Oriana Leckert Joins Kickstarter to Encourage Experimentation in Journalism Funding
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Today we’re excited to announce that Oriana Leckert has joined Kickstarter as our Journalism Outreach Lead. Oriana has spent more than a decade working in the media: She’s written for a variety of outlets, including Slate, New York Post, Gothamist, Atlas Obscura, and Curbed, and she has edited for many more, including MTV News, Hyperallergic, Pitchfork, Voice of Witness, and The Believer. Her first book, Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture and Creativity (Monacelli Press, 2015), grew out of a multi-year project chronicling the rise and fall of under-the-radar creative places across New York City.
Heading into 2019, the media is in a state of flux. While many of the old ways of creating and distributing content are proving untenable in the internet age, there is an incredible amount of experimentation as reporters and publishers look for new ways to connect with readers and foster the dissemination of ideas throughout the world. Last year saw several of the most successful journalism Kickstarter campaigns ever, including the revival of Gothamist, the birth of Tortoise, and the transformation of Block Club Chicago. From nonprofit newsrooms to innovative podcasts to a broad array of community-supported reporting, it’s an incredibly exciting time to be working in the media, and Kickstarter is helping all kinds of journalists and publishers find new ways forward.
Q&A: Oriana shares her hopes and plans for her new role
What makes you hopeful about journalism today?
Despite the doom and gloom resulting from Facebook’s dishonest algorithm reporting, alarmingly high layoffs, and malevolent billionaires trying to stifle the news, there are so many people and organizations trying new ways to find stable footing for journalism. Civil’s blockchain experiment, though not yet wildly successful, is an exciting foray into democratizing the news. The Columbia Journalism Review has introduced Galley, a new forum to increase conversations between journalists and readers—without the baked-in toxicity of Twitter or most comment sections. The Correspondent, which was already one of the largest reader-supported journalism platforms in Europe, launched a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign to do the same thing Stateside. People in the media are innovating for their (professional) lives every day, and it is really thrilling to watch. I’m a pretty irrepressible optimist, so I can’t help being excited to see who’s going to do what next—and to hopefully play my small part in moving things forward.
How does Kickstarter fit into the media universe?
This is a unique position because Kickstarter is not as intuitive a fit for journalism as for other creative pursuits, like publishing, performance, or music. Because no one would be able to run an entire media organization on one Kickstarter campaign, it must be looked at differently, and I’m excited to nurture a culture of experimentation in this category by helping people and outlets identify finite but meaningful projects that can have a big impact on their future. You probably can’t permanently fund a whole newspaper with a Kickstarter campaign, but you could use it to fund a monthlong, deeply reported story, or a commemorative print compendium, or a suite of podcasting equipment.
There are benefits to running Kickstarter campaigns that go well beyond financial: these projects have tremendous community-building potential, not to mention the press that can be achieved by creating something wholly new in this precarious media moment. I’m very excited to talk to people all across the journalism landscape to see what sorts of unexpected ways we can come up with to use Kickstarter.
What are some of your favorite journalism Kickstarter campaigns?
I’m really thrilled by all the ways people are using Kickstarter to encourage community-supported journalism, whether for local reporting like the Colorado Sun, subject-matter expertise like The War Horse, or audience-targeted like the Common Sense Network. I love unexpected ideas like Off Assignment, which helps writers share the stories behind their officially reported pieces, and I love projects that lift up underrepresented communities, like Within, a magazine for women in leadership, and Anxy, one about mental health.