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Five JSK Stanford alumni receive $68,000 for experiments to drive innovation in newsrooms

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Winners of the Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund Round 2 and their corporate partners

The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford today announced the second round of winners of the Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund grants. Five projects spearheaded by JSK alumni will receive a total of $68,000 to experiment with ad-free subscriptions, mobile communities and audience engagement across the U.S., and with digital and video storytelling in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“Around the world, JSK alumni are at the forefront of helping journalism improve how information reaches communities and how news organizations tell the stories of people whose voices often are not heard,” said Dawn Garcia, director of the JSK Fellowships. “Working with their partner organizations, this group of winners will continue that mission while reinventing and transforming our industry. We’re excited to see them get to work on their innovative experiments.”

The JSK Fellowships supports up to 20 journalists each year from the U.S. and around the world who spend 10 months at Stanford exploring and testing innovative ideas for addressing the biggest challenges facing journalism. The Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund supports the work of JSK alumni after their time at Stanford with competitive grants of $5,000 to $20,000.

The initiative launched in 2016 in honor of longtime Director James Bettinger, who retired from the program after 27 years. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation provided $100,000 in seed funding, while JSK alumni and friends of the program contributed more than $40,000 in individual donations. JSK Fellowships announced the winners of the first round in April 2017, with the program allocating $70,500 to six experiments tackling audience engagement, accountability reporting, media credibility, and other areas of journalism innovation; some of those projects are already making an impact across the industry, such as Alabama Media Group’s new brand, Reckon by, which focuses on collaborative journalism for a social audience, and Spaceship Media’s dialogue journalism model, which brings together people with opposing viewpoints for civil discussions.

The five winning teams of the second round, consisting of JSK alumni and partners from news organizations, attended a project-planning workshop at Stanford in November to receive individualized coaching and launch their initiatives. The workshop is also supported by funding from the Knight Foundation to increase the impact of the work of JSK Fellows’ work after their year at Stanford.

The second round of projects funded by the Jim Bettinger News Innovation Fund are:

  • Ad-free subscription pilot by Ryan Nakashima; $13,000; Menlo Park, California. A series of experiments with online news publishers to test the value consumers put on ad-free and ad-lite experiences, exploring whether it can inform new revenue models for journalism. Developing a dashboard to help target different audience segments and recommending new courses of action. Nakashima, a 2017 JSK Fellow and technology reporter for The Associated Press, is partnering with AP and the Bay Area News Group.
  • Mobile Immigration Communities by Nathalie Alvaray; $10,000; Miami. Leveraging mobile apps (WhatsApp) and other social media platforms for launching conversations around immigration. Alvaray, a 2016 JSK Fellow and Univision’s manager of local digital news, is partnering with Univision.
  • Pulse by Andrew Haeg; $15,000; St. Paul. A prototype of a pulse‐taking framework via mobile messaging to discern the information needs of a community. Haeg, a 2009 JSK Fellow and CEO of Groundsource, is partnering with Education North Carolina (’s Reach NC Voices, KQED (in California) and other local news outlets.
  • Sahar Speaks social video by Amie Ferris-Rotman; $15,000; Moscow, and London. Engaging new audiences with humanitarian‐centered social video journalism by Afghan female correspondents. Ferris-Rotman, a 2014 JSK Fellow and founder of Sahar Speaks, is partnering with The Guardian.
  • Digital Journalism experiments by Tayyeb Afridi; $15,000; Peshawar, Pakistan. Prototyping strategies to transform radio reporting to digital-first in the Tribal News Network newsroom in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Afridi, a 2014 JSK Fellow and director of the Tribal News Network, is partnering with TNN.