Which is why I'm relieved to see journalism sites like Spot.Us pop up. The concept is simple: you pitch your story idea on the site, and citizens will fund you to report a story. If the story sells to a publication, then the publication will buy however much citizens paid, and the supporters are refunded their money. If not, the article becomes a property of Creative Commons.
I got to speak with the founder David Cohn last week. He received a Knight grant to fund this project for two years. The site is so far less than a month old, and he says so far, journalists will get full funding within two weeks if their pitches are good. Right now, only Bay Area journalists can apply, but what's suprising is that donations have been coming from all over the US.
I'm excited to see if this might be a new model for journalism, but it also has its drawbacks:
* Timeliness issue : It takes time for stories to get fully funded, so you're not going to be pitching stories about last night's crime that just took place.
* Trend topics : The pitches that seem to be most popular on the site are theme and trend-heavy stories. Stories that will be funded seem like they'd be ones that affect citizens directly. In other words, you're probably not going to be profiling some obscure band that no one cares about.
Other than that though, I'm definitely keeping my eye on where this site goes.