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Crowdfunding (and pitching) news stories

Publishing & Media

We’ve covered many of the twists and turns that have taken place in the world of journalism over the years, including the citizen journalism efforts at OhmyNews and Danish Avisen. Now a new experimental site in the San Francisco Bay Area is offering community control on a different level by giving readers a chance to fund the stories they want to see professionally written. Due for launch this fall, Spot.us is a nonprofit that lets any individual or journalist post an idea for an untold story in the local community. Professional journalists then write pitches based on those ideas and place them in the site’s wiki, where members of the community can view them and vote—via micro-pledge—on the stories that are most important to them. (Examples currently on the site have a distinctly eco-minded focus, such as the inaugural one entitled “Ethanol Could Be a Weak Link in State’s Energy Network,” which has already reached its USD 250 goal.) Supporters pay only if their topic wins full support, in which case freelance journalists are commissioned to report and write the story. Spot.us then publishes it in its news feeds under a Creative Commons license and offers it for free to local media outlets. Exclusive rights to the story will be granted in exchange for a percentage of the original donations, Spot.us says. Spot.us, which is currently in what it calls pre-alpha mode using a grant from the Knight Foundation, encourages participants to limit their donations to a maximum of 20 percent of the story’s costs, and will enforce that through technology once the site goes live, it says. It is also currently vetting pitches and reporters, but aims ultimately to let the marketplace do that. Also of interest is that Spot.us uses activism site The Point—which we covered not long ago—to coordinate its funding efforts for each pitch. One of the big concerns about citizen journalism has been that it lacks the rigor and integrity formal journalistic training imparts, as well as the trust that comes from the longstanding reputations traditional news organizations typically possess. Spot.us promises to do away with such concerns while still giving the community a strong guiding voice. Will this be a new model for news media? We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, one to watch! Spotted by: Julie Sammons

Website: www.spot.us

Contact: www.spot.us/contact

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