Brandon Smith is creating independent investigative journalism
7

patrons

$33
per month
Hi everyone, I’m Brandon Smith, and I'm an independent investigative reporter. I sued the City of Chicago and won, forcing them to release the video of Laquan McDonald being killed. Since the Laquan story, I’ve won scads of journalism’s biggest honors for columns about it in outlets across the web.

You might think this page is about a donation. In fact, it's about a new kind of product. If you're into the idea of investigative reporting and holding powerful people to account, read further, or just read the "rewards" sidebar.

I want you to be a part of my stories from the inside out.

With my accountability work, I'm just getting started. Since 2015's push for the Laquan tape, concerned citizens from all over have brought me evidence of some serious fishy stuff. I’m working hard, every day, to verify all this and surround it with context for publication. My primary objectives are to hold accountable those who have power—the power to change things or ignore them, for instance—and to advocate for leveling the playing field for everyone. In three words, transparency, accountability, and justice.

But I need your help. And there are some KILLER opportunities to get nerdy about investigative journalism awaiting those who chip in.

Why do I need your help? Despite writing about Chicago for two solid years, landing in half a dozen well-respected outlets, from the Chicago Reader to The Guardian; from Al Jazeera to In These Times magazine, my average hourly wage in journalism remains less than this city's minimum wage.

So to be able to keep doing the craft of journalism, I need contributions from people who love the results. Maybe you want to know more about the process. By supporting me, you'll get that, too. The sidebar labeled "rewards" describes all the different ways you can be involved in the process of my work. Or at least get to follow it, as if it's it's own story.

Maybe even more than money, I'm using this as a way to get to know people who're gung-ho for this kind of work. If you've read this far, I want to get to know *you*.

Think of freelance journalists like me as independent operators. We don’t rely on massive news organizations’ selection bias to determine the stories we work on. Independents produce a crucial chunk of our collective knowledge about our world. Without us lone rangers, so many stories wouldn’t get told. Laquan McDonald’s story wouldn’t have gotten told as it did.

I get volunteer help from non-journalist friends who think critically about the world. When I can't spare the time, they read and make notes about big batches of boring documents. (If you'd like to help in this way, hit me up at [email protected] and we can meet for coffee.) But this doesn’t cut it. I’m still working from dawn to dusk: a few hours at various part-time jobs, and the rest of the time reporting stories.

That’s where you come in.

Patreon allows people who believe in my work to chip in monthly, at whatever amount you’d like. The system automatically charges you each month, so once you sign up, you don't have to think about it.

Here's the clincher: I don't care how little you give, but I want you to give forever. I want this to be a life-long relationship.

For that to happen, I don’t want you to contribute any more per month than would ever make you re-evaluate it due to the cost. Whatever amount would make you reconsider it later, sign up for less than that.

Once again, this isn't a donation but rather, a new kind of product. I'm providing a service to folks who want to know more about what we muckrakers do. In the "rewards" sidebar you'll see that, if you choose to support me with any amount, you and I will connect in various ways going forward, and we'll each learn a bit about each other, and this process of digging up the truth.

Just a small disclaimer: if I were to land a full-time journalism job or a full-support fellowship, I would let you know, and I'd temporarily suspend the Patreon. No need to double-dip with your hard-earned cash. But when the fellowship ends, or if I have to quit my job (maybe editors are being heinous about what I’m allowed to cover!)... only then will I write to let you know I'm re-starting the Patreon, and ask if you want to step up to the plate once again.

If I had a safety net like that, I'd never have to bend to the will of big media executives, even if I worked for them. I'd know you'd have my back if I had to leave.

My first goal is to get 250 supporters at a small average amount. My next goal is to cover all my expenses, which are small for Chicago at roughly $1600 per month. With an outpouring of support like that, I could put my full effort into accountability reporting.

I thank you for everything you do, for me and for the world.

