• If you just want the progress report on Spot.Us – scroll to the bottom. If you want to peer into my mind, read on.

If I want to explain my job as founder of Spot.Us in one sentence,
I’ll just say “I’m fundraising for independent journalists to do local
investigations.”

Obviously it’s much more involved than that, but depending on how much energy I have, it works.

But what’s the mission of Spot.Us? Perhaps of any Knight News Challenge project?

What follows won’t be a personal mission statement, but could be construed as brainstorming to that end.

Right now I’m fundraising so we can hire a journalist who will fact check the political advertisements for the upcoming San Francsico election.
This is, as far as I’m concerned, a good cause. All I need is to find
59 more citizens willing to donate $25. I’m lovingly referring to it
now as the SF Election Truthiness Campaign and I have to believe I can find 59 SF residents who would see value in it.

But what is behind this? My real goal (or obstacle) is to convince
people that investigative journalism is worth their cold hard cash. My
obstacle is not all that different from a citizen journalism venture
that needs to convince people doing acts of journalism is worth their spare time.

Part of the problem journalism faces is bad PR.
“Big J” journalism is associated with newspapers and broadcast
television. Products that are facing distress and are increasingly
disavowed by the public. More and more people are deciding a newspaper
subscription isn’t worth their money. That’s fine, but if journalism is
a process, not a product – some other form of journalism must still be
worth money. Right now getting people to donate time or money to
journalism is probably akin to getting people to donate time and money
to the library.

(Note: I love libraries and actually worked as a librarian through
college. My point here is to convey that for most people, newspapers ie journalism = dull,
boring, self-sufficient, homework, etc. That’s a problem.)

This chain of thought comes from a blog comment left by Anna Haynes that encouraged me to continue thinking about OhMyNews.
We all know the citizen journalism goliath in South Korea. It is still
the measurement of success in citizen journalism. But it hasn’t translated to the States. What they achieved
wasn’t the result of some technological breakthrough. It was because
somehow in that society journalism became cool.

How did that happen? I have no idea – but that’s a million dollar question.

Can journalism ever tap into the same energy as DIY knitting, gardening or tech tinkering?

I’m not talking about
a grassroots campaign here – that’s for initiatives that are struggling
and need to organize people. I’m talking about a cultural shift of
magnitude such that journalisms will be something people feel a cultural
pressure to contribute to.

We all think journalism is important, but we are bias. All too often in the
journalism blogosphere we take this notion for granted. That somehow
journalism is cool and important and it’s a shame if it disapears.
Sadly, I don’t think the rest of the country feels this way. I fear
that local reporting from newspapers could dispaear over the course of
the next decade and normal every day citizens wouldn’t blink twice.

Sorry for the skeptical rant. But hey, it’s good to get this stuff off my chest.

  • Status Update on Spot Us!!!!

Current Mood: Busy, optimistic (despite post above) and juggling a few balls including.

(a. fundraising: http://wiki.spot.us/election

(b. Design for Spot.Us

(c. Legal for Spot.Us

(d. Always learning more things.

Details

(a. So far very happy with my decision to bootstrap the starting point of Spot Us instead of waiting till October for a big “ta-da” launch. We have two more pitches that we are fundraising for – the election fact-checking truthiness campaign being a very exciting one. More pitches to come soon, but at this stage, I’m taking them one at a time from reporters I know.

(b. I hope to put up wireframes on the blog for all to peer at. It depends on how comfortable the designers are with that. I prefer sausage making being public, but I can understand their concern. At the very least – know we are making progress. Scheduled to launch in October (fingers crossed).

(c. I am almost officially fiscally sponsored by the Center for Media Change which is run by Hal Plotkin. Long story short: To be a nonprofit I needed somebody to be my fiscal sponsor. If you check CMC’s one project right now: ReelChanges.org, you’ll see why this is a match made in heaven.

(d. Studying: Crowdfunded and user-created advertising. Absolutely fascinating!!!!! SaysMe.Tv. These guys are taking video blogging and finding a way for everyday
citizens to share the cost of getting it on local cable television.
Crowdfunded public messages. Makes me think ala-cart content isn’t such
a crazy idea. One very notable political use of SaysMe.Tv already