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Interactivity & Empowerment: Eight Innovators Place in 2008 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Four bold, savvy projects – including Web sites that reveal corporate whitewashing of Wikipedia entries, help people map political violence in Kenya, separate fact from falsehood in the 2008 presidential campaign, and deliver hyperlocal coverage of development in the District of Columbia’s most neglected quadrant – are finalists for the Grand Prize in this year’s Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism.

Because of the diversity of good ideas, the Advisory Board also cited four efforts for Honorable Mention.

“This year we see how creative minds are using new technologies to connect people with hidden truths and hard-to-find information,” said Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, which administers the awards program. “We are reminded of journalism’s potential to reinvent itself as well as its fundamental promise to do good.”

“The examples we are heralding show the power of a single person, the power of politics, the power of community,” said Advisory Board chair Jody Brannon, national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative.

For 2008, a national panel of judges chose winners for a $10,000 Grand Prize, two $2,000 Special Distinction Awards, and a $2,000 Citizen Media Award.

The top winners will be announced Thursday, Sept. 10, at a symposium and luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Highlighting that event will be a keynote address by one of the nation’s leading media innovators: Bill Kling, President and CEO of American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio, and Chair of To attend the awards symposium and luncheon, register here: or email The event is free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required.

Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation journalism program director, said, “The Knight-Batten Awards continue to be the bellwether of journalism innovation. Mashups, crowdsourcing and non-profit journalism all were recognized early as trends that were changing daily journalism.”

The Knight-Batten Awards honor creative uses of new technologies to engage citizens in public issues and showcase compelling models for the future of news. They are administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University’s School of Communication. You can view the finalists as well as 24 other notable entries at This year’s finalists are:

  • Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information – Modeling urgent grassroots information-sharing in a time of crisis, Kenyan techies launched a site where bloggers and citizen journalists could text eyewitness accounts and map incidents of political violence in the wake of a corrupted presidential election.
  •’s WikiScanner Coverage – Using Virgil Griffith’s Wikipedia Scanner, WIRED magazine’s blog engaged readers in crowdsourced exposés revealing PR spinmeisters’ editing of Wikipedia entries not favorable to a company’s reputation.
  • – A one-woman citizen media project documents and visualizes real estate development, construction and community concerns in Washington D.C.’s rapidly changing Southeast neighborhood.
  • – A collaboration between the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly features a rich database for the 2008 presidential election allowing users to sort news items by candidate, issue or ruling. The site’s “Truth-o-Meter” rates the accuracy of campaign messages and statements; its “Pants on Fire” feature calls false statements to account.

Honorable Mentions are:

  • Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica – A multimedia reporting project using poetry as a nontraditional entry way into documentary coverage of HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. Commissioned by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
  • Iowa’s Deadly Tornado – After a tornado ripped through Parkersburg, Iowa, The Des Moines Register created a house-by-house color-coded map embedded with first-person survivor accounts, surveillance and cell phone video, before and after photographs, and obituaries to chronicle the path of destruction.
  • – CNN’s ground-breaking user-generated news site invites viewers to upload and rate stories; some are later used in the cable network’s programs after being verified and expanded by CNN reporters.
  • U.S. Congress – A massive database that tracks campaign contributions and voting records of all members of Congress, illuminating patterns of money and influence on a daily basis.

The winners were selected by an Advisory Board that, in addition to Brannon, included the Knight Foundation’s Gary Kebbel and Jose Zamora; Jim Brady, Executive Editor,; Bill Buzenberg, Executive Director, Center for Public Integrity; Nick Charles, Vice President for Digital Content, BET Interactive; Lee Rainie, Executive Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project; Chuck Lewis, Investigative Journalism Workshop, American University School of Communication; Wendell Cochran, Professor, American University School of Communication; Chris Harvey, Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; and Jan Schaffer, J-Lab Executive Director.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation makes grants to help transform journalism and communities.

J-Lab helps news organizations and citizens use digital technologies to develop new ways for people to participate in public life. It also administers the Knight Citizen News Network (, the New Voices community media grant program (, and the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs initiative (

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