This story gives a new meaning to the term muck raking.
I like the idea of citizen journalism, and have written a lot about it in the past. I even try to practice it a bit, because there are some stories the media will never get to.
Civic journalism is even more interesting, basically community-funded journalism.
So it was interesting to see how the Director of Spot.us have to defend one such project. The site lets people submit ideas for stories and have media companies bid on them –basically fund the reporter. Lindsey Hoshaw, had suggested she could report on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large amount of garbage that supposedly twice the size of Texas, floating around in the Pacific Ocean.
One reader sniped about the fact that someone was being paid for this, and Cohn had to come back and defend the fact that Hoshaw was being funded.
“The money we are raising is just for travel. That is a real and high expense for this story (it is in the middle of the ocean) – so that is where ALL the money is going. The reporter here isn’t going to pocket it.”
As Cohn rightly observed, such mean-spirited attacks serve no one.
But beyond this, the real issue is the public perception of -indeed, public appetite for – what big media ought to be covering. After seeing the OJ-like dragging on of the Michael Jackson story, my cynical side tells me that people need to wallow in this stuff. But I tend to be more of an optimist. I’ve met journalists who go for the bigger things.
I think we are at a moment where people will support stories not connected to celebrity and partisan politics. Is it better to spend $6k on a story about garbage than a story on a goofy governor? Is it worth our time, their airtime and all those satellite trucks to chase after Jon and Kate? Let’s do a survey on this. I am willing to bet we’ll see a lot more thumbs up.
People will consume what is served up (hence the formulaic stories on ‘Dirty restaurants,’ and ‘scams on Craigs List’) but they are also tuning out, Tivoing past, and canceling their subscriptions for a good reason.
Civic journalism will take time, but it is coming. We better get used to it.