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Spot us

I  filmed Dave Cohn‘s breakthrough Talking Heads jam sesh in 2005. The atmosphere was electric. It was also in our front room. I knew him when he was an intern at Wired.

I was really pleased therefore when he returned to San Francisco after grad school with a head full of ideas and pocket full of cash to launch Spot.Us


Spot.Us uses a crowd-funding model to support journalism. It is “an open source project, to pioneer ‘community funded reporting.’ Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories … All content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

In the Spot.Us early days, I suggested a Tip to the community that it produced reporting on the impact of the economic downturn on California prisons. The speculation in the wording of my tip is now outdated – even laughable. We know that the CDCr has more than struggled – it has hit meltdown. The CDCr’s fiscal crisis can only turn inmates loose without sufficient re-entry support.

The function of ‘Tips’ seems to be simply to register interest; they are pithy when compared to the ‘Pitches‘ which are constantly promoted and on the search for supporters. Spot.Us not only empowers ordinary citizens through the $20 donations it also has established partnerships with big media – most recently the New York Times for Lindsay Hoshaw’s story on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Prison Health Reporting

Prison Photography would like to encourage you all to support Bernice Yeung’s Prison Health Reporting.

Yeung explains the need for journalism, “Parolees without proper access to drug treatment, mental health and medical care could have potentially serious public health and public safety ramifications. This issue has attracted the attention of policy makers, prisons, doctors and social service providers, who are increasingly trying to connect parolees with medical care and social services upon their release.”


While my position on the broken and punitive prison system of the US is well known, I have hardly commented on the need for expanded reentry support programs.

I think public safety is a notion too easily manipulated and reduced to rhetoric when legislation is created, but it is a reality that must be objectively measured when former prisoners are released.

Yeung’s focus on the drug and mental health programs, the practitioners and clients, and their testimony is the right inquiry. Yeung’s work will crystallize the life-changing, damaging, shocking and (occasionally) redemptive effects of prisons on folk in our society. Any one of the stories she tells will be more worthy than the electioneers’ tough on crime doublespeak.

Here’s the latest from Bernice Yeung on the Spot.Us blog.


Spot.Us is a fantastic experiment and is a part of the puzzle to all of those questioning what the future of news reporting will look like. See what all the fuss is about here.


Image: The image above originally appeared in the Spot.US blog post Prisons & Public Health: Why Should You Care? It is uncredited. I am curious about the image, because I am not even convinced it is from an actual prison. I would guess that a closely-cropped black & white image including bars, an obscured face and a blinding source of outside light ticks all the right boxes for a photo illustration. Our brain is fooled by these visual cues.

In this case, the writing and the appeal are more important than the image and, if my reading is right, I understand why this image was manufactured. However, I could be completely wrong. I’d like to know the photograph’s back-story….


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