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Tip-jar journalism, with a devilish twist

I don’t write much about newfangled ideas for making journalism pay because most don’t seem like logical saviors.

I don’t write much about newfangled ideas for making journalism pay because most don’t seem like logical saviors. For example, the latest chattering-class rage — per-story “micropayments,” aka tip-jar-journalism — strikes me as a micro-solution at best.

Still, I have to admit I’m fascinated by Ed Kohler’s experiment at The Deets. Kohler is holding hostage yet another investigation of City Pages — unless readers net him 50 bucks.

He wants them to do it via micropayments; a $1 PayPal button is prominently featured. The twist, explored here, is that rather than paying for a finished story, donors fund suggested coverage. If such prospective beat work doesn’t draw moneyed interest, it doesn’t happen.

But Ed’s twist-on-a-twist is that donors can also give a buck to stop the story from being published.

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That means City Pages haters can have their contributions wiped out if, Digg-like, Village Voice Media employees and fellow travelers swamp the toteboard. This is Ed’s little shot at VVM defenders who’ve dappled his comment stream with anonymous criticisms. The piece only runs if Ed hits plus-50.

Now, this definitelyisn’t the way you want to run your prestigious journalism organization — that’s why I’ve so far resisted temptation to give a buck. But on an amorally commercial level, tip-jar blackmail may be a more powerful idea than earnest suggestions floated elsewhere.