FBLA Exclusive Interview with David Cohn


Spot.us founder David Cohn sat down with us for a little Q & A.

FBLA: How has the reception been to this idea so far? Has there been a lot of money raised?

DC: The reception has been good. People are genuinely excited about it. If I had a $5 donation for every person that said it was a smart idea, we would have funded all our pitches by now 😉

But seriously: So far people are really positive about it. We haven’t raised “a lot” of money by some standards, so far we’ve raised about $1,000 – but that’s not bad in just one week. The problem is that we must raise a lot more if we are going to fund some serious journalism.

FBLA: Why the Bay Area first?

DC: I love the Bay Area!

I wanted to start local to really get the site working properly before I try to expand to too many regions. This way I can fix bugs and perfect the code while it’s still small.

Also: The grant I received from the Knight Foundation is all about supporting local journalism.

Finally: I think it’s important that we find a way to fill the gaps that smaller sized newspapers are going to leave behind as they start to disappear. These papers play an important role in our city governments and I want to make sure that role continues.

FBLA: Where did you find the journalists to participate? An ad? Are there requirements of the reporter (i.e. experience)?

DC: The journalists are all freelancers. Right now it’s just word of mouth and whoever is brave enough to give it a try. There are no requirements. I am not going to try and define who is and is not a journalist.

FBLA: Do you see this as a potential model for major newspapers and magazines? Could you the the Chronicle having a fund raiser to cover City Council meetings?

DC: I do see it as a potential model for major news organizations. In fact, I invite them to participate on Spot.Us. There are really easy ways for them to get involved. Could it give them a fund to report on city council meetings? That might not work. The pitches on spot.us, at least, are for one-time longer pieces. I think funding a beat is a different story – although that is something I want spot.us to evolve into.

FBLA: Have you met Gavin Newsom and if/when you do can you give him our number and let him know that we’re SO his type?

DC: I saw Gavin Newsom on the street one time. He really is as dreamy as he looks. I smiled, he smiled back and then I went on my way.

FBLA: When is this coming to LA?

DC: I’m hoping to expand to another region in early 2009. Will it be Los Angeles? I don’t know, depends on how much comment love I get from this interview. I usually suggest people just register on the site (takes 10 seconds) and they’ll know if/when we expand.

FBLA: Do you think this could change the way people view journalism? Could this put into perspective the role investigative reporting plays in our democracy instead of going along with the bias drone caricature as painted by politicians? Huh?

DC: I think it could – and I hope it does. My main driving force is the belief that journalism should be participatory. But I also believe that journalism as a profession should thrive. So I’m looking for ways we can make journalism participatory and thrive as a profession. Crowdfunding is a first powerful step in that direction in my opinion.