Knight Foundation News Challenge Update

Nearly 2,000 applications were filed for the Knight Foundation 2009 News Challenge. As you may recall, the Knight Foundation has committed to fund $25M over five years to projects that:

  1. Use or create digital, open-source technology as the code base
  2. Serve the public interest
  3. Benefit one or more specific geographic communities

That is a lot of money supporting the development of open source software and citizen activism!

In the course of this process I have decided to sign on as an advisor to one such project, should it’s $500,000 funding request and $500,000 matching grant be approved.

The project that caught my attention was ContextMiner, written by Paul Jones of UNC Chapel Hill and fame. Paul explains the idea on his blog, which can be summarized as explore globally, aggregate locally.

One reason I am interested in this project is because I see many open source projects standing up that are long on coding skills but short on domain knowledge. As a professor at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Information and Library Science, as well as a professor in the shool of journalism, Paul Jones is uniquely qualified to help build the foundation of domain expertise that can ensure that whatever open source code is used and/or developed, the larger goals of serving the public good are achieved. There are hundreds of project proposals that treat the subject of news and content aggregation in this year’s challenge alone, but none of the ones I have read have the academic underpinnings that ContextMiner provides.

I have no financial interest in the success of ContextMiner, but as a member of the public, and as one who is increasingly interested in the many dimensions of journalistic integrity (including the integrity of information over time and our ability to access archives of such information and metadata), I’d like to encourage you to read the Knight Foundation application and consider giving it a positive rating. This is an important project, and one which will pay large dividends to all of us, if we can attract the attention of the judging committee. You will need to register at the News Challenge website in order to rate the project, but registration is free. Here is the New Challenge link to the ContextMiner proposal.