Cohn combines tech and journalism savvy with Spot.us (Video)
Spot.us founder and director David Cohn has spent the last year as a fellow at the University of Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute. Photo by Michael Stacy.
David Cohn didn't necessarily set out looking to launch a startup when he entered the working world. But it wasn't long before Cohn's line of work led him down an entrepreneurial path.
"I was writing about technology all the time and how technology was influencing culture and different industries, etc.," Cohn said. "Eventually I started scratching my chin and said, 'Well, how does it change journalism – the actual profession that I’ve chosen?' And that was sort of what led me down the path to eventually experimenting, playing with technology and doing this."
"This" is serving as director of the nonprofit startup Spot.us, a web-based platform for community-funded reporting. Through Spot.us, the public can commission and participate with journalists to report on important and perhaps overlooked topics. The Spot.us process, from news tip to story publication, involves four steps:
- The public submits tips
- Journalists pitch stories based on those tips
- People fund those pitches
- When funding goals are met, stories are reported and made available for publication
Cohn and Spot.us have garnered considerable interest and support from major players in the journalism community. Spot.us received substantial funding from the Knight Foundation and has worked in conjunction with the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. And, this spring, Cohn is wrapping up a year spent as a Donald W. Reynolds Fellow at the University of Missouri's Reynolds Journalism Institute.
Cohn sat down with us for a video interview on April 27, during RJInnovation Week at the Reynolds Institute. The interview consists of two parts. In part one (below), Cohn explains Spot.us, recounts its backstory and details some of the lessons learned in his early years as an entrepreneur in nonprofit journalism.