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

In the city of Norman, OK, a new community radio station is in the works, and it’s raising funds on Kickstarter. For Mary Francis, the founder of Voices of Oklahoma Community Radio, starting a locally focused public radio station is an important step towards diversifying Oklahoma’s airwaves, which she said are saturated with conservative talk radio and religious broadcasting. “We’re the reddest state in the nation, and we desperately need some calmer voices,” says Francis. “Rush Limbaugh needs a counter.”

Francis has been a commentator on NPR for years, and she loves the work they do, but it doesn’t have much locally focused programming; 94 percent of the content NPR airs in the area is national. She says there is only one other community station in the entire state that focuses on “local issues, like news, music, and arts.” Voices of Oklahoma has local, original programming in the works, Francis says, including a local music and politics show, local news programs, and a Spanish language medical issues program.

The license that Voices of Oklahoma obtained from the FCC is for a non-commercial, educational frequency, or NCE. Nonprofit status is required to apply for these frequencies, and churches currently own 80 percent of all NCE stations. Most of the programming falls toward the right wing of the political spectrum. Francis explains that even the end-of-the-world guy, Harold Camping, owns more than 50 radio stations.

Voices of Oklahoma will itself be owned by a church; Francis applied for the station’s license was her local Unitarian Universalist church. Other church members have since gotten involved in the project, though Francis says the programming will be secular. Voices of Oklahoma also plans to syndicate programming from the public radio network Pacifica, which carries shows like Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News. So far, the Kickstarter has raised a little more than $4,000, and it has eight more days to reach its goal of $8,970. (Deadline: June 3, 10:58 a.m.)

New arrivals

Sometimes, on the streets of New York, I’ll see an older lady dressed to impress and looking snazzy—hair’s perfectly styled, nails painted, and she’s got a head-turning outfit with shoes to match. I find that confidence reassuring, and I’m not alone. Ari Seth Cohen has a blog called Advanced Style, where he photographs “the most elegant and well-dressed women of a certain age.” He and filmmaker friend Lina Plioplyte have been filming these ladies for the past three years, and now they’re on Kickstarter raising money for a documentary that will offer portraits of these women while challenging “conventional ideas about beauty, growing old, and Western culture’s increasing obsession with youth.” The Kickstarter rolled out yesterday and already has over $4,000 towards the $35,000 goal. (Deadline: June 23, 7:38 a.m.)

“Burners,” or people who attend the Burning Man festival, have not only their own nickname, but also their own online magazine. It’s called Burn After Reading, and it’s raising money on Kickstarter for a print version to hand out at this summer’s event. The content is focused on the many art projects displayed at Burning Man and the stories behind them. It also goes into nitty-gritty burner culture details, like a piece that explains how to train the body to be more efficient with water in preparation for a week in the desert, where the festival takes place. One of the biggest recent happenings among Burning Man veterans is the explosion of interest in the festival, resulting in ticket shortages. The New York Times covered the drama. Burn After Reading had an insider angle to the story with a piece about use of Burning Man tickets for prizes called, “The Raffle Dilemma: Scalping or Fundraising?” The Kickstarter goal of $7,000 is for a print run of 3,000 copies, and so far they’ve raised $215. (Deadline: June 29, 11:59 p.m.)


Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.