Michael Maness, Knight Foundation

TITLE: Vice President / Journalism and Media Innovation

FUNDING AREAS: Journalism, new media

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Maness favors innovation and freedom in the media—borrowing a quote from a Skoll World Forum blog, “journalism needs more light and less tunnel.”

PROFILE: Michael Maness joined Knight Foundation in 2011 where he heads their Journalism and Media Innovation program. He's also a member of the Knight Foundation’s journalism advisory committee.

Before joining Knight, Maness was Gannett’s vice president of innovation and design. During his time at Gannett, "he led the creation of an innovation process based on human-centered design and launched multiple new brands. He also served as vice president of strategic planning for Gannett's newspaper division, launched several local news sites across the company and developed the industry’s first daily video newscast on the Web done without a television partner." Maness was named to the Newspaper Association of America's list of "20 under 40" and was a co-winner in 2007 of the Chairman's Special Achievement Award while at Gannett. Before his days there, Maness was an analyst and media consultant, a campaign manager and a marketing account executive.

The Knight Foundation's Journalism and Media Innovation program is one if its main areas of grantmaking. The foundation awards a few grants nationally, but its main areas of interest lie within the borders of Knight Communities, which are the 26 cities in the United States where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers. Knight's Journalism and Media Innovation grants range from around $15,000 to $3 million and they give more than $30 million a year to a variety of startups, news organizations, and other ventures that support their goal of supporting the "information needs of communities." They are by far one of the largest grantmakers in this area.

Maness has described how he is trying to bring a new approach to the foundation's grant giving: “We need to build in testing, scaling, and documentation while the grant is on, instead of giving it and looking for an outcome when it runs out. We want to add more dimensions to the process than just giving funds, like providing marketing and branding support and social media expertise.”

The Knight Foundation's Journalism & Media grants and support include the Knight Enterprise Fund, Internet Access and Adoption, Journalism Training and Education, International, Universal Access, and Freedom of Information and Expression

The Knight Foundation and Maness formed a new community and "place-based" initiative it has dubbed the Knight Community Information Challenge. This initiative is in answer to the failings and shortcomings of the traditional news media in addressing local and regional issues and will provide up to $50,000 for geographically oriented organizations to explore innovative approaches in disseminating news and information about issues that are pertinent to their respective communities. They also provide support in the way of Media Learning Seminars, technical assistance through Circuit Riders, and additional ongoing training.

The video below gives a good overview of how Maness is trying to ensure the projects Knight funds has a lasting impact beyond the length of just the grant itself. As a leader at one of the largest grantmaking organizations in this field, Maness is setting the standard for the way forward in many ways.


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