The Kickstarter Chronicles

Conflict in Afghanistan, Occupy Brooklyn, and Star Wars figurines

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

Razistan is a project that aims to produce photo essays and video content about Afghanistan. The creator, Luke Mogelson, writes:

The Western media’s interest in Afghanistan will almost certainly diminish along with the Western troops. It’s already happening. Last year, the war in Afghanistan accounted for roughly two percent of the news content published in the United States. This was the same year that 3,021 Afghan civilians (a record for the war) and 566 coalition members (the second highest toll since 2001) were killed.

Mogelson, a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, is looking to combine the work of both established Kabul-based photojournalists with local Afghan photographers. As Mogelson writes, “They want to be recognized as journalists in their own right, covering their own country through their own eyes, rather than serving as the invisible facilitators of foreign correspondents.” The goal is to publish stories that move beyond breaking “news” and portray “the less-dramatic but equally critical dimensions of the conflict.” Proposed stories include ”Taliban I.E.D. makers in the Jawzjan desert, Helmand Province’s Afghan National Army, civilian combat victims in Kandahar’s Mirwais Hospital, Kabul’s weekly dog fights, the Afghan competitive-body-building subculture, village militias in Wardak Province, and female village elders who have assumed male identities in the mountains of Khost.” So far, the project has raised almost $2,000 of its $12,500 goal. (Deadline: June 9, 7:20pm)

New This week

From the folks who brought you Occupy Brooklyn comes The Brooklyn Occupant, a paper raising the money for its first print run on Kickstarter. The project so closely coincides with the nice weather, its existence is like a sign of spring. With a modest goal of $700, the pledged funding has already been passed. For a donation of $70 and up supporters can have the paper delivered to them, but there are no other reward levels—rare compared to the wide array some projects offer. It’s not the first Occupy publication to make a go of it on Kickstarter, and it won’t be the last. (Deadline: April 26, 9:26pm)

World Media Now is setting out to train “working mothers, taxi drivers, cricket-playing teens, out-of-work young men,” and others in journalism basics so these citizens can tell the stories happening in their region. The pitch explains that by pairing professional reporters with aspiring journalists in areas such as South Sudan, Nigeria, and Burma, WMN can disseminate “the kind of stories that only those living where the news is made can tell.” (Deadline: June 15, 10:03pm)


The documentary Plastic Galaxy, a film about Star Wars toys, reached its funding goal of $3,000 in 24 hours, and has since more than doubled that. This isn’t surprising, given the enthusiasm of the Star Wars fan base; as the Kickstarter’s update points out, the Force is not something to be messed with: “The outpouring of support from the SW community has been overwhelming. (And a little frightening… if you guys and gals ever chose to use your powers for evil, we’d be in big trouble! Ha!)” (Deadline: May 13, 12:50pm)

Since 2008, Maple Street Press has produced a series of 120-page magazines; each issue is focused on a specific sports team and edited by the “foremost members of that team’s blogosphere.” Stories are detailed explainers—not really fodder for the casual sports reader. Past stories have covered “demonstrations that the gap between Michigan’s recruiting and its results was largely a matter of terrible retention, evidence that Lloyd Carr really did turn his offense off at times, lyrical tributes to Brandon Graham and Demar Dorsey,” and many more, all described on the Kickstarter page. It even beat out the Star Wars movie, raising its $20,000 goal in less than 12 hours, and is now well over $45,000. (Deadline: April 20th, 2:32pm)

Long shots

There are other reasons people bring their projects onto Kickstarter besides raising money; sometimes it’s to measure the public’s interest, as is the case with CODE Magazine, a publication which focuses on “Microsoft technologies as well as other technologies interesting to professional developers.” As the creators write, “The amount we are aiming for is not nearly going to cover the cost of this, but it will give us an idea of the overall level of interest and whether this is something worth doing.” So far, the response has been tepid. CODE has $207 towards its $5,000 goal. (Deadline: May 25, 5:25pm)

I’m confused by the monetary status of documentary film project United We Stand. Its got all the trappings of a successful Kickstarter pitch: A well-known producer, David Roma, who’s been involved in a number of high profile projects, including Off the Chain and the Academy Award-nominated documentary Gasland. It also has an engaging trailer that left me interested in seeing the movie. But so far, it’s raised a little over $500 towards its $50,000 goal, and has acquired all of three backers. This project is going to need to pick up a lot of momentum in the coming weeks. (Deadline: May 8, 2:59am)

Out of time

High Tech, Low Life, a film about two Chinese bloggers, was screened for the first time on Thursday as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. Even with this early success, the filmmakers are trying to raise funds for some of the film’s finishing touches, like subtitles, music, and outreach, but need another $5,000 by Monday to reach the $23,500 goal.

Mardi Link is a writer in Northern Michigan who’s written nonfiction books on mysterious murders. One of the books, Isadore’s Secret, won a Michigan Notable Book award, and now she’s raising money for a long form piece about a different killing: In the dark of night, someone is chopping into the trunks of cherry trees, and Secret Cuts: A Cherry Orchard Mystery will be a long-form piece delving into this strange vandalism. Link is raising money so she can devote a whole month to her research and writing. She recently passed her goal, and has until Friday evening to rake in the final donations.

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Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR. Tags: , , ,