Knight cash for community innovation

Contest will award up to $5 million to "news projects that best use the digital world to connect people to the real world."

Start your own new-media company. Lead the next new-media wave. And the Knight Brothers Foundation will pay you to get started.

On Monday, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge, a contest that will award up to $5 million to "news projects that best use the digital world to connect people to the real world."

Here's how the foundation describes its quest: "The Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge hopes to recognize transformative ideas, pilot projects, leadership initiatives and investment opportunities that will help improve the flow of journalism, information and news in the public interest."

Specifically, they are "looking to fund new ideas, prototypes, products and leadership initiatives that use innovative news methods to help citizens better connect within their communities."

The charitable organization that grew from the Knight Brothers' newspaper empire has opened the contest to individuals, businesses or organizations with an innovation that helps spread news or community.

The program is not restricted specifically to journalism, but offers different categories of competition: news challenge; pilot project and field test; leadership; commercial products and investment; and an open category for anyone not fitting into the other five.

Those wishing to garner cash for their project can get the online application at now through Dec. 31.

And while you're filling out the grant application, savor the irony. This Knight Foundation was funded with the huge profits from the newspaper empire that merged into Knight-Ridder, which itself vanished without a corporate remnant earlier this year. One more old-media victim of the changing news landscape. So those early 20th century newspaper dollars are now going to make new new media.

The Knight Foundation will announce the winners of the 21st Century News Challenge in spring 2007. There are also plans to make the challenge a yearly contest for the next five years.

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