Knight Puts Contests in Context (and Vice Versa)

The Knight News Challenge may be one of the most exciting new traditions in journalism…but it can also be one of the most overwhelming. So many entrants, so many awesome projects, so many great ideas…. And while we tend to be most familiar with the winning projects—the Spot.uses and MediaBugses and DocumentClouds, which offer small revolutions in the way we think about our media—the totality of projects entered into the four-year-old contest, both winning and non-, represent a treasure trove of ideas and innovation.

We were happy to learn, then, that the Knight Foundation has commissioned—and, now, released—a report analyzing the cumulative wisdom of “media, information and communication contests”—including four years of News Challenge granting.

After three rounds of the Knight News Challenge, we took a step back to examine how we could improve the contest. We consulted past challenge judges, entrepreneurs and technologists. We also explored lessons from the broader field. In general, contests are increasingly being used as a tool to solve society’s most entrenched problems. In the area of news and information alone, the number of contests has doubled since we first launched the challenge in 2006.

Whether you’re an outlet looking to spur innovative ideas, an individual looking for funding for your innovative ideas, or some amalgam of the two, the report is very much worth a read and a think. “We hope that you will find the information contained in this report as beneficial as we have,” Gary Kebbel, Knight’s Journalism Program director, and Mayur Patel, its director of Strategic Assessment and Impact, write in the report’s intro. ”We hope it will be a useful resource for organizations that are designing and implementing contests to spur innovation, as well as for nonprofits and individuals looking for funding opportunities in the area of media, information and communication.”

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.