'Flannery's Porch' millennial reality journalism

Someone’s got to save the news. That’s us.

And someone’s got to save the farm. That’s Elizabeth Wylie and April Moon Carlson.

Flannery’s Porch is where we meet.

Through a new style of online reality journalism, we are producing a millennially attractive, character-driven, episodic series about two women’s efforts to keep the screen door from slamming shut forever at historic Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s ancestral farm. We’re using their story as a touchstone to report on some of today’s most important issues — environmental, cultural, social, and personal. We are prototyping millennial news.

You’ll care about this project for 1 of 3 reasons:

  • You are a fan of Flannery O’Connor. But if you aren’t, she is the late Southern Gothic novelist who has become a pop culture icon and an inspiration to the likes of actor Tommy Lee Jones, comedian Conan O’Brien, novelist Alice Walker, and even musician-philanthropist Bono. Really, Bono! All of them and more have been inspired by O’Connor’s insightful writing on Southern culture, God, and the nature of progress. In many ways, she anticipated our millennial world today.
  • You like the story of two professional women reinventing themselves while working to salvage a historic landmark. Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, is where Flannery lived, wrote and died young. Elizabeth and April are responsible for hosting its thousands of visitors and finding the millions of dollars needed to keep the place from falling apart. In the process, their experiences touch on everything from historic preservation, environmental sustainability, economic inequality, social diversity, and small business development, to lonely peacocks and online dating. Wait until you see how those last two fit together.
  • You want to help us reinvent the way news is done. In a world where whole generations are disconnected from traditional mainstream media, we are part of the effort to develop the new mainstream media.

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How did we come up with this idea?

The whole thing started with one relatively simple thought: Make a real news story that is as interesting to people as the next Harry Potter book they all line up to buy, or the newest movie in the Star Wars series they can’t wait to see, or all those reality TV shows that millions watch.

What would that look like?

It looks something like Flannery’s Porch. Episodic character-driven reality journalism.

Produced for a mobile millennial public, by a millennial team. Others might do this as an exposé on Flannery herself, or a documentary on the farm. Those traditional approaches would never gain millennial traction.

Our goal is journalism that gets noticed, otherwise what’s the point? Right?

So we’re creating what we call a “news experience.” Because frankly, you can get news and information from a lot of places today, mostly all the same. It’s the experience of how you get it that makes any one place stand out, a place you want to go back to, a place you choose to make part of your routine, your lifestyle.

Flannery’s Porch needs to be that kind of place.

It’s a platform, an environment, a community of fans and contributors, a place to engage or to be engaged. It’s much more than just a story.

But it’s also a really, really great story.

Andalusia Director Elizabeth Wylie is an accomplished historic preservationist and museum expert from Boston with an environmental penchant, a marketing background and an entrepreneurial spirit. April Moon Carlson, her assistant, is a Southern millennial, an encaustic artist and a social media maven with an eclectic background and yet a willingness to shovel peacock pooh when necessary. Together they are fighting the ravages of time and conflicting interests that threaten Andalusia’s very existence. Flannery’s Porch is told through their eyes, their words, their passions.
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From their experience, we get our own.

At least that’s the premise of Flannery’s Porch. However, it is a challenge, combining news with reality programming, upholding journalistic standards while still entertaining an audience. It’s also a challenge finding just the right mix of video, animation, music, social interaction, mobile engagement and gamification that works as serious news for millennials and post-millennials.

The scale of this endeavor to fuse episodic, character-driven storytelling with news isn’t small. We’ve spent more than $20,000 of our own money on it already, as well as nearly two years — developing the concepts, prototyping the styles, buying all the high-end media equipment, traveling repeatedly between our base in Kentucky and the farm in Georgia, and covering the costs of  many months of coverage, recording and production work so far.

Season 1 is ready. The first episodes use Elizabeth’s and April’s experiences to explore issues of historic preservation, racial and sexual diversity, environmental sustainability and millennial career choices. All the while getting you inside their heads and their hearts. Plus showing you Andalusia and Milledgeville, Ga.

And we’re putting them all right here for you. This is our Netflix, our Hulu — for now. Binge watch! Please! Later there will be a mobile webapp.

  

Season 2 will deal with Andalusia’s dwindling peacock flock, global warming, pop culture icons, and the source of artistic inspiration.

To do season 2, though, we need both more money and especially validation that this kind of reality journalism works. Your participation with us here on IndieGoGo is as much about that validation as anything else. Yes, we want your financial investment. But we need your intellectual and emotional investment even more.


