Readers pay, reporters dig on

In yet another twist on user-pay, US-based solicits reader donations to cover the cost of journalistic investigations. The problem? The reporting just isn’t very good, says James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times.

The project is the brainchild of 26-year-old Columbia j-school grad David Cohn, who has received a $340,000 innovation grant from the Knight Foundation. The model is straightforward: Site visitors leave story tips, reporters create proposals based on the tips, visitors then donate money to pay for the work (reporters typically ask for $500 to $1,000 total, and no single donor can pony up more than 20% of the cost of the story).

The pace of story completion has been slow–just six stories in three months–but the bigger problem, says LA Time’s columnist Rainey, is that the work just isn’t very good. “Although stories are edited, the initial results scream out for a stronger hand that demands better,” writes Rainey. “Reporters–yesterday, today and tomorrow–need mentoring and cajoling to produce work that matters.”

Amen, brother.