Some news is good news–online coaches will help shape $5 million ideas

The August 7th press release from Miami reads

Fifty coaches are standing by online to help innovative thinkers apply for the Knight News Challenge, a $5 million-a-year contest to move journalism into the 21st Century. The coaches-made up of past jurors and winners-will give News Challenge hopefuls a better chance of winning up to $5 million in prizes annually. They also hope to attract a more diverse range of ideas.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has funded the contest with $25 million over five years. Its goal is to discover new ways of using digital technology to meet the information needs of geographic communities. Last year’s contest received 3,000 applications. It named 16 winners.

And the best news for the open source community? The rules stipulate that applications must:

  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.

Past winners I have had the pleasure of meeting include Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Martin Moore ($350,000), Chris Csikszentmihályi, Mitchel Resnick, and Henry Jenkins ($5,000,000), and Adrian Holovaty ($1,100,000). Bravo, all! As for future winners, they could include you, if you have a great idea about how open source can be applied to improving the quality and impact of civic discourse.

Me? I’m getting busy talking with a number of potential collaborators, but one thing there cannot be enough of is proposals for how to free the news from proprietary media formats, and how we can share our news over networks that cannot be controlled for private gain. Open source, open file formats, and open standards can ensure that no matter how ugly the news may be, how unflattering it may be for some of the actors who are strong today (and who may seek to become all-powerful tomorrow), the key to our future freedom is an accurate understanding of the past. The only way I know to protect the integrity of the news from those who would seek to control it is to make it as open and transparent as possible, whether at rest in a file, in transit over the wire, or rendred to any human-readible format.

Bravo to the Knight Foundation for encouraging the open source community to expand its values from computer code to social codes we can all use and benefit from!

To apply for a grant, start here. Applications for the coming year are being accepted starting 2 September 2008, with a cut-off date of 1 November 2008. Neither I nor the OSI are formally associated with the Knight Foundation or this contest (as of yet).