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This storyweave diagram illustrates how the two main threads of the series, focused on Elizabeth and April, intertwine and spin off coverage of a wide variety of larger topics.

We are Western iMedia

We are a unique entrepreneurial editorial startup based at Western Kentucky University seeking to reinvent the way news is done so that people pay attention. Flannery’s Porch is our latest and potentially most successful effort, a model that allows us to tell a story that both entertains and informs.

Western iMedia works under the umbrella of The Newsplexer Projects, an independent news studio that designs and produces massive-media stories while prototyping the future of journalism and training fusion journalists for the new mainstream media. It partners with key media and design schools to recruit elite students into collaborative, multi-skilled, multi-tasking teams of storytellers that can be looked upon as the journalistic equivalent of a musical band. These journalist bands feature specialized content creators, news experience designers, social context producers, and media technologists, among other editorial artists. They combine those skills with innovative technologies to generate their unique style of storytelling and the communities that gather around them.

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So, what exactly are you funding?

Flannery’s Porch is a project that requires lots of travel from our home base in Bowling Green, Ky., to Andalusia Farm in Milledgeville, Ga. It also requires the purchase and maintenance of advanced new technologies like 360 cameras and drones to produce the highest quality story experience. Computers and editing software. Video servers. A mobile publishing system. And much more.

But that’s all just stuff. You won’t get emotionally and intellectually connected to just stuff. And anyway, it’s the story, and our effort to tell it, that we really want you tied to. Remember what we said at the beginning? You’ll get into Flannery’s Porch for one of three reasons — the farm, the story or the news.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this: None of the money you contribute to making Flannery’s Porch will go toward saving Andalusia Farm, except that our coverage will make you and others more aware of its plight. This is journalism — millennial, non-traditional, new-mainstream journalism, but still journalism. Western iMedia doesn’t do advertising or public relations or marketing or branding or fundraising. Our job is to give you an honest story. And in this, we work for you, not the farm. No matter how close we get to Elizabeth and April, we remain separate, independent. If you want to donate to the farm, which we completely agree is a noble cause, go to http://andalusiafarm.org/donate-2/. Tell them we sent you.

At the same time, if you like that we are showing you and telling you about the farm, and about Elizabeth’s and April’s work to save it, and about all the different issues in the news that are connected to their efforts, that is exactly what your investment will fund.

Specifically, help us make FP Season 2

To make you feel even more a part of the process, here are the next four episodes of Flannery’s Porch that we have planned for Season 2:

  • Peacocks — First Joy lost Manley Pointer to winter. Then Mary Grace to violence. Left all alone, she might have thought the heyday of being an Andalusia peacock was passed. Now, though, young whippersnapper Manley II has arrived. Joy, with help from April, intends to whip him into shape. In the meantime, the fortunes of peacocks elsewhere in the world are decidedly mixed — in some place revered, in others exterminated.
  • Divestment —Switching out field boots for corporate chic, Elizabeth travels from Milledgeville to the nation’s capital for a conference of American museum officials. It’s part of her role as one of the industry’s outspoken leaders on environmental sustainability and fossil fuel divestment. And if the success of anti-apartheid South Africa divestment in the ‘80s is an example, fossil fuel divestment could have a big impact on global warming.
  • Legacy — Flannery O’Connor and Anne Frank have some interesting parallels in their lives and legacies. Among them, both the Southern Gothic writer and the Holocaust-era diarist have separate foundations working to preserve their works vs. their houses. At Andalusia, it is the “foundation” title attached to the farm that is straining Elizabeth’s efforts to raise the money she needs. So much depends on the generosity of others.
  • Inspiration —April, whose personal artistic medium is painting in beeswax, isn’t the only one looking to Andalusia Farm for a muse. Artists far and wide take inspiration from the bucolic setting that itself grounded Flannery’s writing. From an artist typing an entire O’Connor story on one piece of paper, to Bono giving her credit while accepting a Grammy, becoming a pop culture icon is further raising her profile.

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These episodes will cost us an average of $6,000 each to produce. You can particularly fund one, several or all of these episodes while simultaneously helping us prototype this millennial style of news so that we can show others how to do it. The larger your investment in our work, the more you can be involved in these and future episodes, the greater your role in theFlannery’s Porch community.

We’ve also got some nice perks built in, such as an authentic Andalusia peacock feather (alas, from one of the tragically departed fowls) and original encaustic work by Andalusia’s own April Moon Carlson. It’s one more way for us to show our appreciation for helping to build Flannery’s Porch.

Thank you for your support!

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© 2016 Western iMedia/The Newsplexer Projects