All across the country, newspapers are shuttering and those that remain are closing down bureaus and pulling correspondents left and right. More and more, media outlets are relying on fewer sources for their information because of a lack of funding, but a number of websites have appeared to solve this problem.
One such crowd-funded website, Spot.Us, has released a series of new features today in its efforts to save us all from the closed-minded future we're currently facing.
First, here is how it works. Spot.Us gives freelance journalists a space to pitch their story idea, which the website's users can then invest in. Then, if the story is purchased by a news organization, the donations are reimbursed. It's like a micro loan service for journalism.
The changes to the site include a widget, which allows individuals to show their support for a specific story on third-party websites, social networking connections for Twitter and Facebook, new organization of stories, and a progress blog for each story on the site, to make it easier to keep track. Spot.Us has also said it is open to suggestions for other cities to be a part of, as it only operates in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, currently. Most importantly, we think, Spot.Us has released a new feature concerning how "community funded" journalism operates on a base level.
In an interesting twist, Spot.Us has recognized that there may be more to funding journalism than money itself, and now its users can pledge talent instead of cash. According to the press release on today's new features, "Citizens who may not have financial resources or want to participate more actively, can now collaborate on a story through an assignment agreed upon by the primary journalist and the citizen."
In addition to the widget, Spot.Us is looking to make an open API in the near future "that would further enable journalists and communities to realize journalism through technology." We think this could be a great addition, as the project could expand geographically according to where users would support it, in much the same organic fashion as stories are funded.
So far, the project has raised over $70,000 and funded 50 stories from more than 700 contributors. We hope these new features will only help to further the cause of community-sourced and -funded journalism. If we aren't willing to pay after the fact, maybe we will be more willing to pay beforehand, since we'll know what we're buying.