Center for Citizen Media Rotating Header Image Launches home pageDavid Cohn, one of the bright lights among new journalists, has launched, a site that aims to persuade people from communities to send money to support excellent journalism about specific issues. I’m an advisor to this project and believe strongly that he’s onto something important. describes itself as “a nonprofit project to pioneer ‘community funded reporting.’ Through Spot.Us the public can commission investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. Donations are tax deductable and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise content is made available through a Creative Commons license.

Take a look — and please contribute in some way.

0 Comments on “ Launches”

  1. #1 Delia
    on Nov 11th, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Dan, I can’t believe you a part of this. is really asking people for a free loan, unless they can’t find a buyer for the stuff… in which case they would NOT return their money!; if they can sell the stuff, those who financed the enterprise have no financial stake in the profits — this sort of thing should be illegal (it is an abuse of the non-profit designation for financial gain) D.

  2. #2 David Cohn
    on Nov 12th, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I understand your concern and want to address it.

    You’ll be happy to know that does not and never will cut a check to a news organization. That would be corporate subsidy. Instead – all pitches on are from independent freelancers. Essentially they are contracted to do civic journalism (it should also be noted that Spot.Us only supports pitches in categories like education, environment, etc – pop-journalism is not allowed).

    If we don’t find a buyer the content is still published on our site – and made available for free to anyone to republish (from bloggers to news organizations). We believe that since the content is commissioned by the public it belongs to the public). All donations are tax-deductible so the while we didn’t find a buyer – it is a charitable gift, similar to a donation to NPR.

    If the content is sold – then the proceeds go BACK to the original donors who get their money back in the form of credits to invest in another story.

    All donations are tax-deductible as we are a non-profit project.

    The goal here is not to be underhanded in any way. We want to be as transparent about the money as possible because we have a sincere public mission: To support independent journalism.

    Never hesitate to contact me if you have more questions: David[at]spot[dot]us.

  3. #3 Delia
    on Nov 12th, 2008 at 6:41 pm
  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Nov 12th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Delia — I think you’ve misunderstood their business model and David intentions. I know Dave and he’s a good guy.

    I’m just not sure the project will work journalistically. A few weeks ago, free-lancer pitched a story about the one-year anniversary of the Cosco Busan’s spill in San Francisco Bay. He’s raised $400, the most of any article. And whaddaya know, the Chronicle publishes a pair of articles in the next Sunday’s paper.

    My sense is, they’re going to feel some pressure to tap into the $340K grant to make matching grants get some traction.

  5. #5 Delia
    on Nov 14th, 2008 at 6:31 am

    sorry about the delay (was away yesterday)


    I don’t know if you read my response to David’s comment on my blog (he posted his prior comment in three different places so I just answered on my blog). Here it is:

    re: “Advice On Working With Spot.Us. How to bolster your freelance budget.

    Donate 100% of the value of an investigation and you’ll get exclusive rights. You can do this at any time – all extra proceeds will be given back to community members to invest in another pitch.”


    You must know that there is money to be made from a good piece of journalism well beyond the costs of production (that would be just breaking even and would never work as a business model). So why are you volunteering the work of others — and the profits that could be had on the open market — to “bloster” the “freelance budget” of who knows whom? (makes me think you are a mole and are abusing the non-profit designation)


    you are welcome to show how the above is not “saving money” for some freelancers that are expected to rip the profits by selling the stuff in whatever form they would like (David’s enterprise is giving them *exclusive rights*) while the community that made it possible does not share into those profits in any way (they are just refunded their money — this is like asking people to put up investment money and the community to do all sort of work so that somebody can come along and make a profit from it and just refund *the investment money*… ; in case the if the can’t be sold to some freelancer … then, David’s enterprise would just call it a “donation,” and keep people’s money… (it *would* get the tax treatment as such but I believe this is an abuse of the non-profit designation because the donation is a merely a default in case profits can’t b made)


  6. #6 Delia
    on Nov 14th, 2008 at 7:21 am

    corrected version of above comment on my blog (the above should still be readable but it’s missing an “e” in “be” and such — sorry, too early in the morning…) D.

  7. #7 Delia
    on Nov 16th, 2008 at 12:41 pm
  8. #8 Jon Garfunkel
    on Nov 16th, 2008 at 8:19 pm


    I’d answer you, but I frankly have no idea what you are asserting here.

    re:”the profits that could be had on the open market”

    This *is* the open market. That’s the point. The expectation is, since this is an open bid system, it is more of a market than private bidding on stories, or the common act of assigning a story to a staff writer.


  9. #9 Delia
    on Nov 17th, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Jon, I have no idea what is so difficult about this: David’s enterprise is betraying the community for the benefit of free lancers that are in no position to receive charity. (please see comment on my blog re: how is different) D.

  10. #10 Delia
    on Nov 17th, 2008 at 5:18 am

    that was… D.

  11. #11 Jon Garfunkel
    on Nov 17th, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    re: “David’s enterprise is betraying the community for the benefit of free lancers that are in no position to receive charity.”

    I’m still lost; you are throwing around too many words which don’t make sense together.

    I’d take a guess what you were saying, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

  12. #12 Delia
    on Nov 18th, 2008 at 7:41 pm


    well, David *knows* exactly what the problem is… so I must have made it pretty clear:)

    re: David: “Yes. A news organization that refunds the original donors does stand to make some money.”

    so why is David giving away other people’s work and free interest loans for the financial gain of some news organization? he has wrongly likened his enterprise with but there is no comparison: David’s enterprise is out to “help out” some news organizations (or free lancers or whatever) that are just out to make a profit… (not in any sort of dire straights).

    why aren’t the profits at least shared with the community if a story turns out to be profitable? –> let it go towards other worthy stories that are not profitable but are worth reporting… why do the profits need to end up *all* in the pockets of somebody else? who’s interest is served here?

    people are expected to do free work and give donations but if profit can be made they are not entitled to any of it! David’s going to let some news organization or whatever come along and acquire *exclusive rights*… and walk away with whatever can be made off of it… looks like a classic case of delivering the suckers!


    P.S. ohh, and I believe the IRS is going to have a problem with this set-up also (as I said, the way it is set-up looks like an abuse of the non-profit designation: David’s enterprise isn’t itself profiting but is allowing the buyers — new organizations or whatever — to do that *instead*; looks like a straw man situation)

    P.P.S. I’d like to think that David and his endorsers are just naive but it’s hard to believe… I mean, he *knows* what he’s doing…

    P.P.P.S. anyways, I’d like to wrap this up — I said pretty much everything I had to say… (I’m also closing my “online journalism blog” — I think I’ve seen enough of this) D.

  13. #13 Delia
    on Nov 21st, 2008 at 8:04 am

    more comments from David and me on my blog and his (trying to wrap this up) D.

  14. #14 Aus der Neuen Welt - - schöne neue Welt?
    on Nov 26th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    […] – schöne neue Welt? [ Internet und Politik ] Von schwerdtfeger um 00:41 Über Dan Gillmor bin ich auf ein interessantes Projekt gestoßen. Spot.Us versucht, Gegenöffentlichkeit zu […]