Hope to talk soon,
Brandon
Tiers
Pledge $1 or more per month
2 patrons
I don't discriminate against you, O supporter of little means! Giving just $1 a month makes you a supporter. All supporters get invited to my regular chat room sessions—we'll call them "office hours." While everyone can email me story ideas and concerns, you're who I want to shoot the sh-- with, since you believe enough in me to support me. Also, when I release stuff, I’ll send you links: to my big stories, small followups, and soon-to-come series of YouTube process videos.
Pledge $2 or more per month
1 patron
At $2 a month, you're taking a significant step toward ensuring I can do journalism work full-time. For much of my life, I would regularly reconsider every monthly subscription more expensive than this. So I’m right there with you. In addition to all the benefits of being a supporter, my $2 folks get either a bumper sticker or bike-bag-button (your choice) that reads “I read journalists who care about all people.”
Pledge $3 or more per month
0 patrons
At $3, you can join my book club (called “Need-to-know: A woke book club”) if you’re so inclined. We read one book a month from the list at this link, and meet in Chicago to discuss them. And all previous “rewards.” https://goo.gl/7PnEn1
Pledge $4 or more per month
0 patrons
At $4 a month, you’re almost certainly giving an amount above the average donation. You must really like accountability journalism, and want to see it succeed. I’d like to hang out with you at a party. I plan to have twice-a-year parties and you’re on the invite list. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $6 or more per month
2 patrons
At $6 a month, if you’re in my network of people I ask to review possible story material, I’ll give you first choice to decide whether you have the time and interest that week to help me with the story. But whether or not you’re in the network, I’ll help you craft, file, and respond to two FOIA requests a year. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $10 or more per month
4 patrons
The price of a Netflix subscription. Two and a half small lattes. But I don’t use these comparables to guilt-trip you, no. Those things are crazy valuable! Millions of dollars in R&D and server farm updates and rights purchases and staff training and literal agricultural harvesting go into bringing you those TV shows and coffee-flavored milks. If you consider my work as valuable as those things, I don’t take that lightly. As such, I’ll spend up to two hours with you, remotely or in person in Chicago, teaching you whatever you want to know about journalism. If you want me to install and teach you how to use email encryption, done. Or whatever else your heart desires. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $12 or more per month
0 patrons
At $12 a month, you get access to my stories a full 24 hours in advance, except in exigent circumstances where time is of the essence. Then I’ll try to give you as much advance notice as I can, which will likely be at least a couple hours. I’ll also throw in management of one more FOIA request per year, for a total of three. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $15 or more per month
0 patrons
At $15 a month, you get access to my notebook after a story is released. And all previous “rewards.” However! If you commit to giving me this much of your hard-earned cash, you’re probably going to eventually reconsider this donation. If you think you might, choose a lesser tier. Staying and growing with me long-term is more important to me than your cash.
Pledge $18 or more per month
0 patrons
For this monthly contribution you get a total of four FOIA requests per year, if you so desire, managed by yours truly: from brainstorm genesis in my chatroom or over email, to crafting, submitting, and response (or pushing back). And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $37 or more per month
0 patrons
You’re ridiculous and I don’t know what to do with you. You must be making serious cash because you know I only produce a few stories a year and you’re still willing to pay this much for them. You’re paying me as much as you’d pay for an old-school newspaper. In light of that, let’s spend an evening at the Chicago venue of your choice, I’ll buy you a beer, and we can brainstorm how to make the next awesome print product to hit the stands. It’ll be chock full of investigative journalism. You get all the other “rewards,” too. (Meeting must be in Chicago.)
Pledge $200 or more per month
0 patrons
At this level you’re like a patron of old. Don’t choose this unless you’re, say, a Pritzker. And in that case we can discuss what kind of journalism you’d like to see. I sure hope it meshes with mine, so I can take your money. We’ll devise ways to upend the systems that oppress people, and implement them with vigor. I’ll consider naming a section of a forthcoming publication after something of your choosing. Please read “Bite the hand that feeds” by Jamie Kalven before I roll up to your high-rise for a meeting.
Goals
$33 of $875 per month
My goal is to reach 250 supporters. I don't care so much about how much you're giving. Just give an amount you won't have to revisit when you're trying to cull expenses in the future. I want this relationship to last a long time. If commitments averaged $3.50 per month, 250 folks would be giving $875 monthly.
1 of 2
Hi everyone, I’m Brandon Smith, and I'm an independent investigative reporter. I sued the City of Chicago and won, forcing them to release the video of Laquan McDonald being killed. Since the Laquan story, I’ve won scads of journalism’s biggest honors for columns about it in outlets across the web.

