Here's my first reaction upon reading that VICE Media and the Knight Foundation (along with the City of New York Graduate School of Journalism) joined forces to create a new journalism funding opportunity: What took so long?
After all, it's one of the most natural philosophical matches imaginable. On one hand, there's VICE Media, the edgy, envelope-pushing outfit whose work explores the dangerous and often unexplored fringes of society (examples include "Playing Soccer in One of Mexico's Most Dangerous Barrios" and its infamous documentary capturing basketball star Dennis Rodman's "diplomatic" visit to North Korea).
One the other is Knight, which is fervently committed to advance its democratic and technology-driven vision of "community platform journalism." There's nothing inherently surprising about their new "innovation fund," but it's a rewarding and important announcement nonetheless.
In a nutshell, the fund will "encourage journalists to adopt new forms of storytelling, create new tools and curricula, and take the tools of journalism to new places and to the next generation of news consumers." Awardees should anticipate a "transformative experience," and to use the resources of VICE News and the CUNY Journalism School to "support the development and distribution of their projects."
And so the fund is currently seeking applicants pitching specific projects with clear goals and deliverables with the potential to create substantial impact serving a global, connected audience. Projects may encompass investigative techniques, new presentation styles, or new tools for storytelling.
According to Knight, the key question that applicants need to ask themselves while developing specific story pitches is this: How will the world be consuming news in the next 5, 10, or 20 years?
If chosen, journalists will receive a share of the $500,000 fund to bring their ideas to life.
In a way, the partnerships resembles a venture capital outfit to fund a new kind of journalism, but again, like most of Knight's funding in the area, it's a hybrid model with one foot firmly planted in the "old school." Sure, finalists may ultimately get airlifted behind enemy lines in Libya to interview western ISIS recruits, but they'll also spend three days a week with VICE News staff, and two days a week at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism for a period of up to three months.
Deadline for the first round of applications is June 8th. Applicants will be notified of their status no later than July 1st.