Knight Foundation awards $1.37 million to six media innovators

By Globe Staff

Six innovative media ventures, including a web service to coordinate disaster relief efforts that was founded by two sisters whose Massachusetts home was destroyed by a tornado, will share $1.37 million in prize money from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The winners of the Knight News Challenge: Networks were revealed Monday at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The challenge is one of three being held by the foundation this year, each designed to promote innovations in the dissemination of news and information.

Recovers.org, the disaster relief coordination website, was founded by Caitria O’Neill, a 2011 graduate of Harvard University; her sister Morgan O’Neill, who is studying hurricane dynamics at MIT; and engineer Alvin Liang, according to a release from the Knight Foundation, which awarded the team $340,000.

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Among the other winners:

Behavio, a platform for smartphones running on Google Inc.’s Android operating system that is designed to make better use of the sensors built into cell phones and other devices. Co-founded by Nadav Aharony, a product manager at Android who recently completed his dissertation at the MIT Media Lab, Behavio is meant to provide app developers and journalists better tools for understanding trends and behaviors in individuals and communities, based on the data collected by smartphones. The foundation awarded $355,000 to Behavio.

Peepol.tv, winner of a $360,000 prize, is a streamlined platform for collecting and viewing live streaming breaking news from around the world. Peepol.tv was co-founded by Felipe Heusser, a Berkman Fellow at Harvard University.

The foundation also awarded prizes to Signalnoi.se, a tool to allow journalists to track social network reaction to news stories; The Tor Project, a nonprofit that provides software and research to help protect online privacy; and Watchup, an application for Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer that aggregates news videos into a single interface.

In the six years that it has run the News Challenge, the Knight Foundation has reviewed more than 13,000 applications and provided $27 million to 80 projects, according to the release.

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