College Students Take Advantage of Crowdfunding

Oftentimes it is difficult for independent artists to finance their projects, whether it be a documentary, fiction film, production, or musical album. The absence of an agent, while ripe with benefits, still leaves these artists on their own to salvage enough money to gather the resources and supplies they need. Independent journalism is no different, as these journalists must find ways to finance any expenses that come as a result of pursuing a story.

Independent filmmaking can sometimes see a cross between journalism and film, as it did with independent filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who produced the documentaries “Outfoxed” and “Uncovered.” To fundraise for his upcoming work, “Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers,” Greenwald tapped into a previously unexplored source: crowdfunding. By reaching out to a bevy of people, Greenwald was able to raise the funds he needed through many individual donations.

This is a method that is increasing in popularity today, especially with budding college filmmakers. At many colleges that have cinematography programs, production and filmmaking classes require students to produce short films, oftentimes at their own expense. Rarely do programs or colleges help its student filmmakers shoulder the heavy costs of creating a movie or documentary, aside from very few grants and scholarships.

Because of this, these young filmmakers have tapped into a growing source for raising money — crowdfunding sites. Websites such as Indiegogo and GoFundMe are two of the most popular crowdfunding outlets, and give any person the opportunity to create their own fundraising campaign for virtually any purpose. College students are frequently utilizing these resources to raise funding for film projects — they create a campaign, set a monetary fundraising goal, and proceed to share it to their networks via social media outlets. Through constant Facebook and Twitter posts that reach a number of people, students are able to spread the word easily and efficiently to achieve their goals.

This utilization of the Internet for fundraising is an ingenious way to tap into the power of social networking. Millennials today are using their knowledge of the Web and their social media savvy for their own professional and educational benefits. While it is hard to tell just how successful these crowdfunding campaigns are, it is nevertheless important to acknowledge the creative ways young people are maximizing the resources they have at their fingertips.

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Forgotten Voices in Journalism Schools

George Seldes was a true human embodiment of unrelenting courage and bravery. The close attention he paid to the press and the subsequent criticisms he had of mainstream media were powerful and shed light on the pitfalls of the mainstream journalism industry.

What is upsetting is that most young, budding journalism students today most likely do not know who he is.

It seems that journalism has been commodified and glamorized into an industry where a person can achieve fame by being a charismatic, on-camera television anchor or working for a high-and-mighty outlet like CNN, NBC, ABC, The New York Times or any of the other major media networks. But simply having these young journalists focus solely on mainstream outlets has its downfalls, in which influential figures like George Seldes and I.F. Stone go unnoticed in journalism curriculum.

Many journalism schools and programs throughout the country seem to be formatted to industry standards. They are meant to mold their students into the next New York Times correspondent or the next Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper or David Muir. The investigative work of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward are heavily discussed, but the contributions of Seldes, Stone and Glenn Greenwald go largely ignored. But with this modeling of journalism curriculum on primarily mainstream outlets, students are not given the opportunity to look into other forms of journalism such as independent media or peace journalism.

Furthermore, placing so much emphasis on traditional models and mainstream media outlets often results in attitudes of apathy and complicity toward mainstream outlets. Outlets like ABC, CBS, and the New York Time are seen as trustworthy sources of news despite their obvious corporate ties and the ways in which they skew information to fit certain agendas. For instance, one can look at mainstream media’s complicity in the lead-up to the Iraq War as evidence of advancing a very particular agenda.

But what figures like Seldes revealed are the pitfalls in mainstream media. He looked at these media powerhouses and critically analyzed them to reveal the corruption of information happening behind the words on the pages. This is what journalism students today should be taught to do, instead of solely learning from the traditional journalism model. These budding reporters should be given opportunities to question these news outlets like Seldes did.

There has been an attitude of complete trust and apathy among journalism schools and its students in regards to addressing mainstream media outlets. But these schools should not be complicit in continuing to uphold a media industry that is becoming increasingly corporatized and commodified. They should encourage students to not only look critically at mainstream outlets, but to look beyond into independent media outlets and other non-traditional forms of journalism as viable career options.

Journalists like George Seldes are few and far between in today’s modern age, and it is leaving journalism schools apathetic in educating its students. Journalism schools should strive to not only build strong writers and reporters, but also raise a new generation of journalists that can transform the broken media system we have.

The United States: A Country Allergic to Dissidence

Upon reading the chapter, “Propelling Black Americans Into the Promised Land” in Rodger Streitmatter’s book, “Voices of Revolution,” I was impressed at Robert Abbott’s unrelenting determination in how he influenced the Great Migration — the mass exodus of African Americans from the South to the North — through his weekly paper, The Defender.

Abbott was crafty in the ways in which he published and distributed his weekly newspaper — from getting black porters to deliver  copies to newsboys as they headed south to his creation of migration fever. But what I found to be most impressive about Abbott as a dissident journalist and radical social advocate is how he essentially continued relentlessly printing The Defender despite it falling under federal investigation.

This particular paragraph in the chapter was small, yet impactful. Because the height of the paper’s circulation coincided with the United States’ involvement in World War I, Streitmatter said, the United States established a special surveillance operation that combined military, the postal service and Justice Department.

“Because their mutual goal was to maintain national security during World War I and the Defender was a self-declared voice of dissent, the paper was declared ‘subversive’ and emerged as a primary target for federal investigation,” Streitmatter said.

It doesn’t surprise me that our American government would act this way toward radicalism and dissidence. Hearing about the ways in which the federal government has reacted toward figures like Abbott, and currently acts toward today’s journalists like James Risen, is unsurprising yet still infuriating, as I would expect in a “free” society that the government would not try to suppress the voices of its citizens, no matter how outspoken or radical they may be.

This, however, is not the case with the United States government. In fact, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers more than any other president combined. To worsen the matter, this administration has also doled out longer jail sentences against whistleblowers than previous presidents — 526 months of prison time for national security leakers as of October 2014.

A lot can be said about a government who chooses to suppress and even jail its own reporters, especially a government whose own constitution explicitly outlines the freedoms of the press. Throughout history, the United States government has shown that issues of national security and protecting national interest trumps the liberties and freedoms of its citizens. It is the hallmark of a country who tends to act within in its own self-interest rather than for the betterment of its people. Perhaps what is even more troubling is the ways in which this country’s government officials try to mask their invasive policies under the guise of national security and “protection.”

Where is the line drawn between the protection of a country and the protection of its citizen’s civil liberties?

This is where the duty of the journalist becomes ever more prominent. Like with Roger Abbott, who didn’t stop the circulation of The Defender even when it came under government surveillance, journalists today can and should not be baited by terror into staying silent in their pursuit to uncover injustice and corruption.