Foundation Makes Good on Promise to Explore New Media

When Alberto Ibargüen, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's then new CEO, introduced himself to a group of the nation's largest community foundations back in January of 2006, he said he was going to do things differently. He said the foundation would use its assets to explore new media and its impact on civic engagement, citizen journalism, and youth engagement.

In the intervening two years, he has made good on his word. The Knight News Challenge, is an annual worldwide competition awarding $5 million for innovative ideas that use digital media to inform and inspire communities. The Knight Foundation has committed to investing at least $25 million over five years in bold community news experiments.

Ian Rowe and our friends at MTV have just announced a new "Street Team" program, which is funded by a $700,000 Knight News Challenge grant. According to a recent news release, the program, part of its Emmy-winning "Choose or Lose" campaign, supports a group of 51 citizen journalists from each state and Washington, D.C., who "will cover the 2008 elections from a youth perspective and tailor their reports for mobile devices."

According to a news release from MTV, "the members will contribute weekly, multi-media reports (short form videos, blogs, animation, photos, podcasts) that will be distributed via a soon-to-launch WAP site, MTV Mobile, and to the more than 1,800 sites in the Associated Press Online Video Network. Carefully selected by MTV after an extensive nationwide search, the one-of-a-kind press corps will be armed with mobile media like laptops, video cameras and cell phones, and charged with uncovering the untold political stories that matter most to young people in their respective states."

"We hope to find out whether or not our most important political event - the election of a president - matters to young people, and whether or not if matters more when it comes to them through the lens of their issues and the screen of their cell phone," said Eric Newton, VP/Journalism, Knight Foundation. "We also hope to find out what important youth issues are being overlooked by traditional media as the Street Team coverage goes beyond the presidential horse race."

Innovative, practical and culturally relevant are not words we often apply to today's philanthropy, but they clearly describe this Knight Foundation investment. We hope other foundations and philanthropists will take note, and take up the challenge.

Carla E. Dearing

Posted at 1:00 AM, Jan 09, 2008 in Cross-Sectoral Strategies | Philanthropic Strategy | Technology | Youth | Permalink | Comment