Ten creative ways of generating news and information - from tracking how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the Web and how the Web is using them, to in-depth guides to world crisis areas, and virtual guides to news in virtual places - are named the finalists of this year's Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.
"Repeatedly in a robust field of entries, we saw both journalists and non-journalists partnering with the public to fill spaces that traditional media is leaving bare," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, which administers the awards program. "Overall, the competition left us optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future of journalism."
"The depth and breadth of the work we examined were amazing," said Advisory Board member Jody Brannon, senior editor at MSN.com.
A national panel of judges chose winners for a $10,000 Grand Prize, a $2,000 First Place Award, and four other $1,000 awards, including a Wild Card and a Citizen Media Award. Because of the diversity of good ideas, the Advisory Board cited four efforts for Honorable Mention.
The top winner will be announced Sept. 17 at a symposium and luncheon, "Creativity Unleashed," at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Highlighting that event will be a keynote address by Susan Clark-Johnson, President of the Newspaper Division of Gannett Co. Inc. To attend the awards symposium and luncheon, RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is free but you must register.
Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program officer, said the range of this year's winners was encouraging. "It shows creativity and innovation throughout the news and information field from daily newspapers to virtual worlds," he said.
The Knight-Batten Awards spotlight the creative use of new information ideas and technologies to involve citizens in public issues. They are administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland.
You can view the finalists as well as more than three dozen other notable entries at www.j-lab.org. This year's winners are:
CFR.org Crisis Guides - In-depth, interactive news and information guides to the world's most pressing crisis zones that seek to operate according to the tenets of objective journalism within a think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations. They help make sense of complex issues beyond U.S. borders.
Second Life Virtual News Bureau - Reuters' virtual news bureau in the online 3D world known as Second Life is engaging more than 7 million users in financial news, participatory interviews with top newsmakers and virtual news delivery devices, all anchored within the professionalism of Reuters' real world practice of journalism.
TechPresident.com - A data-rich, group blog that is breaking investigative stories, collecting voter-generated content, and charting the metrics of a net-centric presidential campaign - from tracking video views of candidates on YouTube, numbers of their "friends" on MySpace and Facebook, voter demands for appearances on Eventful, blog mentions on Technorati and voter-generated photos on Flickr.
MyTeam Varsity High School Sports - The OrlandoSentinel.com's highly participative high school sports zone shows the newspaper's commitment to serving its community by offering every school a customized sports page and every parent a way to track an athlete. User-generated content supplies scores, schedules, announcements, photos and ways to compare high school statistics in Central Florida.
onBeing - The washingtonpost.com's engrossing video-portrait series captures intimate, unexpected stories that citizen narrators share with an invisible journalist who distills the epiphanies of commonalities among her diverse subjects. Each video can be viewed, downloaded, e-mailed, sent by cell phone or discussed.
The Forum - An all-volunteer online newspaper for Deerfield, N.H., that in two years has become the major source of news for three rural communities. In a readership area of 7,000 homes, it has more than 200 bylined contributors and averages 37 original articles per week, excluding obituaries, classifieds, letters to the editor and events listings.
Because of the diversity and breadth of creative ideas in this year's competition, the awards judges for the first time this year cited four projects for Honorable Mention:
The News-Press, Fort Myers, Fla. - For watchdog journalism at its citizen-participation finest. The news organization has done an exemplary job of elevating crowdsourcing by systematically enlisting its readers to be the eyes and ears watching over the accountability of their public officials and government. Its biggest project drew more than 6,500 user contributions.
NewAssignment.net/Assignment Zero - An intriguing open-source experiment by NewAssignment.net and Wired News to harness the collective wisdom and expertise of members of the public under the guidance of professional journalists in reporting and writing stories.
GreatLakesWiki.org - For collecting information as broad and deep as the Great Lakes it covers. This project of Michigan State's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism has the categories, content and organization that made this wiki the best of those entered.
Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada-Reno - For the collected work of journalism students that engaged them in how they might reinvent election coverage and how they could engage the public in issues of concern around Lake Tahoe. Clearly, the judges said, this is a school where students are being prepared for the future of journalism.
Two of these projects have received past funding under the Knight-funded New Voices program, which J-Lab also administers. The Forum received a start-up grant in May 2005; GreatLakesWiki.org received a start-up grant in May 2006.
The winners were selected from 133 entries submitted by print, television and online news organizations and education and non-profit institutions.
The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism honor the late James K. Batten, former CEO of Knight Ridder newspapers and a pioneer in exploring ways journalism could better connect with audiences.
To attend the Knight-Batten Symposium and luncheon, RSVP to email@example.com or call 301-985-4020. To receive information about the Knight-Batten Awards or subscribe to J-Lab's newsletter, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winners were selected by an Advisory Board led by Bryan Monroe, Vice President and Editorial Director, Ebony and Jet magazines. They included the Knight Foundation's Gary Kebbel; Jody Brannon, Senior Editor, MSN.com; Jim Brady, Executive Editor, washingtonpost.com; Lee Rainie, Executive Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project; Rosental C. Alves, Director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas; Bill Buzenberg, Director of the Center for Public Integrity; Nick Charles, former Editor in Chief, AOL Black Voices; Chris Harvey, Online Bureau Director & Lecturer, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; Tom Kunkel, Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism; and Jan Schaffer, J-Lab Executive Director.
The Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.
J-Lab helps news organizations and citizens use new media technologies to create fresh ways for people to participate in public life. It also administers the Knight Citizen News Network (www.kcnn.org) and the New Voices community media grant program (www.j-newvoices.org).
The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism spotlight news and information that is more than multimedia journalism. They reward novel efforts to involve citizens actively in public issues, to invite their participation and create entry points that stir their imagination and engagement.
Honored are pioneering approaches to journalism that:
- Encourage new forms of information sharing.
- Spur non-traditional interactions that have an impact on community.
- Enable new and better two-way conversations between audiences and news providers.
- Foster new ways of imparting useful information.
Entries could consist of such things as online news experiences, news games, novel uses of cell phones, Web cams, iPods, computer kiosks, new uses of software, content management systems and other advances in interactive or participatory journalism. Entries may also demonstrate simple efforts that notably connect in new ways with a community.
Entries from all media are eligible. Encouraged are both top-down and bottom-up innovations, those driven by news creators and those driven by news consumers.
The Knight Foundation has funded a $10,000 Grand Prize and up to $5,000 in Special Distinction Awards to be given at the judges' discretion