January 9th, 2018 2:58 PM
Hard talk: Dan Luepker (above) is the co-founder of Hard Lens Media. He and others at the company are working to provide a platform for marginalized political voices. | Photos provided by Hard Lens Media
An effort to get big money out of politics was the fire that ignited Dan Luepker, a 24-year-old Berwyn resident. He has spent the last few years with his partners at Hard Lens Media working to provide a media platform for marginalized voices.
The cofounder of the fledgling media company said in a recent interview that he first got involved in politics a few years ago when he joined a movement in Illinois that successfully pressed the Illinois General Assembly to pass Senate Joint Resolution 42, which calls on Congress to hold a constitutional convention to overturn Citizen's United, a 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that allowed unlimited financial contributions in elections.
He says Jon Stewart, political satirist and former host of The Daily Show, also influenced his decision to get involved in politics, as did his upbringing in Oak Park.
Luepker and his partner Kit Cabello have been working on various media company projects, most recently surfacing under the name Hard Lens Media.
Last year they shot roughly 240 videos of political demonstrations, public meetings and interviews with voices they believe are outside of the mainstream media lens.
Their Facebook group features interviews with union organizers, little known candidates for public offices and community organizers throughout the city.
Luepker said gubernatorial candidate Dan Biss was among their top interviews of the last year.
The company is more than just a Facebook page, though. Luepker, Cabello and others working with Hard Lens host a weekly radio show on Que4.org, which is broadcast on 1680 AM on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also host a political talk show on CanTV.org, channel 21, which runs on Saturdays at 7 p.m.
Luepker said the hard work is beginning to pay off as various interest groups around the city are beginning to reach out to them for coverage. Many know Hard Lens Media is the only game in town for getting their message out, he said.
But how do they keep the lights on? Luepker, who drives a Lyft car in his spare time, said they are funding the company on their own dime.
The entire operation costs $250 a month to keep going – that's mainly to pay the cost of radio time at Que4 and for equipment.
"We all work side jobs but we're building this up to where we can begin to pay people," Luepker said, noting that the group sometimes gets donations through their online fundraising portal https://www.patreon.com/HardLensMedia.
Luepker said listener support is vital to the operation because the group is reluctant to take money from corporate entities.
He said the goal of the group is not to push any particular agenda but to provide a platform for all voices. Those tend to be progressives, libertarians and other marginalized political groups, so far. But he hopes to eventually bring in more traditional conservative voices to balance out their coverage.