When David Cohn launched SpotUs in 2008, the power of the crowd seemed limitless. The nonprofit Web site was dedicated to funding news stories pitched by independent journalists, and its premise was simple: Submit a worthy pitch, put a dollar amount on it and SpotUs users -- the crowd in this case -- would donate their wont, usually in the $10-$20 range. Think Kickstarter, but with a dedicated focus on local and regional journalism with an investigative edge.
SpotUs was an early experiment in crowdfunding, or community-funded journalism. Powered by the same micro-funding thinking that fueled the Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, the Oakland-based Cohn saw himself as a kind of matchmaker, putting readers hungry for more depth- and context-heavy reporting together with the journalists who could often no longer afford to provide it.