Hey Broo. So I was on Digg.com 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, Spot.us; 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, spot.us 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.
- It’s employing talented, laid off journalists whose contributions are sorely missed.
- 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)?
- If enough publications buy articles (and why wouldn’t they, considering the low risk and cost), it’s sustainable.
- 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.