AI & Local News Challenge
The AI & Local News Challenge is an opportunity for five startup and university teams to develop and advance projects that use AI to address the needs of news organizations.
This Challenge — supported by Knight Foundation — will help local news organizations harness the power of artificial intelligence.
Check out the info session slides for background on AI and news and a program overview.
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Read more about how to apply and what we’re looking for in Challenge applications in the FAQ below.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I apply?
The deadline to apply has passed. Please stay tuned for information about the next round of applications.
- What are the application questions?
To get to know your team and project better, we require answers to the following questions. Please answer thoughtfully, clearly and concisely. We’ve included suggested paragraph counts for each question. There’s a 2,000-letter maximum limit for each question.
- Describe your project concept. What application of artificial intelligence is your team interested in creating to benefit news organizations, journalists and/or news audiences? (2-3 paragraphs)
- Describe the problem or gap that your project addresses. How will your project help local and regional news organizations continue to produce quality journalism and meet their audience's information needs? (2-3 paragraphs)
- Which technologies are implemented in your project? (1-2 paragraphs)
- Why do you want to take part in this program? How does this project fit into your team's trajectory? (1-2 paragraphs)
- How is your team uniquely qualified to approach this challenge? Include technical capabilities and previous product experience if applicable (1-2 paragraphs)
- How will your team and project bring an awareness of diversity and inclusion in news and artificial intelligence to your work? (1-2 paragraphs)
- How does the application process work?
Once you’ve submitted your application, it will be reviewed by a team of judges. Finalists will be invited to interview on January 11 and 12, 2022. Teams will be notified of their acceptance into the program and expected to confirm their participation shortly after. We’ll also let teams that aren’t accepted know.
- When does the program run?
After completing some preliminary orientation activities, the Challenge teams will begin the program the week starting January 31, 2022. The program will conclude at the end of May 2022.
- What's expected of participating teams?
Teams are required to commit to being available for weekly remote sessions and to work at least 10 hours a week outside of meetings on their projects. Please make sure that you have enough time available to commit to making your project the best it can be. We anticipate that teams may iterate and change their projects during the course of the Challenge.
- Who can apply?
Applications are open to university teams, startup teams and teams based at news organizations.
Startups and news organization teams should serve customers based in the United States and have a United States presence and/or be registered in the United States.
Team leads for university teams should be affiliated with US-based universities.
- What size teams can apply?
The team participating in the program must be between 2 and 5 members. The startups or organizations that teams are affiliated with can be larger.
- What types of projects are we looking for?
We’re looking for projects that use tools under the broad umbrella of artificial intelligence to enhance and enable quality journalism and/or sustainable news organizations. Those tools and approaches include–but are not limited to — automation, algorithms, machine learning, computer vision, deep learning, recommendation systems, natural language processing and natural language generation.
We prefer projects that are past the early discovery phase. The projects that will best match this Challenge should already have a theory of which problems they might solve for which customers. Teams should be ready to prototype and iterate on their project through the Challenge and potentially to pilot with news organizations and/or to receive feedback from journalists.
- What kind of teams are we looking for?
We’re looking for interdisciplinary teams with experience in fields including–but not limited to — product development, software development, computer science, creative technology, data science, advertising tech, video production, audio production, business, operations, investigative journalism and engagement journalism.
We don’t require experience building products for journalists or news organizations, but we do expect a curiosity and willingness to learn the nuances of the ever-changing news industry.
- What teams or projects wouldn’t be a good fit for this program?
We are looking for teams that are ready to apply AI to use cases that meet current needs in the field of journalism.
Teams that are working on projects that are primarily research will not be a good fit for this program.
We’re excited about working with innovative approaches and emerging technologies that highlight near-term opportunities and paths forward. Projects based around technologies that are not ready to scale up or for production work and won’t be in the next one to two years are not a good fit for this program.
- What support will participating teams receive?
Participating teams will each receive awards of up to $7,500.
In addition to the funds, teams will benefit from the structure of the Challenge, mentorship from people in the media and technology industries and guidance from the team at the NYC Media Lab and our network.
- Do we take equity? Who owns intellectual property developed during the Challenge?
No. We do not take equity or any stake in companies or technologies developed as part of the Challenge. We do not take ownership of any intellectual property developed by teams during the Challenge.
- What happens at the end of the Challenge?
At the end of the program teams will present their work as part of a Demo Day. Project details and excerpts from the Demo Day may be showcased and shared with the general public and the NYC Media Lab community.
A panel of judges will then award two teams with a grand prize of $15,000 and a second-place prize of $7,500.
After the Challenge, teams may have the opportunity to further develop project pilots and experiments with partner news organizations.
- Who has participated in NYC Media Lab Challenges in the past?
NYC Media Lab has hosted past Challenges with tech and media companies and philanthropic organizations. Take a look at some of the past participants in our programs:
- Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge
- New York Times R&D Fellowships
- Havas Lean Venture Studio for Retail Challenge
- Why AI and local news?
Many capabilities supported by artificial intelligence are available in products across a wide range of industries with many more coming to market soon. In journalism, artificial intelligence tools create powerful opportunities to evolve and improve processes and workflows at all stages of news work including newsgathering, story creation, distribution, audience engagement and business models for news. Right now, many news organizations — especially at the local level — are experiencing serious economic challenges and many communities are facing a dearth of high-quality reporting about what’s happening in their governments and neighborhoods.
Read more about the intersection of AI and local news in this survey of AI efforts in the news industry conducted by Knight Foundation working with industry experts John Keefe and Jeremy Merrill, and Youyou Zhou.
Check out our info session slides for a few examples of AI news projects.
- Who can I contact with further questions?
Get in touch with AI and Local News Community and Project Lead Matt MacVey at firstname.lastname@example.org