Journalism Innovation and Participation: An Analysis of the Knight News Challenge

Seth C. Lewis


In recent years, the Knight News Challenge has emerged as one of the most important forums for stimulating innovation in journalism and as a salient marker of the Knight Foundation’s influence in the field. However, scholarly literature has yet to discuss this contest’s design and execution, its applicants and winners, and the implications for the future of journalism that may be revealed in this process. This study examines content analysis data for nearly 5,000 applications to the Knight News Challenge, exploring the distinguishing features of its applicants, finalists, and winners. This analysis is presented against the backdrop of a key conceptual question for journalism in the 21st century: how does it reconcile the growing tension between professional control and open participation? Results suggest that finalists and winners more often use forms of participation and distributed knowledge (i.e., crowdsourcing and user manipulation) and other features not typically associated with journalism (e.g., software development). These findings are placed in the context of the Knight Foundation’s broader efforts to shape journalism innovation.

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