How to turn your blog into a public interest project

16 Oct 2014
Author: Robert Precht


Anton Chekhov in 1893

What makes a book or blog or photograph a public interest project? Measurable objectives. Russian author Anton Chekhov wrote Sakhalin Island with the objective to galvanize public support to reform atrocious prison conditions. A government panel was created, but unfortunately no positive action was taken. Still, the book was very much a public interest project in that the author set objectives that went beyond simply selling the publication. A more recent example of a blog that is a public interest project is The Marshall Project, which we wrote about last week. The website is essentially a collection of long investigative articles about the American criminal justice system. But the editors have objectives that go beyond storytelling. The website states: 

We believe honest storytelling is a powerful agent of social change. The Marshall Project will be an agenda-setting resource for up-to-the-minute news, in-depth reporting and commentary about criminal justice. Our goal is to help make criminal justice reform an important part of the national debate by the 2016 presidential campaign. Just as a “national conversation” dramatically altered the country’s views on gay marriage and education reform, so too can a national conversation help us confront our troubled courts and prisons. 

The goal The Marshall Project sets out for itself is measurable. We will know in 2016 whether some of the articles it has published leads to discussions by politicians about criminal justice reform. The presence of this measurable objective makes the blog a public interest project. Viewed in this light, any number of endeavors -- blogs, photos, movies, songs, performances -- can become public interest projects.