the news frontier

The Kickstarter Chronicles

A newspaper funnies funnyman branches out and the other Jersey Shore gets it due
July 13, 2012

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.

“A bazillion internet years” (or eight human years) ago this week, Josh Fruhlinger thought a daily blog of criticism and commentary about newspaper comics would be a good way to keep his writing skills sharp. The Comics Curmudgeon took off, allowing Fruhlinger to quit his tech editor job and focus on his freelance career, writing for outlets such as Wonkette, The Awl, and ITWorld.

Now he’s giving fiction a go, with his first novel, The Enthusiast. Since Comics Curmudgeon’s audience and attention was responsible for most of Fruhlinger’s subsequent writing gigs, he thought a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish his novel was “very suited to the relationship I had with my audience,” he told CJR. Looks like he was right: just 24 hours into the campaign, Fruhlinger was “startled” to find he’d already met his $6,666 goal. During our interview, he passed the $10,000 mark.

Fruhlinger says the money raised will bridge some of the gaps between self-publishing and the traditional model, paying for an editor, a designer, and upfront book costs. The rest will be used as a sort of advance, allowing Fruhlinger to turn down freelance gigs and dedicate as much time as possible to writing his novel. Though he’s already hit his goal, he welcomes additional pledges, which he’ll use to market the book and commission an illustrator – possibly comic strip panels drawn by the some of the comic strip artists whose work inspired him eight years ago.

Deadline is July 27 at 12 p.m.

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Daniel Webster (no, not that Daniel Webster) recalls sitting on the banks of the Susquehanna River and wondering what to do with his recently-acquired MFA in creative writing. An idea he had years ago resurfaced: a magazine that explored one small town per issue. It’s called Local: A Quarterly of People and Places, and for its first issue, the focus is on Jersey Shore. No, not that Jersey Shore. This one is in Pennsylvania, home of infamous bootleggers, an old pajama factory, an alternate Declaration of Independence, and a historical society that counts among its collection a crown made out of human hair. And yes, there are photos:


Webster says a successful campaign will enable his team to produce their first issue which, he hopes, will bring enough advertisers, subscribers, and bookstore buyers on board to keep Local going. Local‘s team has varying degrees of experience – some are new to journalism, other have publications such as Harrisburg Magazine, ELLE, and The Chronicle of Higher Education on their résumés. The campaign’s $20,000 goal will cover the cost of printing, a website, and travel to and accommodations at wherever the magazine decides to go for its second issue. Possibly a town known for its hair shirts?

Deadline is July 28 at 10:30 a.m.

Sara Morrison is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @saramorrison.