Expanding on Spot.us

After watching the Us Now documentary this morning I started thinking about how participatory journalism could be improved upon. Here’s what I came up with:

One of the big things they emphasize in Us Now is the ability that the owners of Ebbsfleet United have to vote for not only who plays, but where they play. What if this notion were carried over to journalism?

The standard pitch page on Spot.us

The standard pitch page on Spot.us

Spot.us is already doing a great job of creating a model within which people can decide what stories get covered, but I don’t think it does enough.

The current Spot.us model allows for journalists to pitch story ideas that they would cover. The community then contributes until one such idea is funded. While definitely better than a traditional model couldn’t this be taken one step further?

What if we were to open a news organization completely up to a community? The people involved get to pitch story ideas and vote on which journalist they would like to see cover a story.

This could even be a way to generate revenue. A news organization could offer a premium subscription that would allow you access to these story pitches and newsroom decisions.

In my mind this would be a much better way to stimulate revenue than simply paying for the news to be delivered to you. Instead of being a passive consumer the reader would be engaged with the news process and would have a deep connection to what stories are covered and what perspective they are given.

Furthermore, by allowing the community to decide which journalist covers a story there’s a whole new range of perspectives that would be opened up.

For example, say I want to see more coverage of a sectarian conflict in South America, the traditional coverage would mean dispatching whoever the news organization’s specialist in that area is. What if instead I wanted the perspective of someone familiar with sectarian wars but who had experience in a different region of the globe? Maybe I would want Thomas Ricks to cover it because of his expertise in covering the conflict in Iraq. Who knows what this kind of new perspective might create.

There would certainly be downsides to such a model. For one, it would be a necessity for journalists to share and collaborate on their contacts. Ricks probably couldn’t just jump in and cover the conflict without first talking to the South American specialist about who he may want to talk to.

Ultimately though, I see a tremendous potential for allowing news coverage like this and I think that the types of stories covered could be quite fascinating.


Mark says:

Interesting concept. I’m very much in favour of opening the news org to the community. I’m not sure that allowing them to decide would be a good move though. Firstly because expertise is expertise, you can’t buy or transfer that, no matter how you try – if a guy is used to dealing with potential kidnappers in Iraq, it’s not as simple to explain to the guy who gets voted into covering the story as explaining “if they say this, react this way”… too subtle.

Saying that, it may have merit in a more localised environment – but then, is the big name reporter going to get all the stories? Will the community be able to “fire” someone by not giving them stories after they write a controversial column?

I think it would be developmental if the news org opened up their operations by making everyone a journalist, encouraging people to write articles about their little-league team and publishing them in a specific area of the site etc… that would develop brand loyalty and thus revenue, not sure about the “make the community to commissioning editor” idea though…

Andrew says:

I agree that it might have more merit in a local environment; I was just using the example above because it was the first one that came to mind. I definitely think that there would need to be some sort of system in place so that the big name reporter didn’t get all the stories.

I also think that a certain amount of stories would have to be “guaranteed” in order to protect against a reporter being essentially fired for one column. However, if that reporter consistently is not given anything by the community then maybe there’s a reason for that.

Daniel says:

I definitely dig the idea of opening up who actually reports on a story. Another direction Spot.us might take would be to build out the database of things the community thinks need to be reported on. Instead of just the reporters making pitches, the community is making pitches too in regards to what they think are the most important stories to be covered.

[…] Spittle has a post up on ideas for expanding Spot.Us. The skinny is to give the funding community more power over who is reporting on what stories. In […]

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