The investigative writing that appears on these sites is heavily controlled by its readers: once you become a member, you can suggest a “tip” for a story that you’d like to see published. The journalists then create “pitches,” and they appear on the site with a donation box. Members then donate money to the stories they want to see written. Once enough money has been raised for a story, which can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000, the journalist will investigate, report, and write it.
The finished story is made available free to anyone for republishing, but if a news organization wants exclusive rights to the story, they have to donate 50% or more to an investigation. Extra proceeds from these donations go back to the original donors who get credit on the site to invest in another story.
The website was started by David Cohn, and is a non-profit project of Center for Media Change. The Los Angeles site is partnering with the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism to create closer ties with the local media community.
“We’ve had a lot of success in the Bay Area, and we want to be a network for community journalism, not just a single city site,” said Spot.Us founder David Cohn. “We are committed to civic journalism because that is what has been hit the hardest, and to really cover civic issues, you have to be local. The partnership with USC gives us the perfect opportunity to work in another city taking all we have learned and built in San Francisco.”
I’m still not sure what to think of this new form of investigative journalism. What do you think? Are you absolutely horrified, or are you all for it?