About this project
UPDATE 2: We have t-shirts!!
UPDATE 3: T-shirts, thank yous, and pilgrimages to China.
Muckgers.com is a Rutgers University-based online publishing platform for student journalists, retooled for the 21st century. Combining a focus on context-driven, investigative stories with the use of new and exciting media, Muckgers' goal is two-pronged: to serve as a premier outlet for Rutgers-related news and analysis on the one hand, while simultaneously redefining the way we approach campus media on the other.
(Note: To skip potentially boring minutia, jump to "The Project" section below. Otherwise, read on).
Speaking to small group of student journalists in a classroom building at Yale University, writer Max Abelson once remarked that citizens today are "surrounded by systems of immense power." Abelson, along with the student journalists in attendance, were there for the Yale Daily New's annual conference for college newspapers—the theme that year focusing on the idea of campus media publications as "incubuses for innovation."
A Wall Street reporter for Bloomberg's Businessweek, Abelson himself is no stranger to these systems. He's made a career out of covering the intricate and sometimes occult happenings behind the closed doors of the nation's sprawling financial industry, often going considerable lengths to pierce its murky veil. That these veils require a journalist's expertise to crack is no cause of wonder—it takes dedication and keen knowledge of one's subject to rake through the muck of today's bureaucracies.
For the editors of muckgers.com, the import of the conference's message—and Abelson's in particular—couldn't have been clearer. In a society grown increasingly complex, institutions and individuals of mind-numbing power and influence—from the multi-billion dollar investment bank on Wall Street to the Political Action Committee funding Capitol Hill—have come to define the landscape of day-to-day life. Everyday interactions such as where our money goes when we make that mobile deposit, or where the food that makes up that bag of groceries is really coming from have become harder and harder to track—and we've seen, at least in recent years, what happens when institutions of considerable power and control go unchecked.
But it's not just in the world of politics and finance that these power-systems have come to take root—the American university, too, grown in size and scope since the days of yore, has become its own nerve center of power and influence.
In the wake of these developments, then, accountability has become more important than ever. Journalists of today's world are charged with the task of not only providing the public with rapid-fire news and information, but of doing so in a way that brings context and a deep, personal understanding to the stories they're covering. Pair this with the opportunities digital media has provided in making reporting more comprehensive and interactive, and you have, in our most humble opinion, the future of journalism—it's the investigative voice of journalists like Abelson meets the tech expertise of Silicon Valley's web-geeks.
The college campus is a microcosm of society. Multi-million dollar athletic budgets, a growing student loan crisis, world-class scandals and administrative big-wigs in charge of it all are delicately woven together in a complex fabric of higher learning that's ripe for controversy. Throw in some good old-fashioned politics, and you've got one of the biggest bureaucratic nightmares society has to offer.
Run the numbers. Student loan debt in the U.S. has surpassed both automobile and credit card debt, and nation-sweeping scandals— particularly in the realm of college athletics—are earning the names of the country's most popular colleges and universities top spots in headlines the world over. Accountability on the university campus is more important now than ever before.
At Muckgers we realize this, and we've created a uniquely independent publication to answer that need.
As an aspiring home for digital-first-and-only student journalism at Rutgers, Muckgers can fill the strange magazine-like gap between daily news reporting and weekly opinion arguments that currently persists in the world of campus media (think the intersection of sites like The Verge, The New York Observer, Gawker and BuzzFeed). It can be a place where interested and motivated students can publish their investigative or analytic or observational journalism that cuts straight to the heart of the issues affecting campus.
Put differently, Muckgers is also our answer to the question: How do we do good journalism on the college campus in the 21st century? At a time when innovation and experimentation is key to the future of the practice, and in a place no better equipped to unlock the door, most traditional campus media outlets—the daily newspaper, the weekly magazine—remain mired in institutional and philosophical backwaters. Having worked extensively with these traditional outlets, Muckgers' founding editors hope to do things different. (For an example of a college daily that's embraced the aforementioned future, see here.)
Muckgers is not your typical alternative campus media publication. With the help of a small, versatile team of editors, we'll publish carefully-crafted, investigative stories together with creative and shareable content on a semi-weekly basis that brings deep context and analysis to the university's murkiest of events. We'll actively seek out the best and brightest writers on campus to contribute to this process, ensuring that each story is top-notch in quality and insight. We'll work to rethink and redefine what it means to be a successful media publication on the college campus in the 21st century, and what it takes to get there.
Finally, we'll rake through the muck of the university's day-to-day and semester-to-semester bureaucracy for the real dirt—just so you don't have to.
Who we are
We're tomorrow's journalists today. We're the fly on the wall, we're "the giant floating eyeball in the center of the room," to recall (what we're pretty sure is) a quote from novelist David Foster Wallace. Really, we're just a couple college students passionate about the field of journalism—and with Muckgers, we want to create a unique campus media publication that reflects that passion.
Why we need your help
College is expensive. Trying to fund a website while going to college is even more expensive. We'll need your help to get us started.
All money raised for our project will be used to meet some necessary end. The majority of what we receive will be put towards paying for start-up costs for the first year of site operation—e.g. site construction, site maintenance and hosting costs for the first year. Left over funds will be put towards promotion of our product and any other minor expenses we might incur along the way. (For a preview of what the post-launch site might look like, see Wordpress' Standard Theme).
We also want to make sure we can cover the costs of our donor rewards. Individuals who pledge $10 or more will get a handful of super cool, custom-made stickers featuring the Muckgers logo that they can stick all over campus (or wherever else you feel like it).
Risks and challenges
A thriving news site requires both contributors to contribute consistently, and readers to read those contributions consistently. The most difficult part of this project, then, will come with garnering enough attention on campus and attracting talented and motivated individuals to contribute to our product.
Luckily, our past experiences working for on-campus publications have given Muckgers' founding team of editors enough insight—and the right connections—to feel comfortable tackling this challenge. We feel strongly that there is a perceived need for a publication like Muckgers on campus, and that we're the right people for the job.
If this Kickstarter is successful, you can expect to see the site launch full-throttle mid-summer, along with our first bits of content.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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