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citizen-funded journalism website

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new model of journalism?

  • Dec 9, 2008
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Like any young journalist, I'm spooked by the growing pains that the journalism industry has been undergoing. When I heard about The Tribune Company filing for bankruptcy today, my first reaction was "What took them so long?" 

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. 

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December 09, 2008
Yeah, that's true. Though if you're a freelancer for a living, you need that advance notice of whether or not you're getting paid before you work on a story. Not all stories get fully funded, and if it doesn't, then the money is refunded back to the original supporters.
About the reviewer

Ranked #84
I'm a curious foodie, a devout fashion gawker, and an unrepentant print nerd. I work at one of the last mainstream commercial magazines that's still printing.      Other things … more
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A citizen-funded website for journalists that's founded by David Cohn. Post story pitches, have people contribute money, and then start reporting.


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