What about a journalism "auction" site? Journalists would have accounts at the site, and post briefs on a topic of investigation. Say, a 2 or 3 paragraph abstract.
Based on this, the general public is then able to contribute: in essence, throw a pledge into a hat until a given threshold of funding is reached. This money is taken from a paypal account or a credit card until that threshold is reached by a certain date. If it is not reached, the money is returned to the users account. (or perhaps the site itself could hold virtual credits). The idea here is to collectively fund the investigation, so that no single sponsor has to bear the full cost.
Pros: Places journalists in a closer relationship with their audience. Rather than a publishing company brokering the funding between audience and advertisers and journalists, it would essentially run on a social networking or web2.0 type of model funded directly by the audience. This funding is then used for investigation and reporting of that abstract. (with allowances for the investigation leading to new interesting areas at the journalist's and editor's best judgement.)
Rather than expecting users to pay directly for content which already exists, it's giving the audience personal ownership, by allowing them select and fund the creation of new content.
Cons: The tendency for the general public to vote for baser and less enlightening stories may present a problem. Perhaps this could be mitigated by some kind of "tax" on general articles which could be directed towards articles selected by a qualified editor. That way, editors could in essence overrule the public on some portion of funding for articles to get important and educational things through- while at the same time, the general public can in essence overrule an overidealogical editor for funding on other articles, thus providing some checks or balances.
Feel free to improve expand, or implement this idea in any way you choose. I, the author hereby release this blogpost, unconditionally, into the public domain.