Supporting innovation in the African news industry

Thursday, May 10, 2012 | 1:06 PM

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We’re eager to see journalism flourish in the digital age, in all forms and on all continents. Today, with half a dozen other generous sponsors, we’re taking a big step forward with a new $1 million African News Innovation Challenge.

This initiative is the latest in a series of projects to spur innovation in African journalism. Since 2010 we’ve been working with newsrooms across the continent to show journalists how the Internet can help them be better reporter. In Ghana we’re helping journalists produce evidence-based reporting on the country’s new oil wealth; in Senegal we gave journalists training on election reporting, and in Kenya we helped pioneer Africa’s first data journalism boot camp. Participants produced eight separate data-driven stories or news apps, including a TV documentary that exposed the plight of rural schools and an analysis of government spending at county level that has been nominated for an international award.

Now, we’re looking for even more innovations aimed at strengthening and transforming African news media. The News Innovation Challenge will provide grants ranging from $12,500 to $100,000 for project proposals falling into four categories: news gathering, storytelling, audience engagement and the business of news. Proposals can include ideas that improve everything from data-based investigative journalism and crowdsourced citizen reporting, to new ways of distributing news on mobile platforms, or new revenue models that help wean media off a reliance on advertising. In addition to cash grants, winners will receive technical, business development and marketing advice.

The African Media Initiative, Africa’s largest association of media owners and operators, is running the Challenge. Other partners include Omidyar Network, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the U.S. State Department, the Konrad Adenhauer Stiftung and the World Association of Newspapers & News Producers.

Entries must be submitted to this website by midnight Central African Time on July 10, 2012. While news pioneers from anywhere in the world are welcome, all entries must have an African partner that will help develop and test the innovation. Entries will be judged by an international jury, and finalists will get a chance to refine their proposals during one-on-one mentoring sessions at a “tech camp” in Zanzibar in August 2012.

The winners will be announced at the Africa’s largest gathering of media owners and executives, at the Africa Media Leaders Forum, in Ivory Coast in November 2012.

We’re also active in promoting digital journalism outside of Africa, such as supporting the Nordic News Hacker, the Global Editor Network’s data journalism prize and International Press Institute media innovation prizes. As media organizations continue to adapt to the new digital world, we’re committed to working with journalists to help them use technologies to gather and tell important stories.

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