The idea is very simple, break the processes of journalism down into its constituent elements and try to crowd source the part that seems to have the hardest time right now, which is not the content production (as in citizen media, user-generated content, what not), but the funding.
Hence, four stepts.
1. People submit tips (if they want to, or journos dig stuff up).
2. Journalists pitch stories (so we are talking professionally produced content).
3. People fund pitches (crowd sources funding).
4. Stories are reported, anyone can publish (unless some media company buys exclusive rights, but that’s fine to, it brings in money for reporting, and funding is a central problem).
You can point out a million ways in which this won’t replace or compete with ‘the newspaper’, but don’t even begin singing that song, since that isn’t the point at all. The point is to get some (not all) important reporting done.
I have another little thing I’d like to point out–the very nature of this process brings out in the open some of the steps that come before a story is published, and it seems to me it pulls the material that spot.us can do a little away from ‘breaking news’ in the purest ‘stuff you had never heard about before’ variety. Here, the tip is public, the pitch is public, the funding will accumulate over a period of time, and only then will the final work be done. That takes time and some of that time is spend in public. I actually think this is largely a good thing. If one can say so without sounding too cute, I personally think a central problem with much news journalism is that it is too focused on the newness of news, and too little with why anyone would care. Classic academic complaint, I know.
I think it is an interesting project, and wish him well.