While everyone is hand-wringing over the decline of the news business and the attendant decline in Journalism and the Fourth Estate, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is doing something about it, having just announced the first-year winners of the Knight News Challenge, with $12 million in grants. Here are some of the winning projects:

  • The Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology receive $5 million to create a Center for Future Civic Media to develop, test and study new forms of high-tech community news.
  • Journalist/web developer Adrian Holovaty, creator of chicagocrime.org, receives $1.1 million to create a series of city-specific web sites devoted to public records and hyperlocal information.
  • VillageSoup in Maine receives $885,000 to build free software to allow others to replicate the citizen journalism and community participation site VillageSoup.
  • MTV receives $700,000 to establish a Knight Mobile Youth Journalist (Knight “MyJos”) in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to report weekly – on cell phones, and other media – on key issues including the environment, 2008 presidential election and sexual health.
  • Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism receives $639,000 for nine full journalism scholarships for students with undergraduate degrees in computer science.
  • The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University receives $552,000 to create an incubator where students will learn how to create and launch digital media products.

Despite the unsurprising appearance of academic institutions among the winners, recpicients also include individuals and bloggers:

Bloggers:

Congratulations to all the winners and to the Knight Foundation for taking action. Newspaper chains and other big media companies that own news media should be fostering innovation like this.