the news frontier

The Kickstarter Chronicles

Sports for the blind and magazines for young black women
July 27, 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.

Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete. Daphnee Denis discovered this when she saw a blind man pass her sighted friend in a marathon and has been interested in visually-impaired athletes ever since. She did her master’s project at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism about a blind triathlete, only to discover that he was also the captain of his local goalball team – a little-known sport for the visually impaired. Daphnee (who was my classmate at j-school) followed him to goalball practice and “I got completely obsessed with it,” she said.

So was classmate Hoda Emam, who was doing her master’s project on a home for the blind. Hoda and Daphnee ran into each other at a goalball practice and decided to film the sport together for their documentary class. “Shot in the Dark” was born.

The two spent the semester following and filming a New York City-based goalball team. When the semester was over and they received their diplomas, they decided to continue documenting the team’s story as it traveled to Salt Lake City for the Goalball National Championships last month. They’re hoping to raise at least $6,000 to cover those travel expenses, post-production costs, and festival entry fees. In an interesting take on rewards, backers who pledge at least $10 get “the best blind jokes the team has shared with us.” A successful campaign will be great for the filmmakers, of course, but it will also spread awareness of goalball and visually-impaired athletes – and that’s never a bad thing.

Deadline is August 11 at 1:01 p.m.

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When Andréa Butler was a teenager, she noticed that there weren’t any magazines specifically targeted to young black woman like her. Things hadn’t gotten any better by the time she was done with college and graduate school, so she took matters into her own hands, starting Sesi Magazine in December 2009. From what I can tell from its site (Butler did not respond to interview requests), Sesi printed just three issues using an expensive print-on-demand service, the last coming out in summer 2010. The blog, though, is still regularly updated.

Butler wants $20,000 to be able to print high-quality, glossy issues for mass-market sales, distribute them, and build up enough of a readership to sell ads and keep Sesi going. It will also allow Butler to pay her contributors and graphic designers who have thus far worked in a volunteer capacity. The campaign is a longshot right now, with only three backers pledging $60 total, but there’s still plenty of time. Hopefully, Butler will get more aggressive about campaigning (and answering reporters’ questions … ) soon and the void she saw in the marketplace so many years ago will be filled.

Deadline is August 17 at 7:36 p.m.

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