Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Micro Loans For Journalists


Crowd-funding for journalism? May fail, but a SF-based nonprofit is giving it a fascinating go.

Hey Broo.  So I was on the other day, and who do I see on the oh-so-important Digg homepage?  DigiDave, aka Broo’s San Francisco editor.  He was promoting his new journalism startup nonprofit,; the most brilliant freaking idea I’ve seen in a long time.

Basically, it’s  micro-lending applied to investigative journalism.  People go to the site, browse pitches, and “micro-fund” (donate whatever amount they want), to fund articles they want written; typically on an issue your failing local paper can no longer afford to cover.  If the story gets funded, tries to sell the first publishing rights.  If they do, the money is returned to the people that donated, which they can then reinvest in another story.  Apparently they’ve already funded like nineteen articles and sold the rights to several of them.  I won’t explain further, as DigiDave (aka Dave Cohen) does a better job in this video interview.

This is exciting for several reasons.

  1.  It’s employing talented, laid off journalists whose contributions are sorely missed.
  2. It’s more responsive to community interests.  Think about it.  Which is a better measure of community interest: a newspaper editor going mostly on hunches, or members of the community putting their money where their mouth is (often to the tune of $20 or so)?
  3. If enough publications buy articles (and why wouldn’t they, considering the low risk and cost), it’s sustainable.
  4. It empowers issues with no voice.  Passionate about an issue the media ignores?  What better way to get attention than fund real, quality investigative journalism that will likely get picked up somewhere, because let’s face it, media outlets need investigative journalism but can’t afford it nowadays, particularly on the local level.

As for how this relates to BrooWaha, I think they’re complimentary.  Because, really, who here does real investigative journalism?  Nobody. We write for pleasure and exposure.  If we do write about local and national issues, it’s mostly opining based on the dwindling investigative journalism output by dwindling traditional media outlets.  Or, completely ignorant ranting (you know who you are).  Not to say there isn’t value in this.  There is.  Hey, I’m writing this.  But when it comes down to it, citizen journalists are people with day jobs.  They’re not going to do the difficult, time-consuming, and often tedious work involved in real investigative journalism on their time off from their difficult, time-consuming, and often tedious jobs.  But with this new model (the source code for which is open source), they can, for the paltry sum they would’ve spent on the news they now read for free on the internet, fund stories that are more targeted to them, more interesting, and feel a sense of empowerment for getting their issues out there.  It just makes too much sense.

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travelingseth is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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8 comments on Micro Loans For Journalists

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By Digidave on April 13, 2009 at 12:48 pm


You caught me!!!

Yes - Spot.Us is something I've been working on for some time now (5 months). But I'm not leaving the Broo - because as you note - I think they are complimentary. I think the two each do something different - and both do their things well.

So feel free to join me at Spot.Us - registering is easy - and supporting the work of a journalist is easy too. I'll give you a small hint. I feel confident (but can't gauruntee) that we will be able to re-sell the first publishing rights to this story:

Which means you'll get credits back to invest in a second story.

Rock on!!!

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By travelingseth on April 13, 2009 at 04:40 pm

Looks like a bit of Broo interest.   Not surprising.  The sites could definitely have some synergy.  Will be following closely DD.


Frank Chu would use the site to shamelessly promote himself, of course :)

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By Digidave on April 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm


I hope to bring it down to la soon.

For now it is micro loans - but wryters can also pitch to news orgs at the same time - so it goes both ways, macro or micro.

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By Bonnie Wilson on April 15, 2009 at 06:04 pm

Craig here does real investigative journalism, and bless him for helping me, Cheaters Among Us, Sickler, and Reno out with them!

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By Ariel on April 17, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Love the shirt David! ;-)

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By Rose Mountain on May 17, 2009 at 01:30 pm

Great article TravelingSeth, and great info in Craig's Comment from his experience. My comment below may not pertain to some issues investigated, but I'd just like to add, from my research of investigations and documents leaked by others including journalists, inside whistleblowers, etc it is crucial that people understand how much information has been censored in America for decades, not only of domestic and foreign public policies but also corporate policies at home and abroad, and at local, regional and national levels.  SO  people doing investigative work must be very careful, you may believe you are doing a local story but have no idea who's complicit in it and/or funding it, or how high the corruption goes. 200 Professors have been publishing news since 1976 that has been underreported or censored in America, see then on right side of website click on TOP 25 ARCHIVES to see the most important investigations each year that were reviewed and chosen out of thousands submitted yearly, the top 24 news stories that were censored  each year from years 1976 to 2009. Also for national/international news mostly on US covert policies in US and world by professors, whistleblowers, etc see

For example Greg Palast is an American, an investigative journalist who used to work for the US Govt helping to prosecute those involved in large conspiracies. But during the last 8 years his investigations were censored in America, so he published and televised his work for the British BBC world-wide News. For example, he uncovered documents on predator loans by US corporatations that were bankrupting and causing poverty in underdeveloped countries. He used the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) and found 400 documents from the US State Dept that revealed the Bush Admin US Govt covert plans to steal oil from Iraq created in 2000 with the State Dept, neoconservatives in the Pentagon and Big Oil Companies, his report included quotes by inside whistleblowers, this investigation still has not been told to the American public or Congress. He also found documents revealing how the GOP Party was involved in vote rigging in Florida Elections 2000 which the whole world saw before the election, but not America. These are just a few examples.

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By Dane Morgan on October 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm
I'm not sure what i think. On the one hand, it is a vehicle to make the press more responsive to what their readers want to read about, on the other, does the system allow for slant to be introduced before the research is even done by the way the proposals are written up? by the people doing the funding? Lots of potential for good and lots of potential for gotchas here.
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By Credo on October 27, 2013 at 09:45 pm

I'm not entirely sure how this network would empower or benefit the writer. However you peeked my interest and so I will investigate the site.


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