June 17, 2014

Deca seeks to let good journalists be good journalists


Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 5.43.08 PMIn bold letters at the top of their Kickstarter page, journalist cooperative Deca states: “We write for magazines. Now we’d like to write for you.”

Deca is a group of nine journalists who have been published by nearly every magazine of merit in America. They have also published a number of books, won an impressive set of awards, and written from every continent except for Antarctica. Now, instead of reporting within the restrictions of a print magazine, they plan on taking over every facet of the operation themselves, which should yield a considerable degree of freedom.

Their mission is to publish one long form piece—somewhere between a long article and a short book, according to their website—a month. It will be written by one of their members, edited by another and then approved by all, before being published as a Kindle Single.
Their first piece, published on June 12, is “And The City Swallowed Them,” by Mara Hvistendahl:

“At once a page-turning murder mystery and a work of deep investigation, And The City Swallowed Them is a true crime nonfiction story based on dozens of interviews with investigators, models, and both the victim’s and the convicted murderer’s families. The short book moves from Shanghai’s back alleys to the seedy underbelly of high fashion, where young models travel alone to strange cities, often with falsified work papers, and sleep ten to an apartment between cover shoots. Set against the backdrop of Shanghai’s explosive urbanization, the work also explores the world of China’s liudong renkou, or floating population, where the hopes of newcomers from poor villages often turn to dust—leading some to horribly desperate acts.”

The group seems dedicated to thorough, thoughtful and patient reporting, or what might be more colloquially known as the opposite of CNN.
Outside of that, what is most promising is the group’s apparent commitment to transparency. In the about section of their website, they have a minute-long video explaining how they edit one another’s work.

Deca is also admirably democratic, open-ended, and participatory. Readers will be able to submit potential stories and interested writers can apply to join the collective.
If their Kickstarter page is any indication, the public believes in their mission. As of yesterday evening, the campaign was almost $1,500 past their stated goal of $15,000, with 25 days left. In keeping with their dedication to openness, they not only say what they would do with the money they asked for, but also exactly what they plan to do with the money they didn’t.

The group is focused, dedicated, talented, and independent. It’s a genuinely inspiring project that, at best, will set an example for their peers and open people’s eyes in the process; at worst, Deca will tell interesting stories that others had neither the time nor the freedom to cover. That’s not such a bad worst case scenario.