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A Gee-Whiz Day for Journalism Innovations

A good 120 people braved heavy rains to attend yesterday’s Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. They were richly rewarded.

They saw new engagement ideas, data libraries, plus open-source and social media tools. See all the winners.

Impressive is the New York Public Library’s Biblion iPad app, which presents its 700 rare items about the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair in an attractively curated “infoscape.” Said NYPL’s communications VP Deanna Lee, “Once you give readers pathways, infinite narratives emerge.” led efforts to jumpstart community conversations around schools and other public issues that involved all the media in town in inspiring collaborations. “We’ve got to see our readers as the pundits,” said site founder Paul Bass.

The Texas Tribune’s data views account for 62 percent of its site traffic, with some of the most popular datasets involving public officials’ salaries, state prison inmates, and data on teachers, said Editor Mark Miller.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has set up a “data store” to allow users to discuss government and other data and make something of it.   And the Bay Citizen has enabled the bicyclist-heavy San Francisco area to track where most bike accidents occur and who’s at fault. Most often to blame? “The bicyclists,” said Brian Kelley, the site’s chief technology officer.

West Africa Democracy Radio stirred many with its use of SoundCloud, “originally thought of as a platform for deejays,” to relay radio programming, said Sourcefabric’s Doug Arellanes.  Sourcefabric is WADR’s tech partner.

Other innovations are going on behind a paywall, such as Bloomberg Government’s initiative, “We want to find out what people will read but also what people will pay for,” said BGov site manager Ken Sands. NPR’s Andy Carvin recounted how he tweeted and retweeted more than 1,400 times the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. “When I started seeing things that I couldn’t figure out, they [social-media users] came out of the woodwork and helped me,” he said.  He sees himself as serving “as sort of a deejay of the revolutions” cascading from the Arab Spring.

Burt Herman, CEO of the $10,000 Grand Prize winner Storify, actually “storified” yesterday’s Knight-Batten awards symposium, showing participants how to build a story by dragging and dropping comments, tweets and more from such social networks as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube onto Storify’s social-media publishing platform.

Storify notifies people when their tweets or posts are in a Storify story, which “makes things go viral,” he said.

Soon, he wants to enable commenting and searching.

The Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism reward not just good journalism stories or pretty packages. They award cutting-edge innovations. Since 2003 these awards have honored 56 winners and showcased 196 other good ideas, what we call “notable entries,” online.

Again and again, these awards have been impeccable and early scouts for innovations that forecast how journalism would evolve in a period of massive change.

Some of the awardees have gone on to become Knight News Challenge winners. Some have spun into their own companies. Others have won more than once. Almost all have been replicated again and again by others who embraced their innovations.

The Knight-Batten Awards were among the first to validate and honor: games, searchable databases, crowdsourcing and participatory media, citizen media, nonprofit media, and collaborative, instead of competitive, journalism.

A quick cruise through the past awardees provides a roadmap for the arc of re-invention – the innovations that continue to be built on year after year to make the journalism of the future:

  • More timely
  • More accessible.
  • More participatory
  • More efficient
  • More transparent
  • More data-driven
  • And – more fun

As we move into the tenth year, we are working on recalibrating the awards to keep them fresh. Please email me with your suggestions.


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