You might think this page is about a donation. In fact, it's about a new kind of product. If you're into the idea of investigative reporting and holding powerful people to account, read further, or just read the "rewards" sidebar.

I want you to be a part of my stories from the inside out.

With my accountability work, I'm just getting started. Since 2015's push for the Laquan tape, concerned citizens from all over have brought me evidence of some serious fishy stuff. I’m working hard, every day, to verify all this and surround it with context for publication. My primary objectives are to hold accountable those who have power—the power to change things or ignore them, for instance—and to advocate for leveling the playing field for everyone. In three words, transparency, accountability, and justice.

But I need your help. And there are some KILLER opportunities to get nerdy about investigative journalism awaiting those who chip in.

Why do I need your help? Despite writing about Chicago for two solid years, landing in half a dozen well-respected outlets, from the Chicago Reader to The Guardian; from Al Jazeera to In These Times magazine, my average hourly wage in journalism remains less than this city's minimum wage.

So to be able to keep doing the craft of journalism, I need contributions from people who love the results. Maybe you want to know more about the process. By supporting me, you'll get that, too. The sidebar labeled "rewards" describes all the different ways you can be involved in the process of my work. Or at least get to follow it, as if it's it's own story.

Maybe even more than money, I'm using this as a way to get to know people who're gung-ho for this kind of work. If you've read this far, I want to get to know *you*.

Think of freelance journalists like me as independent operators. We don’t rely on massive news organizations’ selection bias to determine the stories we work on. Independents produce a crucial chunk of our collective knowledge about our world. Without us lone rangers, so many stories wouldn’t get told. Laquan McDonald’s story wouldn’t have gotten told as it did.

I get volunteer help from non-journalist friends who think critically about the world. When I can't spare the time, they read and make notes about big batches of boring documents. (If you'd like to help in this way, hit me up at [email protected] and we can meet for coffee.) But this doesn’t cut it. I’m still working from dawn to dusk: a few hours at various part-time jobs, and the rest of the time reporting stories.

That’s where you come in.

Patreon allows people who believe in my work to chip in monthly, at whatever amount you’d like. The system automatically charges you each month, so once you sign up, you don't have to think about it.

Here's the clincher: I don't care how little you give, but I want you to give forever. I want this to be a life-long relationship.

For that to happen, I don’t want you to contribute any more per month than would ever make you re-evaluate it due to the cost. Whatever amount would make you reconsider it later, sign up for less than that.

Once again, this isn't a donation but rather, a new kind of product. I'm providing a service to folks who want to know more about what we muckrakers do. In the "rewards" sidebar you'll see that, if you choose to support me with any amount, you and I will connect in various ways going forward, and we'll each learn a bit about each other, and this process of digging up the truth.

Just a small disclaimer: if I were to land a full-time journalism job or a full-support fellowship, I would let you know, and I'd temporarily suspend the Patreon. No need to double-dip with your hard-earned cash. But when the fellowship ends, or if I have to quit my job (maybe editors are being heinous about what I’m allowed to cover!)... only then will I write to let you know I'm re-starting the Patreon, and ask if you want to step up to the plate once again.

If I had a safety net like that, I'd never have to bend to the will of big media executives, even if I worked for them. I'd know you'd have my back if I had to leave.

My first goal is to get 250 supporters at a small average amount. My next goal is to cover all my expenses, which are small for Chicago at roughly $1600 per month. With an outpouring of support like that, I could put my full effort into accountability reporting.

I thank you for everything you do, for me and for the world.

