Spot.us is a non-profit website aimed at inspiring civic journalism through “community powered reporting.” Spot.us partners the public with journalists to generate stories on a variety of under-reported topics
At the site, citizens submit news tips, or story ideas they’re passionate about in their communities. Freelance journalists then create pitches from news tips or their own ideas. Next, journalists determine the monetary requirements to complete a story.
Stories are funded by tax-deductible donations from citizens, and an expenses plan is outlined in a journalist’s pitch. Once the funding goal for a story is met, journalists begin the reporting process.
The finished product is available to for any person to republish for free. News publications are allowed exclusive rights to a story, but are required to donate half the cost to fund an already existing pitch.
Founded in 2010 by David Cohn, a freelance writer and fellow at the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Spot.us has successfully created a sense of public service journalism by including a medley of topics to donate to or report on, ranging from a Philadelphia teacher’s use of flash mobs to encourage news literacy among his students, to San Francisco’s plan to turn a former Naval Base into an environmentally wholesome neighborhood.
While the site’s content is mostly West-coast centered, Cohn explains that the Bay Area and Los Angeles are simply a launch pad for this operation, and Spot.us will eventually expand to other cities.
While still in its first year, Spot.us has garnered a steady base of support and attention. Its community centered nature gives it the ability to cover the stories big publications often overlook or don’t have the resources to report on, especially as the season for primaries and elections starts up.
Spot.us started as a project by the center for Media Change, an organization that works to ensure journalism’s survival through the emergence of online publications.
“Journalism is a process, it’s a series of acts and another aspect to that principle is that journalism should be participatory,” says Cohn. “It’s something that the public should engage in.”