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A new way to pay for the news

 

The crumbling ad base for journalism is a big concern among reporters and press advocates alike.

Previously, we'd heard about how ProPublica offers one different model for funding investigative reporting.

My friend Matt is kicking the butt of the local MSM in covering the DNC, so that's another way to go. Maybe he should reconsider selling RI's Future, eh?

And via the Sunday NYT, we learn of Spot Us, yet another approach to funding investigative projects:

The idea, which they are calling “community-funded journalism,” is now being tested in the San Francisco Bay area, where a new nonprofit, Spot Us, is using its Web site, spot.us, to solicit ideas for investigative articles and the money to pay for the reporting. But the experiment has also raised concerns of journalism being bought by the highest bidder.

The idea is that anyone can propose a story, though the editors at Spot Us ultimately choose which stories to pursue. Then the burden is put on the citizenry, which is asked to contribute money to pay upfront all of the estimated reporting costs. If the money doesn’t materialize, the idea goes unreported.

“Spot Us would give a new sense of editorial power to the public,” said David Cohn, a 26-year-old Web journalist who received a $340,000, two-year grant from the Knight Foundation to test his idea. “I’m not Bill and Melinda Gates, but I can give $10. This is the Obama model. This is the Howard Dean model.”

Those campaigns revolutionized politics by using the power of the Web to raise small sums from vast numbers of people, making average citizens feel a part of the process in a way they had not felt before. In the same way, Spot Us hopes to empower citizens to be part of a newsgathering enterprise that, polls show, many mistrust and regard as both biased and elitist.

Selling the start-up of stories isn't without its own problems, but as Jay Rosen says:

“The business model is broken,” he said. “We’re at a point now where nobody actually knows where the money is going to come from for editorial goods in the future. My own feeling is that we need to try lots of things. Most of them won’t work. You’ll have a lot of failure. But we need to launch a lot of boats."

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