Hope to talk soon,
Brandon

Recent posts by Brandon Smith

Tiers
Pledge $1 or more per month
2 patrons
I don't discriminate against you, O supporter of little means! Giving just $1 a month makes you a supporter. All supporters get invited to my regular chat room sessions—we'll call them "office hours." While everyone can email me story ideas and concerns, you're who I want to shoot the sh-- with, since you believe enough in me to support me. Also, when I release stuff, I’ll send you links: to my big stories, small followups, and soon-to-come series of YouTube process videos.
Pledge $2 or more per month
1 patron
At $2 a month, you're taking a significant step toward ensuring I can do journalism work full-time. For much of my life, I would regularly reconsider every monthly subscription more expensive than this. So I’m right there with you. In addition to all the benefits of being a supporter, my $2 folks get either a bumper sticker or bike-bag-button (your choice) that reads “I read journalists who care about all people.”
Pledge $3 or more per month
0 patrons
At $3, you can join my book club (called “Need-to-know: A woke book club”) if you’re so inclined. We read one book a month from the list at this link, and meet in Chicago to discuss them. And all previous “rewards.” https://goo.gl/7PnEn1
Pledge $4 or more per month
0 patrons
At $4 a month, you’re almost certainly giving an amount above the average donation. You must really like accountability journalism, and want to see it succeed. I’d like to hang out with you at a party. I plan to have twice-a-year parties and you’re on the invite list. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $6 or more per month
2 patrons
At $6 a month, if you’re in my network of people I ask to review possible story material, I’ll give you first choice to decide whether you have the time and interest that week to help me with the story. But whether or not you’re in the network, I’ll help you craft, file, and respond to two FOIA requests a year. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $10 or more per month
4 patrons
The price of a Netflix subscription. Two and a half small lattes. But I don’t use these comparables to guilt-trip you, no. Those things are crazy valuable! Millions of dollars in R&D and server farm updates and rights purchases and staff training and literal agricultural harvesting go into bringing you those TV shows and coffee-flavored milks. If you consider my work as valuable as those things, I don’t take that lightly. As such, I’ll spend up to two hours with you, remotely or in person in Chicago, teaching you whatever you want to know about journalism. If you want me to install and teach you how to use email encryption, done. Or whatever else your heart desires. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $12 or more per month
0 patrons
At $12 a month, you get access to my stories a full 24 hours in advance, except in exigent circumstances where time is of the essence. Then I’ll try to give you as much advance notice as I can, which will likely be at least a couple hours. I’ll also throw in management of one more FOIA request per year, for a total of three. And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $15 or more per month
0 patrons
At $15 a month, you get access to my notebook after a story is released. And all previous “rewards.” However! If you commit to giving me this much of your hard-earned cash, you’re probably going to eventually reconsider this donation. If you think you might, choose a lesser tier. Staying and growing with me long-term is more important to me than your cash.
Pledge $18 or more per month
0 patrons
For this monthly contribution you get a total of four FOIA requests per year, if you so desire, managed by yours truly: from brainstorm genesis in my chatroom or over email, to crafting, submitting, and response (or pushing back). And all previous “rewards.”
Pledge $37 or more per month
0 patrons
You’re ridiculous and I don’t know what to do with you. You must be making serious cash because you know I only produce a few stories a year and you’re still willing to pay this much for them. You’re paying me as much as you’d pay for an old-school newspaper. In light of that, let’s spend an evening at the Chicago venue of your choice, I’ll buy you a beer, and we can brainstorm how to make the next awesome print product to hit the stands. It’ll be chock full of investigative journalism. You get all the other “rewards,” too. (Meeting must be in Chicago.)
Pledge $200 or more per month
0 patrons
At this level you’re like a patron of old. Don’t choose this unless you’re, say, a Pritzker. And in that case we can discuss what kind of journalism you’d like to see. I sure hope it meshes with mine, so I can take your money. We’ll devise ways to upend the systems that oppress people, and implement them with vigor. I’ll consider naming a section of a forthcoming publication after something of your choosing. Please read “Bite the hand that feeds” by Jamie Kalven before I roll up to your high-rise for a meeting.