JSK and Big Local News Launch New Data Journalism Grants – Applications Closed

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This opportunity closed on October 5, 2020.
Thanks to everyone who applied.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are seemingly never-ending: racial disparities among victims; racial disparities among those affected by the economic fallout; challenges in how local, regional and national governments have responded to the crisis; issues with teaching our children; ensuring that those who need shelter and food have their needs met. All of these stories may be better explained with the use of data, but the data itself is often difficult to find and collect, and it can be even harder to standardize. And local journalists don’t always have the resources to do this work. 

That’s where the JSK-Big Local News Data Reporting Grants come in. The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University and Big Local News, a project of the Stanford Journalism and Democracy Initiative, will be funding data-driven, replicable stories related to  the pandemic. Applications are open to journalists  covering these issues in any part of the world. 

With support from the Google News Initiative, selected projects will receive funding to cover the costs of data collection, analysis, and reporting. We will be awarding small- to medium-sized grants, ranging from approximately $5,000 to $25,000. Big Local News will provide a platform for collecting and storing the data and will provide ongoing support for recipients. Once the stories are published, the data will be shared as an Open Project at biglocalnews.org, along with a guide, or story recipe for how to do a similar story elsewhere. The data may also be archived permanently with Stanford Libraries. We recognize that good journalism takes time, so recipients will have six months to work on their project. 

The deadline to submit applications is Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, at 1 p.m. Pacific Time. Monday, Oct. 5, 1 p.m. Pacific Time

Read our FAQ for more information and follow @JSKstanford and @BigLocalNews on Twitter for the latest. Please email with questions: jskblngrants@stanford.edu

We look forward to learning more about you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of projects are eligible for JSK-BLN grants?

We are looking for data-driven stories related to the coronavirus pandemic, which can be replicated elsewhere. Successful ideas could, for example, include coverage of COVID-19 health disparities in communities of color or examine economic sectors that have shut down entirely. The stories could use readily available data combined with new insights, or teams can  obtain unique data.

Are the awards JSK Fellowships?

No. The awards will be limited-term grants provided by JSK and Big Local News with support from the Google News Initiative.

What is Big Local News?

Big Local News is a program of Stanford University’s Journalism and Democracy Initiative that collects local data to discover the regional or national patterns that will yield stories with impact. Big Local News journalists pursue data sets that are hard to obtain because they’re kept in disparate, scattered locations by multiple jurisdictions. They also work with newsrooms to process, analyze and archive the data collected.

The Big Local News platform allows journalists to share data and collaborate on projects. This work is designed to boost the ability of local newsrooms’ to produce accountability journalism. Journalists can create their own projects and access data in Open Projects available to all platform users. The Data Archive contains publicly available data that has been preserved by Stanford Libraries.

Who may apply?

We are casting a wide net to allow for non-traditional entrants. That said, we expect we will hear from individual journalists with legacy and digital-native news organizations, independent journalists, and data scientists working for journalistic purposes. We also welcome proposals from organizations, such as legacy newsrooms or nonprofit news organizations worldwide.

I am not a journalist. May I apply?

We understand there may be people working on data projects who are not traditional journalists. If you have a track record of this work, and the ability to have a significant impact, you may apply for funding.

I would like to do a data reporting project. May I apply?

Yes. We are looking for reporting projects that can be replicated elsewhere.

Stanford is a great research university. May I apply with an academic research project?

No. We are not looking for academic research, but if a part of your research could be a news story, then you may apply. 

I would like support for my book project on data and coronavirus. May I apply?

No. Book projects are ineligible for funding.

I have a startup and we are looking for financial investment or venture capital support for our business. May I apply?

No. If you are seeking financial investment, this funding is not for you.

I would like support for my documentary project on data and coronavirus. May I apply?

No. Documentary projects are ineligible for funding.

I am an alumnus of the JSK Fellowships program. May I apply?

Yes. JSK alumni are eligible to apply for grants.

If I receive a grant, what obligations will I have to the program?

You will need to implement your project as you proposed it. Changes are possible but with the written permission of the program team. While you implement the project, you should capture learning and insights to be shared as a project case study, a guide, or a story recipe. You should plan on publishing at least one Medium post (or other designated platform) to share learning and findings. You will need to attend virtual meetings or online activities organized by the program, including a kick-off meeting with the program leadership, and participate in virtual discussions with an adviser. You should plan on presenting the findings at follow-up review sessions with the program team.

Which expenses are eligible?

Grants are for expenses directly related to producing a data story. These include data acquisition, data analysis, technology (such as server costs or software) as well as pay for contractors used to work on editorial or data components of the project. For organizational applicants, such as newsrooms, we will consider requests to cover the cost of staff salaries  or the cost of contractors used to fill in for a staff journalist who is freed up to work on the project. General administrative and overhead costs (e.g., office rent) are ineligible. Independent journalists such as freelancers, may include in their proposed budgets the cost of their time working on a story.

What is the budget range for a proposal?

We are awarding small- to medium-sized grants. They may range from approximately $5,000 to $25,000.

What references must I include with my application?

You must provide the names and contact information for two professional references. These should be people who can speak to your journalism experience and why your project is important.

How are projects evaluated?

We will evaluate the proposals based on six criteria: 

  • Relevance: Does a proposal address a real opportunity around the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Impact: What is the possibility of having an impact?
  • Plausibility: How doable is a project?
  • Replicability: Does a proposal include a plan for guiding others so they can add to the work, by replicating similar data collection or analysis in a different coverage area?
  • Team: How strong is the team, newsroom or organization? Are they capable of delivering the proposed project?
  • Competition: Is there a team,newsroom or organization that is already doing something similar? Is this a novel or creative idea? 

What does “replicable project” mean?

We are looking for stories that other newsrooms can replicate in other coverage areas.

Do I need a distribution plan for the stories?

Our goal is to get your stories published, so you will need to give us your distribution plan. If you are a newsroom staffer and your organization plans to publish or broadcast your story, say so in your application and provide your editors’ names and contact information. If you are a freelancer, provide details on your publishing plan.

What are the application questions?

You can preview the application here.

What are the key dates for the program?

When will you announce the grants?

We plan to announce the grants in October 2020.