SND receives record grant from Knight Foundation

To help journalists update and build new skills in the digital age, SND will expand its training opportunities, bringing multidisciplinary teams together to create new models, news experiences and storytelling tools, while sharing lessons to advance the field. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is supporting the expansion with $130,000.

The official press release is here.

This is the largest grant in our 36-year history.

With Knight funding, SND will expand its rapid prototyping program, SNDMakes, which launched in 2014. SNDMakes is a two-and-a-half-day design-a-thon that pairs professionals across disciplines — designers, developers, educators, journalists, product managers and students — to tackle a specific challenge that impacts digital journalism and information consumption. Previous SNDMakes programs have covered the building of open-source solutions to address questions, including “How do we foster new story forms?”, “How might we improve the content creation experience?”, and “How might we tell better picture stories?”

In 2016, SND also will create a new program, SNDExp, aimed at improving the quality of design and storytelling at nonprofit and small media organizations and academic institutions. SNDExp will convene designers, developers and technologists to teach best practices and explore existing tools, applying user-centered design. Both SNDMakes and SNDExp will help to create a community of people committed to building products that meet news consumers on whatever platform they choose to consume content.

“As technology rapidly evolves, so do the tools and storytelling techniques that journalists use to do their work. The ability to design services and programs that address audience needs is becoming a requirement not only for news designers but for non-designers,” said Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation director for journalism. “To this end, Society for News Design will help increase opportunities for journalists through peer-to-peer learning and help build a network that fosters innovation in the field.”

More than 150 people have participated in SNDMakes to date, with our next event coming up in Austin in November.

“We like to say ‘SNDMakes is about community, not competition.’ We have designed this boutique, prototyping event to produce clickable prototypes, and to enable an engaged future-of-news-design community,” said Miranda Mulligan, SND’s technology director and co-founder of the SNDMakes program. “This partnership with Knight Foundation will be instrumental in helping us meet our mission and vision.”

SNDMakes events have attracted coverage from the Nieman Lab and other outlets.

“SNDMakes uses design thinking and collaborative problem-solving to demonstrate that anyone with a passion for media, regardless of technical skill, can help spur innovation,” said Kyle Ellis, SND’s digital director, who co-founded SNDMakes in 2014. “Support from the Knight Foundation means we can build a meaningful infrastructure behind the programs, and ensure that SNDMakes isn’t a one-off event, but a continued conversation about how, together, we can shape the future of news.”

In the coming year, our plan is to train more than 250 journalists and students, representing a diverse range of expertise, roles and other demographics, through these programs. Both will feature an open application process.

Funding also will support our outreach efforts to the digital community. We will facilitate a continued conversation using e-mail, social media, our website and annual workshop, to sustain momentum in thoughtful, deliberate ways. Past participants will be invited to share resources, announcements, best practices and advice. We also plan to host monthly Twitter chats with a specific focus on design, development and media innovation.

“In teaming with the Knight Foundation our goal with SNDExp is simple, make the digital news ecosystem a better place for people to consume information,” said Chris Courtney, SND training director. “By empowering people with the tools and practices that work, SND and SNDExp will be helping journalists and news organizations make smarter design decisions quicker.”

The support for SND is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to expand digital journalism training opportunities, support emerging leaders and strengthen the network of people working to advance the practice of journalism.

“SNDMakes pretty much blew my mind,” said Crystal Gammon, Web Editor at Yale Environment 360, attended SNDMakes in Washington earlier this year. “Since I work for a website that publishes super old-fashioned photo galleries, I had no idea how many tools were already available for beautifully incorporating art and graphics into news articles. But I also learned there still were not enough. SNDMakes in D.C. filled that void. It was great to be able to tell my group about my organization’s problems, then hear someone (several people, actually) say, ‘Yeah, we can totally find a way to fix that.’ And we did.”

To learn more about the SNDMakes program, please read our FAQs and contact us at our primary email: sndmakes (at) gmail.

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