Contests encourage students to show new-media skills

Two national contests offer students a chance to win recognition and prize money by demonstrating their new-media skills.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s News Challenge, now in its second year, plans to award up to a total of $5 million this year to contestants with innovative ideas on how to use digital media to strengthen local communities.

For example, one of last year’s biggest winners was Adrian Holovaty, a journalist and Web developer. Holovaty received a $1.1 million grant to develop EveryBlock, a site that will draw on numerous databases and display the information on a Google map. The concept is similar to Holovaty’s, which allows users to see where crimes have been reported in Chicago, but the new service will include a wider variety of information.

The competition is open to anyone, but this year the contest includes a new category, the “Young Creators Award.” The foundation announced Sept. 6 that it will set aside $500,000 for contestants under 25 years old. MTV and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America are helping promote the award.

The contest may award all that money to one project or split it among several smaller projects. Participants who want to request a larger award can enter their ideas in the general or commercial categories. All entries must be submitted by Oct. 15.

The American Civil Liberties Union is offering a more focused competition: the third annual “Stand Up For Freedom” contest. Entrants can submit either an audio podcast up to five minutes long or a video public service announcement up to 30 seconds long on one of three topics: surveillance and privacy, free speech and censorship, or detention and due process. The contest is open to any U.S. citizen or legal U.S. resident between 17 and 29 years old. The entry deadline is Oct. 4.