BW Columnist Turns to Digital Panhandling

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Last time I saw Ted Rall—in June—he had plans to return to Afghanistan.

But first, he had to figure out how to pay for it.

Rall is no rookie when it comes to Afghanistan. He covered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and in 2002 published a graphic travelogue of his experience there. The Nation called Rall's coverage of Afghanistan "some of the best war reporting" on the invasion. But media has changed drastically since 2001. Budgets for things like reporters are almost nonexistent these days, let alone scraping together money to pay a reporter's out-of-country travel expenses.

So Rall came up with his own solution: he's asking his readers to pony up the dough. In a release today, Rall wrote:

"In the old days (before 2007), before the economy collapsed and newspapers and magazines thought it was important to pay people to collect news for them, and even paid their travel expenses, I traveled to places like Afghanistan and Central Asia on other people's dimes—POV magazine, Men's Journal, KFI Radio, Universal Press Syndicate, The Village Voice. It’s much harder now to get financing. So I'm turning to a novel means of funding ... not for the work itself, but for the ridiculously exorbitant travel bill involved with getting to and from Afghanistan ... which will likely run $35,000 or more for 3-4 weeks "in country," but for which I can scrape up $10,000 or so."

Throw a few bucks in the "Rall Goes to Afghanistan" pot, and you'll be eligible for bennies based on your contribution rate. For example, pledging $10 gets you blog updates, real-time dispatches from Afghanistan, and info on his book and trip after Rall's return. As of this posting, 12 people had pledged $10. At the most generous end of the scale, a $10,000 pledge will get you dinner and drinks with Rall anywhere in the continental United States, and, adds Rall, "If you'd like, I'll present a talk and show about my experiences in Afghanistan to you, your friends and/or a local organization. Plus the books, thank-you, and original artwork."

So far, Rall has raised nearly $2,800 from 33 supporters. He needs to get to $25,000 before April 5 or the project is kaput.

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