingserver for local blogs. And there’s a set of small blogging grants of $15,000 each to encourage bloggers – some unfamiliar, some well-known figures like JD Lasica and Jay Rosen – to cover new and different subjects.
One obvious critique of the 24 projects that Knight has chosen in this first round: Global Voices is the only project with an explicit non-US focus, and everyone funded is a US organization or individual. Of the 1650 applications Knight received, only 15% came from outside of the US – evidently none made the final cut. In announcing the awards, Alberto Ibargüen, the CEO of the Foundation, mentioned that next year’s contest would reserve 10% of the prize money for proposals from people under 22 years old – it might be interesting to see whether Knight will offer a percentage of future grant funds for non-US ideas. The materials for the 2008 challenge, which begins accepting applications in July, have been translated into ten languages, and the Knight folks tell me they’ve recruited an advertising firm to promote the contest in other countries.
I think it may require some more active recruiting as well, and we’re going to be urging people within the Global Voices community to take advantage of this next contest as a possible funding source for their innovative online journalism ideas. Ibargüen has announced his intention to give at least $5m a year for the next four years, and possibly much more than $5m – this is an amazing resource for citizen media projects, and I have high hopes that the support for Global Voices will be a first step towards supporting innovative ideas from all around the world.