Community funded journalism site opens a new outlet

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Spot.us, a community funded reporting website based in San Francisco, launched another site for the Los Angeles area last Tuesday. (You can find the full press release here.)

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.

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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?

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3 responses to “Community funded journalism site opens a new outlet

  1. i’m interested in it. it’s like a sort of freelance community hybrid. if no one wants to read about it, then it won’t get funded. if it’s a good story, it gets funded. it’s allowing the audience almost full control of their content.

    i’d be interested to see where this will go. if it will survive.

  2. Obviously, this sort of thing wouldn’t work well for breaking news, but they might be on to something. I envy the USC students who are getting to work on this project.

    But, I don’t know that I completely get it. If the stories are funded by outside investors, does the publication run the risk of being taken over by special interests with that money to spend? As in, couldn’t the groups or the people with the ability to financially back stories directly manipulate the things that get reported on?

  3. $200? It hardly seems worth pursuing an investigative story for such a paltry amount. Even $2,000 seems cheap for a truly in-depth, investigative report.

    USC’s journo students will work for free. Does that seem right?

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