Have a nifty idea for reporting local news online and the only thing stopping you is that you can’t think of a business model where you don’t lose your shirt?

Get in line. Or go to the head of it, perhaps, by entering the McKnight Knight News Challenge. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation just gave this blog a nudge, so I’m passing on word that the foundation has some $5 million to give away “for innovative ideas using digital experiments to transform community news and information exchange,” and the deadline to apply is November 1.

Last year the Challenge awarded 16 prizes, ranging from $15,000 to $876,000, to an assortment of individuals and organizations in the U.S. and six other countries. The year before, one of the winners was the online Chi-Town Daily News, so it could “recruit and train a network of 75 citizen journalists [who’ll] work with editors to produce a professional, comprehensive daily local news report.” 

A curious feature of the Challenge is that even if you don’t enter you can comment on the ideas of people who did. For instance, the OurNews project is asking for $1 million “to create a website that is as much a social network as a news source. Users will sign in and have an easy-to-use resource to create and publish news stories and opinions, as well as rate and vote on the articles written by others.” After a fast, free registration process, you can weigh in with your comment on this proposal, suggest ways to improve it, or come up with something better and go for the million bucks yourself.