How ICFJ is driving news innovation

Nov 72014

As the International Center for Journalists celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, we have our eyes on the future.

Like our flagship program, the Knight International Journalism Fellowships, ICFJ isn’t content to simply keep up with or react to new developments. Instead, we drive news innovation.

We help our partners in the field harness the power of digital media, the Internet and data to deliver the information that people need to make informed decisions and live better lives.

ICFJ staffers bring deep international experience to their work, whether they were born abroad, served as Peace Corps volunteers, worked as former Knight Fellows or reported overseas for BusinessWeek, USA Today, NPR and other news outlets. What’s more, we actively seek out, recruit and partner with the most probing journalists and most promising innovators in each region.

Here are some of the key ways that ICFJ and its partners are making a difference:

By engaging audiences

Lebanese journalist Ali Ghamloush used what he learned in an ICFJ program to build a multimedia, data-fueled website that documents prison abuses. Now he works for ICFJ, training his Middle East colleagues to use data, social media, mapping and other tools to engage their audiences in issues that matter.

Knight International Journalism Fellow Mariana Santos works with women who are artists, developers and journalists to improve interactive storytelling.

By empowering women

Knight Fellow Mariana Santos launched Chicas Poderosas, a network of women in Latin America who can compete for jobs in digital media– the fastest-growing sector in the business and one in which women are woefully underrepresented.

By shining a light on health

Knight International Award winner Toyosi Ogunseye’s stories on health issues in Nigeria have brought changes in policy that are helping Nigerians live longer. Through ICFJ’s work in the country, Nigerian journalists are engaging audiences on life-and-death issues such as malaria, Ebola and maternal and child health.

By experimenting, then building on what works

Former Knight Fellow James Breiner created a public service journalism course in Mexico that was so well-received that it became the basis for a program for hundreds of journalists and bloggers in the Middle East.

By building networks of investigative journalists

Anna Babinets of Ukraine is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, working with ICFJ to improve investigative reporting in two dozen countries in Central and Eastern Europe. She played a key role in salvaging documents dumped in a lake by the fleeing ousted president, drying them, analyzing them and using them to produce ground-breaking corruption stories.

By making data useful to citizens

David Lemayian is a developer with the Code for Africa movement launched by Knight Fellow Justin Arenstein. Based in Kenya, Lemayian has developed projects that help consumers choose reliable health-care providers and make it easier for citizens to vote in four African countries.

InfoAmazonia depicting deforested areas in the Amazon.

By spurring South-to-South innovation

Our Knight Fellows often develop their own tools and services, and we use ICFJ’s network to spread them throughout the world. Brazilian Knight Fellow Gustavo Faleiros developed a satellite mapping platform called InfoAmazonia to track environmental problems in the nine-country Amazon region. Now Oxpeckers, a southern African organization, is using his technology to track poachers in protected wildlife regions. Reporting based on that site has already stopped an Asian poaching ring and led to agreements on poaching between African and Asian countries that import ivory, rhino horns and other spoils.

By sharing what we learn

One way we spread innovation globally is by sharing what we learn along the way. Our code and our ideas are open source. Our innovators share their knowledge about media innovation, the global media landscape, and the latest tools they’re using on ICFJ’s IJNet website and its new Knight International Media Innovators channel.

In 2014, ICFJ ran 70 programs, the largest number in its history, reaching about 7,000 participants, more than ever in a single year. Our budget revenue hit nearly $13 million, a record high.

In the next 30 years, we can’t predict the many changes coming in news and technology across the globe. But we do know one thing: ICFJ and its team will be driving it.

The International Center for Journalists will celebrate its anniversary Monday, Nov. 10, with the ICFJ 30th Anniversary Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, will deliver the keynote address, and Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen will present Knight International Journalism Awards to Oluwatoyosi Ogunseye of Nigeria and Alejandra Xanic von Bertrab of Mexico. A special auction to benefit ICFJ’s efforts worldwide features the work of photojournalist David Burnett. For more information, visit

Joyce Barnathan is president of the International Center for Journalists, which Knight Foundation supports to advance excellence and innovation in journalism.

This post was first published on the Knight Foundation blog

Photo of Mariana Santos by Carolina Wilson on Flickr.