Posted on November 10th, 2008 No comments
In case you haven’t heard of this novel idea, here’s the elevator pitch. Spot.us lets citizens submit news tips for stories that they want to see covered in their community. Journalists are then invited to submit pitches for stories they want to report — some of which may be inspired by citizen pitches, others of which are their own ideas — and readers can donate money to fund individual projects. You can learn more about it in the video below, or better yet, go to http://spot.us, register, find a story and donate.
I just did this myself, and I’m still basking in the glow of knowing that I made a difference in a story about when solar power will be affordable in the San Francisco bay area.
I live in the Boulder area, not San Francisco, but I have been asking this very question for my own area and have even run some back-of-napkin calculations for possibly solarizing my home. I’ve quickly gotten lost in a vortex of facts and spin that make me appreciate every professionally researched story I find about this subject. And generally speaking, I like to support projects that promote alternative energy. I’m looking forward to reading the final story that Spot.us reporter Aaron Crowe produces, and it will feel good knowing that I helped make it happen.
Spot.us makes a lot of sense at a time when news organizations are contracting due to economic forces and changing business models. But it’s also worth noting that Spot.us will also accept 50% donations from existing news organizations in exchange for exclusivity, so it’s also trying to help existing journalism businesses.
But that’s not why I’m interested in the project. I simply like the way it connects people with the journalism they depend on. It’s like a mashup of public radio, online political campaigns and causes, and journalism — as if Howard Dean had applied his online fundraising success to the Fourth Estate. I think it also serves as a reminder to people that investigative journalism takes time, resources and money to do well.
While I still am and always will be a big proponent of citizen’s media, I think there will always be a place for professional journalism — sometimes even more than before. In an expanding sea of voices, a trusted, authoritative voice becomes all the more valuable. I’ll even go so far as to say that without professional journalism, Democracy as we know it could not survive. If you agree with that statement, you definitely should head over to Spot.us right now and fund a story. And please congratulate David on a successful launch!