the news frontier

The Kickstarter Chronicles

Punching up community radio in Iowa and punching out Mike Tyson in 8 bits
August 24, 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.

Ames is the eighth-largest city in Iowa and home of Iowa State University. But until last week, it didn’t have a local radio or TV news outlet, creating what Ames native Ursula Ruedenberg calls a “vacuum of information.” Ruedenberg, who works for community radio network Pacifica Radio, grew up in Ames, then moved to New York City. When she heard her hometown was trying to build a new community radio station, she moved back to help out.

The community has already raised $60,000, enough to buy broadcasting equipment and get KHOI up and running as of August 17. Now the station needs another $40,000 to build the studios, which Ruedenberg says would “facilitate live local news and a live local morning show.” Ruedenberg hopes to raise $12,000 of that (enough to start the building process) through Kickstarter. She tells CJR that she found out about Kickstarter after seeing a movie that was funded through it and thought it would be a good fit for KHOI’s fundraising. The college town has so many former residents who “still care about what happens here” and Kickstarter is “an easy way to reach out” to them, she says.

KHOI’s official mission is to “build community through communication,” Ruedenberg says. “We actually have the beginning of a great little local news department,” she adds, noting that KHOI hopes to team up with the Ames Tribune and the communications department at ISU to expand on its nascent coverage. “There’s a tremendous hunger for local news,” Ruedenberg says; “we want to create a sincere dialogue in this community.”

Deadline is September 15 at 11 p.m.

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Twenty-five years ago, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was released for Nintendo, and a generation of children learned about world cultures via the game’s colorful international cast of characters. You played as New York boxer “Little Joe,” who was inexplicably tinier than his opponents—the cowardly, surrender-ready “Glass Joe” from France, who had a 1-99 record and was harder to lose to than to beat; India’s “Great Tiger,” who wore a bejeweled turban and had magical powers; Spaniard Don Flamenco, who incorporated the dance into his boxing style and cared more about his hair than he did whether or not he won the match—and the goal was to beat the world’s best boxers and ultimately face the great Mike Tyson.

Twenty-five years later, “retro video game nerd” Daniel Lanciana has teamed up with luminaries from the Punch-Out!! world to create a 240-page, hardcover, unofficial guide to the game. It’s already written; he just needs $25,000 to self-publish at least 200 copies (that’s the minimum for a “cheaper” bulk order). Why so expensive? Lanciana chose the priciest format for the book. “I made the book primarily for me, so I wasn’t going to sacrifice on quality,” he says. Photos of the proposed book on the campaign page show a pretty gorgeous product. Lanciana admits that while he thinks Punch-Out!! is “a fantastic game full of crazy opponents and insane depth,” he’s actually a bigger fan of Nintendo games Super Mario Bros. 3 and Mega Man. If all goes well, maybe 240-page books devoted to those games will be next.

Deadline is October 2 at 3 a.m.

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