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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Crowdfunded journalism site raises $2,500 for story, a San Francisco website experimenting with a new business model for local news, has cranked up a notch after successfully raising US$2,500 from the community to cover the costs of a reporting team to check facts used in political advertisements.

The premise of the site is this:

Citizens suggest story ideas and pledge money towards stories they would like to see investigated and published. If a selected story idea raises the requisite funding, the site managers employ a journalist to research and write the story. This is not only the community setting the news agenda, but the community paying for it too.

Founder David Cohn talked to the New York Times about the concept.

“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.

The site hasn't formally launched yet but there's been a fair amount of activity on its blog and wiki and it's definitely one to watch. The image below, taken from the blog, is a mock-up of what the site's homepage is likely to look like when it launches and there's also an example of a crowdfunded story about ethanol use in California, written by Wired reporter Alexis Madrigal.

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