The problem with today’s journalism business models is simple — no one’s found a funding mechanism that works to produce quality, unbiased content.
So let’s hear it for an experiment being touted by Louisville Public Media. The public radio station group has launched “Story Exchange” on its web site with the hope of funding specific investigative stories. Each of the four stories at LPM is pitching to the public has a fundraising goal. When the number is reached, according to LPM’s Todd Mundt, it will be assigned and carried out with clear deliverables, either by WFPK news staff or freelancers assigned to the story.
“The idea is to fund local journalism,” Mundt said. “We’re just asking for $1 or $2, but some are giving more.”
Mundt said LPM is the first local station in the country to try the idea first tested by a group called Spot.Us, which has been successful in funding stories for thousands of dollars on the national level. Mundt said the next phase of the program will be to have readers suggest story ideas, in essence pitching them to other news consumers, so that the ideas themselves come from the readership.
There are four stories suggested by LPM on the site — on Urban Industries’ effect on neighborhoods; on JCPS; on the Bridge and one on Coal Ash. With limited promotion, 3 of the 4 have dollars pledged, with the coal story up to 30% of the $250 needed to get the story done. No one has made a pledge, as of this moment, for the JPCS piece.
But the concept might work, and it’s something I’ll be watching closely, because, of course, I’d like to copy it. I’d certainly assign a writer to come up with an in-depth investigative piece if there were money guaranteed to come from it.