Knight Foundation expands into investment with an Enterprise Fund

Knight Foundation expands into investment with an Enterprise Fund: I missed this while on vacation last week, but as a sort of expansion of the Knight News Challenge, there’s now a 10 million dollar Knight Foundation fund to invest in for-profit companies. I continue to think this is a good idea.

Hardly strictly the oldest person in the room

I’m genuinely excited to be on the short list of attendees at the round table Dave Cohn has been putting together at the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute later this month: Hardly Strictly Young.

Those of you who read this blog regularly (ahem, both of you) have probably spotted a monthly Carnival of Journalism post here for the last few months. As it turns out, those questions are the topics of conversation for the conference, which bears a tagline along these lines: “Alternative recommendations to implement the Knight Commission report.”

So, I suppose it could come off  we’re marginalizing ourselves a little bit. We’re the young change agents agitating for alternatives?

Maybe. But I’d bet the Knight Foundation has an action item on their list somewhere: Get input from young change agents. 😉

Happy to oblige.


Carnival of Journalism: An open email to Michael Maness, because no one writes letters anymore

This post is but one burning twig in the roaring campfire that is the rekindled Carnival of Journalism. This month’s two options both provide the carnibloggers an opportunity to give advice to organizations with a mandate to give away money and other resources for the sake of improving journalism. I’ve chosen the option that involves telling the Knight Foundation what to do as the five-year Knight News Challenge program winds down (or renews itself), and as Michael Maness steps up as the new VP for Journalism and Media Innovation.

Quick disclosures: Hey, I was a Knight News Challenge winner in 2008, and Michael and I worked for the same company for a few months, quite recently.

Hi Michael —

Ryan Sholin here. We’ve crossed paths once or twice at your previous gig, and had a good conversation or two about what you were up to back there.

Anyway, I wanted to write you to give you a bit of unsolicited advice about what to do about funding innovation in journalism and media at the Knight Foundation. (Well, OK, Dave Cohn solicited me, but he didn’t have to twist my arm or anything.)

A few ideas:

  1. Fund some for-profit companies. Startups. Take some equity. Focus on companies providing tools supporting new revenue streams and business models that support journalism. Alternatively, fund some disruptively innovative companies (Flipboard comes to mind) and point them in the direction of business models that support original, local journalism.
  2. When you do give out grants to journalists and not-for-profit innovators, include mandatory business sustainability training. Instead of asking grantees “How are you going to turn this into a sustainable project when your grant runs out,” make figuring that out part of your job from the beginning.
  3. It seems like the Knight News Challenge team has been working hard over the last two or three cycles to find grantees from outside the journalism world. Good idea, but make sure you don’t end up with a crop of edge case grantees building tools for edge cases. There are plenty of would-be innovators at small, unglamorous news organizations across the world. Do they know about the Knight News Challenge? They don’t read Nieman Lab or Romenesko or the Carnival of Journalism (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They just bust their tails 24/7 to put out a range of local news products, and when you look a little closer, you’ll often find they’re innovating their way around resource, technology, and even language issues to reach their community.
  4. Bring your IDEO-style innovation chops to Knight in full force. Send teams into underserved-by-journalism communities and find out what they need and want from local news sources. Then push grants, grantees, and programs in those directions.

That’s all for now. Eager to see what you do, and talk about it in person when we cross paths next.


Chicago tomorrow

Later tonight, I’ll be on my way to Chicago for a Knight Foundation meeting ahead of the UNITY 2008 conference.

I’m psyched to see the News Challenge posse, but of course if you’re in town for UNITY and want to cross paths on Tuesday, drop me a line or better yet, DM me on Twitter.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed these short conferences as a way to recharge my mental batteries and throw some ideas up against various walls with some incredibly sharp thinkers.

Hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

The Challenge

I’m proud to announce that ReportingOn won a Knight News Challenge grant. I’m in Las Vegas at the E&P Interactive Media Conference for the announcement of all the winners.

Yesterday, Brein McNamara, another News Challenge winner, said more or less that we’re all in over our heads to some extent.

That’s the right idea.

We’re supposed to take a good idea that we don’t necessarily have the resources to polish into a great idea on our own, then use the funding from the Knight Foundation and the growing network of winners to finish the process.

And that’s the challenge.

I’ll add a link to the full list of winners when I have a free moment, but I’m betting you’ll be able to find it at

There are some awesome projects on the list, including Radio Engage (Margaret Rosas and the whole Quiddities crew are seriously representing Santa Cruz out here), Spot.Us (David Cohn’s community-funded enterprise journalism project), and a CMS/front-end system project headed up by the editors of the Daily Bruin.

Nothing about ReportingOn has changed today. Follow reportingon on Twitter, send a tweet about what you’re working on to @reportingon, and find journalists working on similar stories.

Then, the easy part: Help each other out.

Huge congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone involved in making this happen so far. Now the real fun starts…