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 look through some of these journalistic proposals.
Project of the week
Marjorie Sun, a freelance public radio journalist, long wanted to report on the Chinese clean energy sector in China, and she recently launched a Kickstarter, “China’s Race to Power,” to try and make that happen. She visited China as a tourist several times in the early 1990s, during her days as NPR’s Tokyo bureau chief, and she is an experienced environmental reporter—she spent the ’80s as an investigative journalist for Science magazine.
“At this point in my life, my interests have really intersected,” says Sun. “For various reasons, I wasn’t able to go to China to do these stories, but I have the chance now. Plus, I was interested in trying out this crowdsourcing mechanism.”
San Francisco’s popular public radio station, KQED, agreed to air her Chinese energy reports, pending their usual editorial process. “I’m targeting three specific stories for this reporting trip,” writes Sun in her Kickstarter pitch. “China’s solar industry, its smart grid and the construction of eco-cities. (Mind-boggling as it sounds, whole new ‘sustainable energy’ cities are being built from scratch around China.)”
But Sun is cautious. She wants supporters to be informed about her reporting intentions, but she doesn’t want to give away her scoops. “At this point, there are so many correspondents in China, I don’t want to tip my hand any more than I already have,” she says.
Sun’s trying to raise the $17,000 needed for travel and reporting costs; her production costs will be an additional $5,000. “Including that part in my funding goals just seemed like so much,” says Sun.
This is a choice many Kickstarters have to make. Since this platform is all or nothing (if you don’t make your goal, you don’t receive anything), deciding how much to raise often involves absorbing costs that might make the target too high. So far, Sun’s about a quarter of the way there with a little more than $4,000, and her campaign has about a month remaining. (Deadline: May 31, 11:31 p.m.)
Dudeletter.com offers “nerdy rants” and reviews on an array of stereotypical male interests, such as beer, TV, and videogames. According to the pitch, “The Dudeletter is growing like gangly teenager! Awkward and self-consciously!” and the site has had some 50,000 unique views over the last nine months.
Dudeletter’s Kickstarter is raising money to “equip the Dude Cave to be a recording studio” for a podcast that will include interviews with “musicians, brewers, and local celebrities,” for all the audio-loving dudes, bros and probably even dudebros (kidding!) near the site’s home base in Marietta, GA. Pledge at least $50 and get a pint glass. Seventy-five dollar donations get upgraded to a stein. So far, $95 has been pledged toward the $883 goal. (Deadline: May 27, 8:31 a.m.)
The first edition of the book Confessions of a High-Priced Call Girl did not turn out the way author Dimitra Ekmektsis hoped it would. She writes in her pitch that the book was not “edited the way she envisioned,” so she published a re-edited second edition as an ebook. Her Kickstarter is to fund the new version’s print run.
Ekmektsis writes on the Kickstarter that the book has “[s]erved as a textbook in a psychology class at Barstow College, CA, and I got to be a guest lecturer for one semester.” She also wrote a cover story based on the book for Turkey’s Cosmopolitan magazine. Ekmektsis says her book “neither condemns or condones sex work, but rather lets you decide for yourself.” So far, the project has not raised any money toward its $12,000 goal. (Deadline: May 28, 10:30 p.m.)