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:
As most journalists can attest, the most intimate moments and stories from interviews don’t always make it into a piece. It is these remnants from the cutting room floor that inspired Blank on Blank, a lost-interview archive raising funds on Kickstarter.
The idea comes from David Gerlach, former Good Morning America producer, who quit his job in December to start working on Blank on Blank full time. He’s busy encouraging journalists to go into their shoe boxes, desk drawers—wherever they keep their old interview tapes—and submit their favorite unused audio. Some journalists have a particular clip in mind, says Gerlach, and some just hand over the whole tape. (“I’ve found listening to the tapes to be a great activity for the subway,” says Gerlach.) The best exchanges are then plucked out and smoothed over for a finished, mini story. Some are accompanied by video or animation, usually focused on an intimate detail told by the interviewee.
The project’s Kickstarter page features some of the pieces they’ve done so far, like Tim Gunn on his FBI agent father: “My father was J. Edgar Hoover’s speechwriter I was not the son he wanted to have”; Bono, on his final days with his dad: “I’d go and usually have a pint of Guinness and a chaser to steady my nerves. Then I’d go to the hospital and I’d sleep beside my father”; and Zelda Kaplan on her New York nightlife: “My friends are dead. If I don’t go out with young people, who else is there?”
“There are thousands of these kind of tapes all over the country,” says Gerlach. “A lot of them are with journalists who’ve been pushed out of the industry, are retiring, or are approaching death. This is American history that needs to be saved.”
Gerlach describes Blank on Blank as “part This American Life, part TED, and part Library of Congress.” He’s trying to encourage at least 30 new uploads over the 30 days that his Kickstarter will be live. So far, he’s got about $1,200 towards the $10,000 goal, and 24 days left to go. (Deadline: July 16, 5:08 p.m.)
When it comes to getting high, street-corner drug dealers are passe; scoring can be as simple as punching in your credit card number online. “It is possible now to have illicit drugs delivered to your doorstep anonymously and securely, around the world, from your computer,” says the Kickstarter page for “Drugs Digitized,” a book project that is strangely referred to as a “novel” throughout its written description. The “phenomenon of Internet-based drug dealing and online drug communities,” will be explored, with chapters such as “Drugs-R-US: Research Chemicals, Synthetic Weed, and ‘Bath Salts,’” “A Primer on Current Internet Dealing,” and “Why this is Impossible to Stop, Regulate or Abate.” This book proposal has only been posted for about a week, and so far has $80; there are three weeks left to make the goal of $15,000. (Deadline: July 15, 6:57 a.m.)
Boston Review is an “award-winning, independent, nonprofit magazine of ideas, publishing on everything from politics and economics to fiction and philosophy.” Its mission is to “improve the state of public discourse by encouraging fact-based, reasonable, open debate on serious issues.” And as editor Josh Cohen says in the mag’s Kickstarter pitch, offering their content for free online has been part of that goal: “Because of our convictions about democracy and discussion we started putting all our content for free online back in 1996 and we are never going to charge for that content.” But, Cohen explains, the website needs money for an overhaul, which is why they’re trying to crowdfund $10,000. It’s off to a momentous start, with over $5,000 already raised and 24 days to go. (Deadline: July 17, 9:18 a.m.)