6 data journalism startups you need to know about

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The Knight News Foundation has announced the six winners in its latest Knight News Challenge, focused on data journalism projects.

The six winners — who “make it easier to access and use information on local communities, air quality, elections, demographics and more” — received a combined total of US$2.22 million in prize money.

The data challenge, one of three launched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation this year, accelerates projects with funding and advice from Knight’s network of media innovators. For the data round, the Knight Foundation claims it “sought ideas that make the large amounts of information produced each day available, understandable and actionable”.

“The winning projects go well beyond collecting data to unlocking its value in simple and powerful ways, so journalists can analyze numbers and trends, and communities can make decisions on issues important to them,” said Michael Maness, vice president for journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation.

The winners of the challenge will present their projects via live Web stream on 22 September from the Online News Association conference in San Francisco. They are:

Safecast: Creating a community of citizen and professional scientists to measure and share data on air quality in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities. The air quality effort is inspired by Safecast’s success in providing radiation data following Japan’s 2011 nuclear disaster.

LocalData: Providing a set of tools that communities can use to collect data on paper or via a smartphone app, then export or visualize the data via an easy-to-use dashboard. The city of Detroit has used the tools, created by Code for America fellows, to track urban blight.

Open Elections: Creating the first freely available, comprehensive source of U.S. election results, allowing journalists and researchers to analyze trends that account for campaign spending, demographic changes, legislative track records and more. Senior developers from The Washington Post and The New York Times lead the project.

New Tools for OpenStreetMap: Launching tools that make it easier for communities to contribute to OpenStreetMap, the community-mapping project used by millions via foursquare and Wikimedia and becoming a leading source for open, street-level data. DevelopmentSeed will create the tools.

Pop Up Archive: Taking multimedia content – including audio, pictures and more – from the shelf to the Web, so that it can be searchable, reusable and shareable. Founded by University of California grad students and SoundCloud Fellows, the project beta tested by helping archive the collection of the independent, Peabody-winning production team the Kitchen Sisters.

Census.IRE.org: Providing journalists and the public with a simpler way to access Census data, so they can spend less time managing the information and more time analyzing it and finding trends. The project is led by a senior developer from the Chicago Tribune in partnership with Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

Having already covered network and data-based projects, the Knight Foundation’s third challenge for 2012 will cover mobile. The Knight News Challenge is part of Knight Foundation’s US$100-million plus Media Innovation Initiative. The initiative seeks new ways to meet community information needs in the information age. In the five years of its existence, Knight Foundation reviewed more than 12 000 applications and funded 76 projects for a total of US$27-million.

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