Seattle’s newest media player opens for business today.
Spot.Us, which allows community members to fund civic journalism projects, has expanded to Seattle. Journalist David Cohn started the network in San Francisco in late 2008 and added on a Los Angeles site early this year. He sees Seattle, as a third major west coast city, a natural fit.
“Seattle has a really robust journalism community,” Cohn said.
With Spot.Us, readers decide what stories they want to fund. Journalists and news organizations post story proposals with an estimated cost to report and research on the Spot.Us site. Anyone interested in the pitch can pledge a donation. If the pledges reach the necessary amount to fund the story, the money is collected.
“I’m a big believer that the public should be able to participate in journalism,” Cohn said.
So far, two-thirds of stories pitched on Spot.Us have reached their funding goal. Past projects include investigative pieces on California’s Proposition 13, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Bay Bridge, and the Oakland Police.
Cohn came up with the idea for Spot.Us because he’d attempted freelance journalism and grew frustrated by the limited communication between a single reporter and editor. By pitching stories to community members in addition to editors, Cohn believed, reporters could uncover new ways to fund their stories.
“We need to look for as many revenue streams for journalism as possible,” Cohn said.
Through its Bay Area and L.A. sites, Spot.Us has raised $100,000 toward news stories to date. Most of the donations have been small, with $65 as the average amount. To maintain news integrity, subjects of a story cannot donate, and no individual can give more than 20 percent of the project’s budget.
Spot.Us’s Seattle site launched with three initial story proposals. Seattle Post-Globe reporter Eric Ruthford wants to investigate the progress of King County’s proposal to end homelessness by 2015. Investigate West plans to look into waste generated by Seattle’s cruise ship industry. An independent reporter wants to work on a multi-part series about the Port of Seattle’s history and significance.
The site is open to any other news organizations or freelance journalists who want to make a pitch. Cohn could see Spot.Us serving any number of Seattle news platforms, ranging from neighborhood blogs to larger companies like Seattlepi.com. Past Spot.Us media partners included The New York Times and NPR.
Cohn wants to expand Spot.Us to two more cities this year. He’s currently talking to journalists and news organizations in Austin and Minneapolis.
What do you think of the idea behind Spot.Us? Would you pledge funding to see a story written? And if so, what kind of topics would you want to see covered?