Thursday, April 9, 2009

Community Funded Investigative Reporting

New models are springing up all the time for funding different kinds of reporting. Because investigative work is particularly labour-intensive and generally costly, it can be difficult to practice without support from established media organizations or foundations.

Sites like The Real News are attempting to raise grassroots funding from users and subscribers to sustain their journalism. Other groups are forging relationships with universities or other non-profit centres. And there is Spot.Us, a unique experiment in California's Bay Area to see if a community-funded model based on specific story ideas can work.

According to its website: "Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate."

In fact, readers can suggest topics, and freelance journalists can make pitches. Readers then pledge credits towards the cost of the story. If enough is raised, the story is commissioned, and an effort is made to sell the story to a media outlet. It's an intriguing idea.


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