Tag Archives: David Cohn

Are you on the j-list? The leading innovators in journalism and media in 2010

Updated 05/08/2010

Recent industry lists ranking the great and good in journalism and the media fell a bit short of the mark for Journalism.co.uk. Where were the online innovators? Where were the journalists on the ground outside of the executives’ offices?

So we’ve compiled our own rundown listing those people we think are helping to build the future of journalism and the news media.

Some important points to note:

  • There are no rankings to this list – those included are from such varied areas of work it seemed pointless;
  • We will have missed some people out – let us know in the comments below or with the hashtag #jlist who you are working with that should be included;
  • We’ve listed groups as well as individuals – with individuals we hope you’ll see them as representing a wider team of people, who have worked together on something great;
  • And it’s not limited to 50 or 100 – we’ll see where it takes us…

So here’s the first batch. There’s a Twitter list of those included so far at this link and more will be added in the coming weeks.

Click on the ‘more’ link after these five to to see the full list.

Tomáš Bella

Tomáš Bella was editor-in-chief and deputy director of Sme.sk, the Slovak republic’s most popular news site. He was author of the first European newspaper-owned blogportal (blog.sme.sk, 2004) and the first digg-like service (vybrali.sme.sk, 2006). In April 2010 he co-founded Prague-based new media consultancy NextBig.cz and is working on a payment system to allow the access to all the premium content of major newspapers and TV stations with one payment.

Paul Steiger

While ProPublica’s not-for-profit, foundation-funded model may be something commercial news organisations can never share, its investment in and triumphing of investigative and data journalism cannot be overlooked. The way in which it involves a network of readers in its research and actively encourages other sites to “steal” its stories shows a new way of thinking about journalism’s watchdog role. Image courtesy of the Knight Foundation on Flickr.

Chris Taggart

Paul Bradshaw’s description of his fellow j-lister: “Chris has been working so hard on open data in 2010 I expect steam to pour from the soles of his shoes every time I see him. His ambition to free up local government data is laudable and, until recently, unfashionable. And he deserves all the support and recognition he gets.”

Ian Hislop/Private Eye

Not much to look at on the web perhaps, but the Eye’s successful mixture of satire, humour and heavyweight investigations has seen its circulation rise. It blaized a trail during the Carter-Ruck and Trafigura gagging ordeal and has even lent it’s support to j-list fellow the Hackney Citizen to protect press freedom from international to hyperlocal levels. Image courtesy of Nikki Montefiore on Flickr.

Brian Boyer

Amidst the talk of what journalists can learn from programmers and what coding skills, if any, journalists need, Brian Boyer was making the move the other way from programming to a programmer-journalist. His university and personal projects in this field have been innovative and have got him noticed by many a news organisation – not least the Chicago Tribune, where he now works as a news applications editor. He blogs at Hacker Journalist.


Originally built to map reports from citizens of post-election violence in Kenya, Ushahidi’s development of interactive, collaborative and open source mapping technology has been adopted by aid agencies and news organisations alike. It’s a new means of storytelling and a project that’s likely to develop more tools for journalists in the future.

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DigiDave: Redefining journalism, cit-j and ‘honest communication’

David Cohn, founder of crowd-funded news site spot.us, discusses why it isn’t necessarily journalism and newspapers that we should be saving, but ‘honest communication’:

“Journalism as a word is loaded because of the ministry it invokes. The profession that, since Watergate, has laid claim to it. That ministry is now a diaspora. Much like after the Gutenberg revolution the ministry lost its authority in interpreting the bible. Martin Luther showed us how. In reaction many journalists cling even tighter to that word,” writes Cohn.

“What we need to preserve isn’t newspapers. I’d argue it isn’t even ‘journalism’ as we understand it. What we need to save is something else. Something more fundamental. The ability for communities to be informed with honest information and then to mobilize based on that information.”

Full post at this link…

David Cohn: Updated definitions of journalism

In his updated post, ‘The Rhetoric of Journalism – Defining and Re-Defining What We Do’, Spot.Us founder, Dave Cohn, takes a look at some old definitions he laid out for journalism, way back in 2007. Just what is the difference between a citizen and a networked journalist? He adds to his definitions, and explains what he means when he says journalism is a process not a product.

