[BTW in case you missed it, VoterMedia.org got some in-depth coverage at The Tyee the other day: A Math Wiz's Idea to Revive Local Journalism]
I recently drafted this proposal -- would appreciate your comments & advice. Summary is below; full 7-page version here.
Newspaper Sponsorship for Municipal VoterMedia
This paper proposes an experiment in political media reform, in which competing newspapers would jointly sponsor a blogging contest to cover a city government and community issues. The goal is to test whether the VoterMedia design for a blog contest will generate enough public interest journalism to make it worthwhile for municipal taxpayers to fund such competitions in the future. This could become a new source of revenue supporting journalism that covers not only cities, but also other voter communities, including democracies and corporations.
To give newspapers a near-term incentive to sponsor (in addition to the long-term incentive of a potential future revenue source), the competing blogs would be required to grant the sponsors non-exclusive rights to publish their blog posts, with attribution and link-back. To simulate a taxpayer-funded competition, entry would be as open as possible, admitting any individual, group, or organization. This would include amateur bloggers and professional journalists, whether free-lance or on staff of a sponsoring (or non-sponsoring) newspaper. So for example, sponsors could enter the competition and try to win some of their money back. The contest should therefore be administered independently from the sponsors.
VoterMedia.org (a nonprofit project) is offering to administer the proposed competition for free, including hosting the voting -- see for example votermedia.org/burnaby. The VoterMedia contest design has been tested and refined for the past five years at the University of British Columbia's student union, and in some municipal elections in Metro Vancouver, Canada. Experimental results at UBC are discussed by participants in video interviews at votermedia.org.
[Complete 7-page proposal here]