An Interview with Spot.us about the changing nature of journalism.
These days, everywhere you look it seems that some newspaper is closing its doors, stopping its presses, or maybe just going online-only. This sea of change is being heralded by some as the "death of journalism," a transformation that has been brought about thanks to the web. But is the web really killing journalism? Or, is it allowing an entirely new type of journalism to emerge?
David Cohn would probably argue it's the latter. For five months now, his crowd-funded journalism project at Spot.us has been providing the means for local reporters to get paid while researching the stories the community wants to read.
At last week's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, we had an opportunity to sit down with David and ask him about the project, what's been happening with it, and where he sees it going.
The "Death of Journalism?" Not so fast. We would say that the internet is leading us to the future instead.
Spot.us is a non-profit startup which distributes the cost of hiring a journalist across a community of people. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Spot.us has already funded stories where journalists have investigated things like the local police department, poverty issues, and city budgetary issues.
After a story is funded and the final copy is turned in, Spot.us will try to sell the first publishing rights. If that happens, then any money they make goes back to the original donors so they can reinvest in another story. If Spot.us is not able to sell the first publishing rights, they will then release the story under Creative Commons so anyone can publish it.
Spot.us is currently funded through a grant, but they also ask the community to donate an additional $2 when funding a particular story. This money goes to the organization itself and will hopefully allow it to expand to other cities. But, if you don't want to wait for Spot.us to come to your town, you can start your own version instead. The Spot.us code is open source, so you could launch a site like this for your own community.
In the end, what David Cohn hopes to prove is that, indeed, "journalism will survive the death of its institutions." With Spot.us, he shows us that there is another way to keep the industry alive, even after the papers fail.