Three Knight Alumni win grants for new media innovation prototypes

Three recent Knight Fellows are among the early winners of grants from a new media innovation prototype fund. 

Katy Newton, Djordje Padejski and Andrew Haeg are among four recipients of Knight Prototype Fund grants, which were announced at the Mozilla Festival in London over the weekend. 

“We’re excited that these three projects have won support and recognition from the Knight Foundation,” said Knight Fellowships Director Jim Bettinger. “They exemplify the Knight Fellowships’ commitment to journalism innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.” 

The James L. and John S. Knight Foundation created the prototype fund in June to support quick building and testing of new ideas in public information and media. Two grants were awarded then. 

The prototype grants, up to $50,000, allow small teams to build minimum versions of projects to test major assumptions and understand user behavior before deciding to pursue full-scale development. 

Here is a brief look at the winners’ projects: 

FOIA Machine, by Djordje Padejski, a 2012 Knight Fellow, in collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting. The web platform will automate requests by journalists and citizens for some of the millions of government documents that are covered by freedom of information act laws. (More than 90 countries have such laws.) It will also create requests in the proper format, allow simultaneous submissions in multiple countries, make documents publicly available on the web and rally support when governments are not responsive. 

GroundTruth, by Andrew Haeg, a 2009 Knight Fellow, in collaboration with the World Press Institute. This communications platform for the mobile phone will help journalists, researchers and community organizers engage with people who have valuable expertise via text messages. They will be able to send out surveys to select groups all over the world, collect responses, see patterns and build up a database of rich information over time.

Kon*Fab, by Katy Newton, a 2012 Knight Fellow, and Sean Connelly, her husband. This mobile app will allow strangers to connect over news in real time in real places. Kon*Fab breaks the silo effect of many social networks by filtering news through geo-location and increasing levels of engagement around news and community. Its next stage will be a community display, inspired by the urban pop-up movement that’s bringing people together in public places – from food trucks to parklets snuggled among street parking. 

The Data Severity Index, by Joseph Agoada of UNICEF. It aims to cut through the avalanche of data that can bog down efficient government response to disasters. It will prioritize risk reduction data to allow for more intelligent filtering. Building on an existing reporting system, Open Locast, the platform will be field-tested in two cities, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Port-au-Prince, Haiti.