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2006 Knight-Batten Symposium

Keynote Speech Transcript of the 2006 Knight-Batten Symposium & Awards for Innovations in Journalism

September 18, 2006
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen gives the keynote speech at the Knight-Batten Awards Luncheon.

Alberto Ibargüen President and CEO, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

I couldn’t be happier than to be here with The Knight-Batten Award winners, who truly deserve recognition for the ways they’re providing news that connects communities.

Alberto Ibargüen

Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen

It is a special privilege for me to celebrate both what they – and the runners-up – have done, and what their success may mean over time. I ask you to please join me in another round of applause to show our appreciation.

I couldn’t be happier than to be here with The Knight-Batten Award winners, who truly deserve recognition for the ways they’re providing news that connects communities.

It is a special privilege for me to celebrate both what they – and the runners-up – have done, and what their success may mean over time. I ask you to please join me in another round of applause to show our appreciation.

At Knight Foundation, we’ve come to see what’s happening in journalism as an opportunity and we’ve set about looking for opportunities to make a difference. The Knight-Batten Awards might be such an example.

Symposium attendees watch as Ibargüen speaks at the National Press Club.

Another example is funding a certain university in the United States to develop a case study method for teaching leadership in the management of newsrooms.

2006 Knight-Batten Symposium - Audience for Keynote Speech

Still another is funding a new program to be announced next month that will have all freshmen at that college taking a course in becoming smarter consumers of news and information in the modern world.

We will underwrite the 2007 meeting of We Media in Miami. This is a two-day congregation of newspaper, online and broadcast journalists who, along with venture capitalists and social thinkers, come together to talk about the latest media developments. Now three years old, with previous meetings in London, San Francisco and New York, We Media’s underlying premise is that every person has the capacity to be his or her own medium, with the choice of technology to depend upon the individual. So what happens when you bring together the likes of Craig Newmark, Al Gore and John Curley? It’s pretty darned interesting.

We will fund a World Association of Newspapers’ 2007 conference on new media in Paris. This conference, held jointly with UNESCO, has as its focus the subject of press freedom worldwide and how new media can make a difference. It thus reflects precisely two of our highest priorities.

And we continue to fund research into attitudes about the free speech and free press. Today, we announced the latest poll on high school attitudes toward the First Amendment, and you should know that, while there is demonstrably more study in high schools about our basic Five Freedoms – thanks here to Senator Byrd and his requirement that the Constitution be taught in schools – there is also among high school students a greater skepticism about free speech.

All of which makes me think that the advent of the new museum on Pennsylvania Avenue – the Newseum, set to open its doors a year from now – couldn’t come fast enough or at a better time. It will be Washington’s most interactive museum, dedicated to issues of free speech, free press and point of view and, attracting as it will hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the Newseum will become the greatest platform in the world for discussing free speech and free press. And it will feature a seven-story slab of Tennessee marble, strategically located on the avenue between the Capitol and the White House, on which will be carved the First Amendment, reminding all of us that Congress shall make no law abridging our Five Freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, press and redress of grievances.

2006 Knight-Batten Symposium - News ChallengeAt Knight Foundation, then, we look for those tipping point moments where the right combination of leadership and need and desire combine to do something truly extraordinary, something truly transformational.

And yes, we are at a tipping point in journalism, but this does not mean that we give up on journalism.

Eric Newton, Gary Kebbel, Bud Meyer and I are here today from Knight Foundation to talk about adding to our journalism work in ways that we think will help the news community and news consumers to remake themselves and succeed in the digital century.

Knight Foundation’s, the homepage for the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge.

We are here to offer the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge.

We will provide $5 million a year – as much as 25 million over the next five years – to create an open challenge for new ideas and projects.

The future of our communities, towns, suburbs, cities and states depends on the future of citizens’ ability to get the news they need to run their governments and their lives.

The goal here is to keep the values of good journalism – the fair, accurate, contextual search for the truth -as we construct the information vehicles of the future. It is news in the public interest that really makes our social worlds go round.

But when readers move from the printed newspaper to seek information online, who in cyberspace performs this function? Who is going to do in new media what Jack Knight and Jim Knight did with ink on paper in the 20th century?

We want to explore whether and how the digital world can be used to connect people in the real world. When we say community, we mean the real-life places where people live and work. Truth is, online communities don’t need us. Virtual communities spring up every day. But the idea of turning the web on its head to help people connect in real life does need our help.

We seek to bring technology to the arena of journalism values, just as we will also seek to bring journalism values into the arena of technology.

The Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge is a contest for great community news experiments, using any kind of cyberspace method or device.

We imagine this to be a five-year effort in which we might invest up to $25 million before we’re done. The contest will have five categories:

  • Individual awards in the process are for great ideas to share with the world.
  • Pilot projects are for field tests that make the ideal real.
  • Leadership initiatives would take great ideas or projects “to scale.”
  • And the investment category is for helping young companies get started.
  • Perhaps most importantly – and because we don’t know what we don’t know in this brave new world – there will be an Open category, so as to encourage truly original thinking.

The Challenge is open to anyone: It’s open to individuals, nonprofits, for-profit companies and schools. Originally, I was going to read off a list of possible kinds of projects, but then decided not to because that would be prescriptive. It’s important to emphasize that we know that we don’t know what we’ll get, which is why we’re trying keeping the process open.

Importantly, this competition is open to an international audience. Anyone in the world can apply – and applying for this award is easy. All you need to do is go to and fill out a simple letter of inquiry. Our staff will let you know if we believe the idea has merit and want you to move to the next stage.

By this coming spring, we hope to have awarded the first $5 million. And if the quality of applications is as strong as we expect, we plan to continue the competition.

Our hope is that the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge will speed the transition to more modern news systems, effectively informing citizens. Our bigger hope – in fact, our plan – is that the values that defined the Knight brothers – values of integrity, fairness, community and verification journalism – will survive into our brave new world.

Thank you.

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