Full post at this link…

The official launch of Spot.us: video explains all

Over at the Invisible Inkling we spotted this: the Knight News Challenge 2008 winner, David Cohn, has revealed the latest version of Spot.Us, the community sourced news project, over the last few days – which officially launched yesterday. This video explains the engine for community-funded reporting, from donation to publication.

Spot.Us – Community Funded Reporting Intro from Digidave on Vimeo

Video of crowdsourced interview with Spot.us’ David Cohn

Having been meaning to post this for a while, but here are the results of Alexandre Gamela‘s crowdsourced interview with David Cohn, founder of the community-funded news project Spot.us.

The questions were solicited through Gamela’s blog, where the videos below were originally posted (part one is here and part two is at this link).

Crowd-funded journalism project Spot.us starts first campaign

Spot.us, a project to fund community news stories by donations from that audience, has started to raise money for its first brief – a feature on the supply of biofuels to California.

This is the first project submitted to Spot.us, which was set up by David Cohn in May with the help of a grant of $340,000 from the Knight News Challenge.

The brief is asking for a 1,500-2,000 word feature with photos and has been submitted by Alexis Madrigal, a staff writer at Wired.com.

So far $50 has been pledged out of a required $250 with two contributions (one anonymous and one from Cohn himself) of $25.

The site is not-for-profit so the donations will be used to fund the journalism and get articles wider distribution through local media outlets.

Spot.us: the ‘crowdfunded’ journalism site

How to find the funds to keep your site running is the needle in the haystack for most citizen journalism start-ups.

Speaking after the closure of his own citizen journalism project, Scribblesheet, founder John Ndege wrote on Journalism.co.uk:

“Here lies a major problem for citizen journalism start-ups. It’s difficult to add value on top of news unless you have an attractive website that really connects with the wider web. However, as time passes even that is not going to save your site.”

Not wanting to be all doom and gloom, Ndege said the idea of networked journalism could forge a brighter future for citizen news with a collaboration between the amateur and the professional.

Enter: Spot.us – a community news site financed by ‘crowdfunding’.

The site, which is the brainchild of David Cohn, proposes to keep the finances on a even keel using this model.

But how will it work? The site explains:

  1. An individual or journalist creates a pitch that outlines an untold story in a local community.
  2. Members of your community vote, with their money, on what stories are most important to them.
  3. A journalist researches the facts and puts together an article. Editors provide check-and-balance on the story.
  4. Spot.us publishes the story in its news feeds and works with local media outlets to have the articles published more widely.

The site is yet to go live and the model yet to prove itself, but it was enough to convince judges at the Knight News Challenge to award the project a grant for $340,000 in its latest round of funding.

“It’s unknown whether people will be willing to put 10-25$ down for journalism. I think they will if the pitch is right. So – in the beginning I’m just going to focus on getting a few good stories funded and published,” says Cohn in an interview with Innovation in College Media (ICM).

Cohn, who will initially focus the site on the San Francisco area, hopes Spot.us will also provide a platform for freelance journalists looking for projects.

In a blog post, Rick Burnes, says building a ‘critical mass of funders’ is the main challenge facing the site and suggests that putting an upper limit on donations, as successful projects will then require wider backing from the audience and says there should be no upper limit to contributions.

“Why put limits on how much one person can contribute? By doing so, you raise the bar for success. It means you have to get a lot more active funders on the site before you start paying journalists.”

To my mind an upper limit would also prevent projects being skewed by contributors, who could potentially stand to gain from a pitch being pursued.

However, as Cohn says in his comments on Burnes’ post, Spot.us should not become a tool for ‘axe grinding’ between journalists and subjects:

“I want to make the site such that – it will be empowering for an individual who otherwise wouldn’t be able to hire a journalist – but would be a hassle for somebody who has a spare 5k to spend on a journalist. Spot.Us works better and achieves more of its mission – if the person with 5k is only able to donate $400 and to make up for it – has to send an email to 10 of his/her rich friends. It’s to ensure that there really is an interest in this story from a group of people – so journalists don’t turn into errand boys writing press releases.”

I’ll be following Spot.us’ progress, in particular to see what type of content receives funding and how many contributors get behind the project.

Will residents of the San Francisco bay area feel compelled to ’employ’ journalists to report on local issues? To me it depends what value they place on the role of the journalist and whether they will see more value in that investigation than any which they could conduct for free by themselves.

The value I suppose will be that this is not a private detective-style of journalism, but is intended to enable those who don’t have the time or funds to pursue local things that matter to them to invest in the newsgathering process.