Wired.com’s WikiScanner coverage, which helped readers investigate and expose ego-editing and corporate whitewashing of Wikipedia entries, is this year’s $10,000 Grand Prize winner in the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism, administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University’s School of Communication.
The awards honor creative uses of new technologies to engage citizens in public issues and showcase compelling models for the future of news. Wired.com invited readers to use new technology to identify all IP addresses assigned to a particular company, organization, or government department, then track the anonymous edits made from those addresses anywhere in Wikipedia. The readers’ reports, which were posted on the site’s “Threat Level” blog, “insert an air of accountability to those who edit Wikipedia to fit their own agendas,” according to the judges.
“This year’s winners show us how creative minds are using new technologies to connect people to hidden truths and hard-to-find information,” said Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab.
Two projects each won $2,000 Special Distinction Awards:
PolitiFact.com—This site identifies false and partially true statements in the 2008 presidential campaigns, rating election messages by candidate, issue or ruling. Its “Truth-o-Meter” scores for accuracy, and its “Pants on Fire” feature calls false statements to account. “Others have attempted similar projects, but PolitiFact stands out for making detailed research easy to get,” said the judges. The site is a collaboration between the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly.
Ushahidi: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information—Modeling grassroots information sharing amid a 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. “A perfect example of how far-reaching and important citizen reports can be,” the judges said.
A third project, JDLand.com, won a $2,000 Citizen Media Award. The site is Jacqueline Dupree’s digital chronicle of redevelopment, construction, and community concerns in Washington, D.C.’s, rapidly changing Southeast “ballpark” district. The site, which uses text, Twitter, interactive maps, and before-and-now photos, is “an incredible wealth of information, especially impressive for a one-person effort,” the judges said.
“Today, the future of journalism depends on innovation more than ever before,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation’s journalism program director. “The Knight-Batten Awards play an important role in detecting early innovation trends that later become common.”
Four other efforts were recognized as Honorable Mentions:
Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica—This multimedia project used poetry to cover the impact of HIV and AIDS in Jamaica. Commissioned by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the project is “an eloquent example of putting human faces on an epidemic often painted with statistics,” the judges said.
Iowa’s Deadly Tornado—After a May tornado ripped through Parkersburg, Iowa, the DesMoines Register chronicled the path of destruction by creating a house-by-house, color-coded map embedded with first-person survivor accounts, surveillance and cell phone video, before-and-after photographs, and obituaries. “Captivating and gut-wrenching,” the judges said.
iReport.com—CNN’s ground-breaking user-generated news site has hosted tens of thousands of videos. The best reports are verified and expanded by CNN reporters and posted to CNN.com, “adding value by giving higher play to the best and newsiest iReports,” the judges said.
U.S. Congress MAPLight.org—This massive database tracks and connects the votes of members of Congress and contributions from supporters and opponents of specific bills. “Never before have citizens been able to so easily track the influences on their elected officials,” the judges said.
View the finalists and 24 other notable entries at www.j-lab.org. The winners were honored Wednesday, Sept. 10 at a symposium and luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Bill Kling, one of the nation’s leading media innovators, delivered the keynote address. Kling is president and CEO of American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio, and chair of Gather.com.
Winners were selected by an advisory board made up of the following individuals: Gary Kebbel and Jose Zamora of the Knight Foundation; Jody Brannon, national director of the Carnegie-Knight News 21 initiative; Jim Brady, executive editor, washingtonpost.com; 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 and Wendell Cochran, executive and senior editors, respectively, American University’s Investigative Journalism Workshop; Chris Harvey, Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; and Jan Schaffer, J-Lab director.