Every year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awards funding and mentoring to a handful of innovative new ventures that promote good journalism in the Digital Age. The six winners of this year’s “Networks” challenge, announced today at the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference in Cambridge, MA, use existing social platforms like Twitter and Ustream to keep communities informed in new ways.

Popular themes included new ways for news organizations to get feedback on their content, smarter aggregation tools for readers and viewers, and new tools for citizen journalists to protect their identities and organize their communities in the event of a crisis. “Networks” was just one of three categories in this year’s “News Challenge.” For their efforts, the winners received a combined $1.37 million in funding.

From the Knight Foundation, here are the winners for 2012:

  • Peepol.tv – Leveraging streaming networks like Ustream and TweetCaster,
    Peepol.TV will aggregate live mobile video streams of breaking news events into
    an easily searchable world map, connecting users directly to global events as they
    unfold.
  • Recovers.org – After a tornado destroyed their Massachusetts home, two sisters
    created an online organizing platform that helps disaster-stricken communities
    quickly launch recovery efforts. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster,
    Recovers.org enables communities to launch a website that ensures that heightened
    news attention translates into donations, volunteers and more.
  • Signalnoi.se – Enabling newsrooms to monitor what is resonating with readers and
    make smarter editorial decisions about which stories get covered and promoted,
    Signalnoi.se is a dashboard that tracks stories through social networks and across
    competitor sites.
  • Watchup – An iPad app that makes it easier to find and watch high-quality news
    videos, Watchup speeds the search for relevant content by offering a curated
    playlist that aggregates news reports into a simple interface.
  • Behavio – Behavio is an open-source platform that turns phones into smart sensors
    of people’s real world behavior – from how they use their phones to how they
    communicate with others. Funding will be used to help programmers build apps
    with smarter sensors, create tools for journalists that uncover trends in community
    data and launch a mobile application that allows individuals to explore data about
    their lives.
  • Tor Project – With journalists and their sources increasingly threatened by
    governments, criminal organizations and others who monitor their mobile and
    online communication, the Tor Project will use its vast network of volunteers
    to create a tool kit that will enable journalists to communicate more safely with
    sources by using the organization’s secure Web browser, an anonymous upload
    utility and more.

“The future of our democracy depends on the quality and reliability of the generally shared information communities receive,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation in a statement. “How that information is received and shared will depend on innovative uses of digital technology that is rapidly evolving. Since we’re just at the beginning of that technological revolution, it is hugely important to support innovators like these, who are pushing the boundaries of our understanding of news and community information.”

Image by bloomua via Shutterstock.