To Spot.Us – Time for Me to Move On

My career since roughly 2006 has been about the process of journalism. It was around this time I stopped being a technology reporter and began managing projects that pushed boundaries to make journalism more participatory and transparent. This has ranged from (which included Assignment Zero, Beat Blogging and more), Broowaha, NewsTrust and others.

In 2008 I started Spot.Us. Many folks helped along the way. Some notables include the Hashrocket team, Kara Andrade, Anh Do, Jonathan Berger, Lauren Rabaino and of course Erik Sundelof. It should also be noted the whole thing wouldn’t have happened without the Knight News Challenge having faith in a 25 year old kid with a strange idea.

I don’t want to wax nostalgic. I think it’s suffice to say – I’m proud of what we accomplished. Boundaries were pushed. Today when I describe Spot.Us it’s still a concept that resonates but it no longer sounds “crazy.” That is a form of success along with all the stories and journalists we funded.

Only four months ago Spot.Us was acquired by American Public Media to be merged with the Public Insight Network. That deal came after five months of due-diligence from both parties and two months of good faith communication.

It has come to my realization, however, that in its new form Spot.Us is no longer the best place for me. In many respects that’s perfectly fine. I handed over Spot.Us with enough money to support itself for one year. Combine those funds with the capable hands of APM and it’s possible Spot.Us will remain healthy and continue for a long time. I wish nothing but the best for Spot.Us as a platform and community. But for me – it’s time to move on. With this post I’m handing full reins of Spot.Us over to APM not just in ownership (which already happened) but in terms of direction. This change has been going on in the background for some time and now it’s official. This is me taking a bow and exiting stage left.

I’ve been honest with the Spot.Us community from the start and I intend to end it that way. As I’ve always said – Spot.Us wasn’t just about this platform (although to my knowledge it is still the only open source crowdfunding platform). It was an experiment in pushing the boundaries of transparency and participation in the process of journalism. I pushed those boundaries with my own experience as well. I shared our designs before we launched, my fears, my frustrations and moments of joy. If anything I wanted Spot.Us to be a platform other folks in our community could observe and learn from. I know I’ve certainly learned from it. While this is not the initial way I envisioned the acquisition with American Public Media to go, I am assured that they have every intention of honoring the work that I’ve put into the organization and honoring the trust you all have with it. You will never find anybody cheering on Spot.Us more than me. I will be the first eager donor to solid pitches that come my way.

There is certainly room as well for a personal postmortem. I’m going to save that for another time after some more dust settles and I get some needed distance. But I will say this – there are things we did beautifully and other things we didn’t. There are opportunities we grabbed by the throat and others that slipped past our fingers. That’s just what happens in life, especially when your aim is to push boundaries.

For now I want to thank one more group before I officially exit. Yes, it’s corny to say it – but I absolutely believe this; the community at Spot.Us has been the number one factor in all of this. From the advisers to the donors all the way down to folks who registered but never contributed and only wanted to see what this thing was all about. Indeed it is because of YOU ALL that Spot.Us had any modicum of success and respect. The journalism community members have embraced change/experiments and I think Spot.Us was one of the earlier projects that showed us all how it could be done. The nonprofit community members have embraced the mission of journalism as a sacred endeavor that must be cherished. The technology community members supported Spot.Us and have stepped up to be a positive influence for the future of media and innovation.

I leave this four year project a changed person. A better person thanks to all the influence from the above individuals and communities. I also leave knowing this – my career will remain about the process of journalism. Or more precisely – the flow of information and how that process can evolve to become more participatory and transparent.

25 thoughts on “To Spot.Us – Time for Me to Move On”

  1. David,
    Am doin’ a little soft shoe in honor of you.
    Thank you for Spot.Us, for failing fast and not at all.

    Anon for sure.

  2. Dave — thanks for the lead you took in Spot.Us.
    As a guy on the public media side of things, I’ll be curious to see where the platform and community goes from here.
    Good luck with the next big thing!
    — MM

  3. David,

    I’ve watched and cheered Spot.Us for some time now. You’ve built something quite remarkable in the area of participatory journalism. Enjoy your much deserved time off and I look forward to hearing about your next adventure.

  4. Hey, DigiDave: Congrats! A big move for you, but makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of opportunities out there and I can’t wait to see what you do next.

    All good wishes from all of us proud folks at @ColumbiaJourn.


  5. You’ve created something wonderful and driven Spot.Us with remarkable vision and optimism. I’m grateful and proud to have been a part of it, both as a designer and a community member. Good luck, brother! Looking forward to see what’s next.

  6. It did sound crazy, it doesn’t anymore because YOU made it. Kudos to you and to the whole community you patiently and transparently built.
    I’m sad for losing you but thrilled and curious and thirsty to learn about what your next step will be, knowing for sure that you’ll keep pushing the boundaries!
    Forza Digidave!

  7. This is exciting news.
    I’ll keep watching Spot.Us and I hope it’s as interesting and vibrant as always. But my eye’s on you, Dave Cohn. I can’t wait to see what you do next .. and next.. and then after that.

    Good luck. We’re with you.

  8. Wow! I am kinda sad to hear you’re going, coz you’ve done so much good for Spot.Us, but like the majority of commenters here, I am really happy for you and whatever you will be doing next.

    I have so much faith in you, and I trust you. I trust you more than Spot.Us, if that makes sense. I trust that wherever you go, you will do the right thing for journalism and the world, and that nothing can corrupt you!

    Thank you for everything you have given and will continue to give!

  9. Dave! I can’t say enough good things about you and! I feel so fortunate to have worked with you. As a fledgling journalist I knew I always had strong support from you and that you believed anything was possible. I know you’ll do great things and can’t wait to see what you do next! You’ll be terribly missed.

  10. Your announcement isn’t a shocker, because you HAVE shown your work, but you leave a bunch of us keen to learn about the particulars of your next adventure. Thanks for creating and leaving Spot.Us with good wind in its sails and for inspiring so many others to think beyond the familiar.
    Warmest regards,
    George in Miami

  11. David — Spot.Us inspired discussion among my colleagues about the role of the public in funding individual stories and the role that newsroom leaders play in deciding what to cover. I can’t say we reached a conclusive answer, but the existence of Spot.Us at least put these topics in a real-world context. I’ll be interested to see what’s next for you, and following the development of Spot.Us as well. Best to you!

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