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Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant

Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant

The Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant awards up to $15,000 to Cronkite School graduates working in newsrooms as a way to accelerate innovation in journalism.

The grant, created by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, promotes the use of cutting-edge technologies and practices in newsrooms across the country. In all, 21 Cronkite School alumni have received support totaling $250,000. 


Knight-Cronkite Alumni Innovation Grant Recipients

  • Nora Avery-Page, a 2010 graduate who serves as a reporter at the Herald and News in Oregon, is using the grant to implement an augmented reality technology that merges traditional print content with new digital features. The technology allows readers to use their smartphones with print materials to unlock dynamic features such as video or animation.
  • Cailyn Bradley, a 2012 graduate who serves as an associate producer for Discovery Digital Networks, is using a grant to produce a virtual reality project to explore the criminal justice system from the perspective of a prisoner. The project focuses specifically on the need for treatment of mental illness.
  • Ilan Brat, a 2006 graduate who serves as a senior staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, is using the grant to bring virtual storytelling to the publication. Utilizing 360-degree video and audio technology, he is producing a series of projects focused on transporting readers to locations around the world to experience new situations and environments.
  • Matt Dempsey, a 2005 graduate and a data reporter at the Houston Chronicle, is using the grant to fund an easy-to-transport video booth that can be transported to news events, such as storms or protests, as well as locations such as baseball games and rodeos.
  • Hailey Frances, a 2007 graduate, who is on-air personality and executive producer at CW6 KASW-TV, and fellow 2014 graduate Adam Waltz, the digital content manager at the Phoenix-based station, is using the grant to develop the “YourPHXGood” application, connecting users with volunteering opportunities. The application aims to promote community awareness and increase engagement in nonprofit activities.
  • Lauren Gilger, a 2011 graduate, is a Peabody Award-winning investigative journalist. She is using the grant to establish a digital source database that would streamline and archive news tip submissions, making it easy for reporters to locate and manage contacts and story ideas. The technology could be expanded to other newsrooms across the country.
  • Shannon Green, a 2009 graduate who is a senior multimedia producer at USA Today, is using the grant to launch a mobile-first interactive digital audio player, native to USA Today’s mobile apps. It will present a playlist of all USA Today audio, allowing users to share on social media as well as skip ahead to chapters within longer pieces.
  • Stephen Harding, a 2008 graduate who is a digital producer at azcentral.com, is using the grant to develop a mobile-optimized site where citizens can find the resources needed to request public records. PublicInfo.com aims to educate citizens on public records law and increase government transparency and civic engagement.
  • Natasha Khan, a 2012 graduate who covers the environment and energy for PublicSource, is using the grant to equip families living near shale gas operations in Pennsylvania with cameras and air quality monitors to document how fracking affects quality of life. Khan plans to publish a series of multimedia stories on the collected data.
  • Kyle Newman, a 2012 Cronkite graduate, is the founder and executive editor of the Colorado Sports Network, a multimedia high school sports website. He will use the grant to make his “broadcast studio in a box” technology available to local high schools, offering prospective journalism students the opportunity to explore the world of broadcasting.
  • Kerry Oslund, a 1983 graduate, is senior vice president of publishing and emerging media at Schurz Communications, a national multimedia company. He is using the funding for RedPost iBeacon applications. RedPost is a new kind of newspaper rack that is a digital display affixed atop shelves at stores. With iBeacon, it can send real-time information, including news alerts and video, to mobile devices.
  • Jayson Peters, a 2001 graduate and digital media director of The Pueblo Chieftain in Pueblo, Colo., is building a digital media studio with new tools and technologies to inspire staff to innovate and expand storytelling options. The paper will document results, providing return-on-investment data for small news operations.
  • Danielle Peterson, a 2005 graduate who is a photographer at the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem, Ore., is working with other staff members to develop a mobile app allowing readers to easily search for hikes and other recreational opportunities in Oregon. The app will tap into a deep archive of the newspaper’s extensive outdoors coverage and will link to a response-design website that will include photos, videos, travel tips and travel features.

  • Weston Phippen, a 2012 Cronkite graduate, is using the grant at the National Journal to implement an online program that simplifies the process of designing in-depth Web stories involving a variety of multimedia, including videos, images, text and audio.
  • Brandon Quester, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 2005 and master’s degree in 2012 from the Cronkite School, is using the grant to support the development of Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting’s The Background Machine, an online application that uses crowdfunding to conduct background checks on public officials.
  • Sky Schaudt, a 2008 graduate, is a digital media editor at KJZZ 91.5 FM in Phoenix. She plans to use the grant to create “Pic Re:Quest,” a technology allowing digital editors to send requests to reporters in the field and to easily transmit multimedia back and forth using their smartphones.
  • Stephanie Snyder, a 2012 graduate and the community editor for Chalkbeat New York, is using the grant to drive community engagement in the nonprofit news organization's reporting efforts through an online platform that allows readers to share their questions on local education issues.
  • Bruce Tomaso, a 1975 Cronkite graduate who is an assistant metro editor at The Dallas Morning News, is using the grant to explore new ways to engage digital-native audiences, with a focus on the paper’s opinion content. The project will include a meme generator, inviting readers to share memes on current topics.
  • Steven Totten is a 2015 graduate who works as a reporter at the Phoenix Business Journal. He plans to use the grant to enhance the publication’s data visualization technologies. Totten’s goal is to bring statistical figures to life by creating digital maps that provide readers in-depth details about business analytics.

  •  Mauro Whiteman, a 2014 graduate and social video producer at The Hill in Washington, D.C.,, is using the grant to create a replicable rig for shooting 360-degree video interviews. His goal is to provide an immersive audio and visual storytelling experience through 360-degree graphics. With this technology, Whiteman will produce a series of interviews with lawmakers and political influencers, bringing viewers an augmented reality experience.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. It believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. www.knightfoundation.org