The future of journalism is in your hands.
That's the message today as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today hands out more than $11 million in prize money to a motley crew of bloggers and organizations ranging from MIT to MTV -- winners of the first Knight News Challenge contest.
The contest challenged applicants to develop ways of using digital media to foster local communities, and winners were announced this morning at the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference and Trade Show in Miami, with New England winners taking home over half the grant money.
MIT's Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies Program took the biggest prize -- $5 million to fund a Center for Future Civic Media -- where researchers will experiment with new technologies to empower community news.
"We talk about the fifth estate -- the fourth estate is traditionally newspapers, but the fifth estate might be an army of citizens that uses new media to keep an eye both on government officials and on professional journalists," said Henry Jenkins, director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. "It's an extra check in the system of checks and balances."
Richard Anderson, owner of Village Soup Inc., a Maine company won $885,000 to develop an open-source community news software platform.
Lisa Williams, founder of the blog H2Otown in Watertown, won $222,000 towards further developing Placeblogger -- basically "the blogosphere's answer to the AP," she said. Williams is currently consulting Boston.com on community initiatives.
David Ardia, of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School won $250,000 to support the Citizen Media Law Project, an online legal resource for citizen journalists. Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center won $244,000 for Rising Voices, a new project to bring people developing countries and rural areas into the blogosphere.
(By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe staff)