Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

SOC News


Finalists for 2008 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovation Announced

Four Finalists, Four Honorable Mentions Cited

By Maggie Barrett

Four bold, savvy Web site projects are finalists for the $10,000 Grand Prize in the 2008 Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. The awards, administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University’s School of Communication, honor creative uses of new technologies to engage citizens in public issues and to showcase compelling models for the future of news. 

“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. “We are reminded of journalism’s potential to reinvent itself as well as its fundamental promise to do good.”

The finalists are:
Ushahidiz: Crowdsourcing Crisis Information—Modeling urgent grassroots information-sharing in a time of crisis, Kenyan techies launched a site to which 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 crowd sourced exposés to reveal the practice of corporations editing Wikipedia entries that portrayed them in an unfavorable light.—A one-woman citizen media project that 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 featuring a database for the 2008 presidential election that enables users to sort news items by candidate, issue, or ruling. The site’s “Truth-o-Meter” rates the accuracy of campaign messages and statements, while its “Pants on Fire” feature exposes false statements.

“The examples we are heralding show the power of a single person, the power of politics, the power of community,” said Jody Brannon, national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative. Brannon is chair of the advisory board of scholars, policy makers, and journalists from across the nation that chose winners for a $10,000 Grand Prize, two $2,000 Special Distinction Awards, and a $2,000 Citizen Media Award.

The winners will be announced Thursday, Sept. 10, during a symposium and luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  William Kling, one of the nation’s leading media innovators, will deliver the keynote address at the event. Kling is president and C.E.O. of American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio, and chair of 

To attend the awards symposium and luncheon, register online at the J-Lab Web site.  The event is free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required.

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

Honorable mentions for the awards are:
Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica—A multimedia reporting project that uses 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 of the stories 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.

In addition to Brannon and Kebbell, members of the advisory board are Knight Foundation's 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.