How It Works


The Challenge Fund is open to U.S.-based colleges or universities working in collaborative teams made up of educators, students, researchers, media professionals, technologists and designers to provide local news coverage.

Endorsements for the programs from the Dean or Program Director are encouraged but not required. The ability to obtain matching funds is considered in project selection but not required.

Here’s an example of a project team:

  • Educators (Team Lead)
  • Students
  • Media partners such as local television, radio, newspaper, and technology outlets
  • Researchers
  • Technologists and designers
  • Local community residents


This challenge is about experimentation. We want to fund projects that encourage more collaborative local news coverage, bridge academic and professional gaps, better train students, and provide lessons from digital-age news experiments. Winners receive up to $35,000 in funding to support live local news experiments and compete in a pool of up to $100,000 in grand prizes for best project and evaluation.

Projects should better inform and engage your local community.

Successful projects will include:


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.


Your project should have an approach that represents a genuine innovation in technology or journalism in your community. You should attempt to solve a problem in your community’s local news coverage. We’re looking for projects that will chart new territory.


Your project should bring together a diverse team. Winning teams could include students, researchers, media professionals, educators, developers, technologists and designers. Projects should use engagement platforms to involve local communities and encourage professionals and scholars to work together to study the experiments.


The community is your laboratory. Your project should include a researched evaluation with professional involvement and provide solid analysis of the results that candidly describe successes, failures and lessons. The collaborative team should seek to publish results in both professional and scholarly publications and include these results in journalism curricula.

Applicants will have slim odds of selection if they propose a traditional newsgathering project without engagement, innovation or research and a clear idea to test. The news organization and university should be willing to change the status quo based on these results.


The application deadline closed Jan. 23, 2015, at 11:59 p.m. ET.


Up to 11 projects will be selected this year. Projects will be reviewed by an Advisory Committee. Recommendations will be sent to the Funder Committee for final selection. Winning teams will be featured on the site and the 2015 Online News Association Conference in Los Angeles.


We’re deeply committed to the future of journalism education and winners should be, too. We’re looking for teams whose lessons can be shared with the larger journalism community.

If you’re interested in finding other collaborators in your area or hearing what the community is saying about the challenge, use our hashtag #hackcurriculum, and join the ONA Educators Facebook Group.