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

Three teachers from Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn, NY, have launched a project on Kickstarter called The Odyssey Initiative. The group will travel to some of the best schools in the country to find out what makes them successful, and their findings will be documented on an interactive website using videos, photos, and blog posts, to create a home for best practices. Todd Sutler, the executive director of the project, says that while media often covers the problems in America’s schools, this project will take the opposite approach. “We believe there is an absence of communication across the country for what good teaching looks like,” says Sutler. “We want to help raise the discourse about education in America to focus on what’s working.”

Sutler describes a few of the outside-the-box tactics some schools are using to improve education. At Generations School, also in Brooklyn, Sutler says they have broken up the traditional summers-off school calendar and switched to a model of a few months on, then a few weeks off. This helps address the problem of “brain drain,” when children forget much of what they learned over the extended summer break. Another example comes from Finland, where Sutler says students are separated based on their specific educational needs, in what he says is called “tiered or leveled instruction,” making the classroom a much more tailored experience. “We’re looking for approaches that help teachers best serve the children,” says Sutler.

All of this research and reporting will culminate in the launch of a brand new charter school in Brooklyn; the planning will be based around lessons gleaned from this year of exploratory travel. The participating teachers will visit all types of schools—charter, public, private, and parochial—in rural, suburban, and urban settings. Sutler says he believes he’ll find common threads through the various schools he visits: “If 75 percent of the DNA in their stories is the same, I think that will resonate with policy makers.” A week in, the project has already raised $25,000 towards its $75,000 goal, and there are 49 days to keep fundraising. (Deadline: July 28, 10:44 a.m.)

New Arrivals

Coming onto Kickstarter this week is Make a Move, a Web series that illuminates dance choreographers’ “creative process and how they try to book jobs.” Part documentary, part reality show, the trailer feels like it’s made for TV and has all the right ingredients to lure audiences: revealing outfits, pissed-off creative-types, dramatic background music, sick dance moves, and the momentum of the competition. But with only $35 raised towards the $55,000 goal, Make a Move is going to need to follow its title’s instructions to gain success. (Deadline: August 3, 7:58 p.m.)

Newlyweds Lisette and Ryan Cheresson filmed their Kickstarter pitch video in Sao Paulo’s airport as they waited for their flight to Asia. They are traveling to continue gathering stories for their film, Farm Trekkers, which is about “food being grown differently around the world, and the people behind the processes.” They’ve already done five months of reporting in Central America, some of which is available here, and they’re trying to raise money to help pay for new equipment and translators. For having come onto Kickstarter just days ago, Farm Trekkers is doing pretty well; they’re over half way to their $1,500 goal. (Deadline: July 3, 7:43 a.m.)


Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.