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Are You Ready to Pitch for ONA’s Challenge Fund?

ONA Challenge FundHave you been wandering around your j-school campus, mulling over a good idea? It’s time to get a team together — applications opened this week for the Online News Association’s Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism. ONA is rewarding 15-25 micro-grants, up to $35,000 each, to ‘live news experiements’ to be completed in the 2014-2015 academic year. You have until February to get your project toegther.

It’s all about ‘hacking the curriculum,’ and they’re not looking for projects that are already flushed out or have matching funds. From their website:

Your project should stretch the limits of what you think you can do. Don’t be afraid to fail. We’re looking for projects that implement live news experiments in a variety of ways by empowering journalism schools to lead professional innovation and thought leadership. The size of your school or program shouldn’t limit the project’s ambition.

ONA makes it clear that they want teams to be collaborative — mixing students, faculty, developers, and your local news outlet and community is mandatory. You should also be ready to test run your project,  publish the results, and add it to the curriculum. The Challenge Fund website says they’re looking for teams that:

  • encourag[e] collaborative, student-produced local news coverage
  •  bridg[e] the professor-professional gap
  •  us[e] innovative techniques and technologies
  • and produc[e] shared learnings from their digital-age news experiments

One grand prize will be given to the project most likely to change the newsgathering status quo, and another large prize will go to the team with the best project evaluation, regardless of the outcome. It’s a win-win all around.

You can apply here and follow the competition at #hackcurriculum. The contest is run by ONA and funded by the Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund.

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