What is the Knight News Challenge About?

    by Lisa Williams
    October 16, 2007

    Hello World!

    Seems fitting to open this new space with this traditional greeting, used by humans upon first interaction with a new computing environment.

    My name is Lisa Williams, and along with 23 others writing on this blog, I am one of the winners of the Knight 21st Century News Challenge.


    I pause here, because if there is one thing that blogging has taught me, it is to distinguish what I know from what I just think I know. When I don’t, well, that’s what my friend and fellow blogger Shimon Rura calls “self-teaching through shame” kicks in in the forms of one of blogging’s central innovation: comments. So it is with some hesitation that I try to characterize the motivations of the Knight Foundation when they gave away (gulp) $12 million dollars.

    So this is what I think I know about what Knight is up to. But first, I’m going to put out another unproven assertion — because, hey, if we’re doing it, why not have a buffet? Feel free to add some crow for my delectation in the comments if I have gotten it completely wrong; that’s what it’s there for.

    Hypothesis #1: News organizations are at a relative disadvantage in creating and sustaining innovation online when compared to companies like Google, Yahoo, or nimble startups like Facebook and Craigslist.


    Hypothesis #2. The Knight News Challenge is an effort to attract the attention and interests of people who would otherwise not apply their talents to the news industry but instead start their own companies, or go work for tech companies who focus on bigger markets to stay alive.

    question.pngIn fact, I don’t know why the first slate of winners included MIT, MTV, and me, where my budget for Placeblogger can be loosely described (and it must, because it’s not like there was any bookkeeping going on) as “sell your personal possessions on eBay to make cool websites.”

    Knight’s doing the News Challenge again this year. What projects will get the green light? What impact will the projects have, as a group or individually, on journalism? We don’t know, and that’s the best part.

    Tagged: knight news technology
    • The Knight News Challenge is commendable, but more attention is needed in developing countries where the majority of their populations are non-literates without enough news media challenges.

      In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with over 149 million people, there are only about 10 newspapers online and the majority of the population cannot read or write due to social and economic deprivations and the newspapers cost between $1 and $2 a copy while magazines sell for between $2 and $5 a copy.
      There are few public cyber cafes charging between $1 and $2 per hour and they are often over-crowded with school pupils, students and others without PCs at home.

      There are over 10 million Nigerians with access to the Internet and over 35 million use the GSM mobile phones, but the majority are ignorant of the fact that they can receive news and surf the Internet on their mobile phones.

      The total daily circulation of Nigerian newspapers is less than 1 million. the largest circulating Nigerian daily newspapers, The Punch and Daily Sun circulate less than 500,000 copies.
      So, thousands of Nigerians throng news stands on the street and roadside to read headlines of newspapers and magazines before turning to their TV and radio for more news and other features.
      The Nigerian news media channels are still lagging behind, because non of them has a website for breaking news. The CNN and BBC often report breaking news on Nigeria before the Nigerians newspapers, radio stations and TV channels, because the Nigerian news media channels do not have 24/7 online news websites or blogs. There are less than 500 Nigerians blogging and most of them are located in America, Britain and other developed nation with only about 100 blogging in Nigeria. Therefore, these very few bloggers and few news media channels are totally inadequate to give enough news coverage of the most populous country in Africa.

      Creating public news cyber cafes for them would be of immense benefit to general public enlightenment and boost mass literacy in a country where over 75 million people are non-literates.

      The Knight News Challenge should promote popular citizen news media to bridge the wide communication gap between America and Africa.

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