Each week, dozens of journalistic endeavors turn to Kickstarter for funding. Pitching media projects to this online community brings another meaning to the concept “public interest journalism”; success depends on how intrigued people are by the pitch. From the hugely popular to the barely noticed, CJR’s Kickstarter Chronicles is a weekly look through some of these journalistic proposals.
Project of the week
While working as an intern at the Chicago Sun-Times, Darryl Holliday came across a blurb announcing mass wedding ceremonies at Chicago’s Cook County courthouse—an annual event for inmates getting married to non-prisoners. Holliday asked his good friend, Erik Nelson Rodriguez, an aspiring artist, to come along and do the drawing while he did the reporting.
The three-page graphic narrative, “Wedlock: Love and Marriage at the Cook County Jail,” was Rodriguez and Holliday’s first piece of “comics journalism.” Holliday, who’s getting ready to graduate from Columbia College with a degree in journalism this spring, felt a flexibility in this approach. “In the courtroom, you can’t bring five tripods and a microphone. We’re just two guys with notebooks, so we can go anywhere.” They’ve named their venture The Illustrated Press.
Their Kickstarter page is to raise the money for the print costs of their first compilation book, and has so far raised almost $1,000 of its $3,500 goal. Holliday says the book will contain five to seven stories, similar in the length of the “Wedlock” piece. The book will also contain several one-page drawings, which Holliday refers to as “moments,” since they only capture a particular scene, like this one about Occupy Chicago.
The graphic approach is time-consuming. Holliday says from “beginning to end” the two men could complete a four or five page story in maybe three weeks, but since they are juggling multiple stories alongside school and work responsibilities, it can take about two months to complete one. But both readers and editors alike are interested in their work; they are creating a couple of pieces for two different magazines. Ultimately, they hope to put out a quarterly magazine of comics journalism, with each issue organized around a different theme, and bring on other reporters and illustrators. “I’m really interested in making comics journalism a legitimate form of reporting,” says Holliday. (Deadline: May 1, 12:59 am)
Aerial Battlefield Photojournalism is a campaign to build a drone aircraft to fly over Syria and record the country’s internal conflict. “We will capture scenes too large in scale for someone on the ground to photograph, and, in doing so, will make the battles and pivotal moments of war comprehensible to the casual viewer,” writes the Kickstarter’s creator, Kevin Patrick Dawes. The Kickstarter features a video of Dawes filming the scene from the top of a building in Syria, and apparently being shot at. “A sniper had waited until I had climbed all the way to the top before opening fire,” writes Dawes.
An American from San Diego, Dawes was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition in a story called “American Took Up Arms With Libya’s Rebels.” The story reported: “Dawes says he first went to Libya to serve as a medical aid worker in June, but eventually decided to take up arms after pro-Gadhafi forces started targeting medical staff.” NPR commenters wrote that Dawes could be mentally ill, citing his comments about conspiracy theories on a forum called The Something Awful. It became the subject of an article on Salon: “NPR celebrates crazy forum troll’s decision to practice unlicensed medicine in Libya: A young man with a history of paranoid writings and no combat or medical experience gets an uncritical interview.” The author, Alex Pareene, writes: “This isn’t to say that he wouldn’t make a fascinating subject for an in-depth profile, but his claims probably shouldn’t just have been taken at face value.” All this controversy could be hurting Dawes’s fundraising. So far, there’s $30 pledged, and a $28,000 goal. (Deadline: May 14, 1:26pm)