12 April 2009

UPDATED - Citizens! Fund the Journalism You Want

... while providing work for laid-off journalists. It's a match that could potentially serve democracy a whole lot better than the media model we have now.

An interesting phenomenon is happening over at The Tyee, which I wrote about yesterday and then unexpectedly became a part of.

It has come to the attention of at least one dead-tree media outlet. [Woo hoo! Now the CBC has caught onto the story!]
British Columbians who say the media is ignoring the most pressing issues in next month's provincial election now have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.

The Tyee, a B.C. online web magazine, is collecting pledges from its readers to fund its election reporting.
Those who donate can tell the magazine's brass what election issue ... their money should go towards covering.

It's a handing over of editorial control that David Beers, the Tyee's founder and editor-in-chief, admits is somewhat nerve-racking.

"Editors like to be the boss. They want to figure out what the issues are and then find reporters that cover them. In this case, I'm turning the reins over a bit to our readers," Beers said.

And those readers seem to be running with that opportunity. The Tyee hoped to raise $5,000, enough to hire an extra reporter for each day of the election campaign. Donations are already nearing $7,000 with the pledge drive slated to run until April 14.

Actually, as of about 24 hours ago Beers reported donations to be at $8560.00 "and counting..."

Here's something else of interest reported in the Winnipeg Free Press article:
While community-funded reporting may be a new phenomenon in B.C., to David Cohn it's quickly becoming old hat. Cohn, a 26-year-old graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, founded Spot.us, a project through which the public can commission journalists to do investigations. The San Francisco-based non-profit has been up and running for 20 weeks, during which 20 different stories have been funded.

Cohn said the organization is currently working on a major investigation of Bay Area police forces. "There was a young man named Oscar Grant who was shot by (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officers and it was caught on video," he said. "The investigation of the police department continues to expand because since the Oscar Grant shooting they've been under a microscope."

Cohn, who received a grant from the Knight Foundation to launch Spot.us, said it's grown so quickly that he's now trying to pull back on the reins to ensure the quality of the work remains high.


With all the journalists getting laid off in Canada, one would think there might be a few enterprising souls who would be eager to run with this idea and create a Canadian and/or provincial and/or regional and/or community-based version of Spot.us.

Then again, perhaps we do have something like that and I've just not heard of it. Anyone?

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