The world of freelance can be a tricky one – constantly pitching stories, not always sure if all the hard work and effort you put in will end up being for nought. It’s even harder when the topics you write on are ones that need more of a platform. How do you find a way to do the work you love, get paid for it, and in the process help educate people about crucial topics? If you’re freelance writer Robin Marty, you get creative. Robin – someone I’m proud to call a friend – has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to get her latest project off the ground. I had the pleasure of talking to Robin to learn more about it.
The Mamafesto: Where did the idea come from to raise funds for your own project versus writing for an established outlet?
Robin Marty: After about a year of freelancing, I was starting to realize that I spent more time pitching stories and searching for grants than I did actually writing articles. Online sites give you the immediacy of being able to affect a conversation or get news out quickly and to bigger audiences, but seldom financially cover all the expenses that go into hours of research, interviews, sometimes even travel for on the ground reporting. But to turn to a print publication slowed the process down and limited who would see the final work.
The more time I spent researching stories and putting them on the back burner, the more I realized that I needed to find a way that could combine the immediacy of online reporting with the reach and pay of a print publication. That in essence is what Clinic Stories is. It can allow me the opportunity to really research these stories and basically pay myself per word what a print outlet would. That doesn’t just make these stories happen, but the other ideas that haven’t gotten covered because I couldn’t afford the time to work on them because I was scrambling to pitch.
I really like how you note in the fundraising campaign write up that by donating, it’s like you have your own personal reporter. Having people invested in that way – beyond monetarily – it’s empowering in a way current media lacks.
I love the idea of the audience picking the topic or focus. That’s actually a vision I came up with a while ago, where I would put out three topics to fundraise on, and whichever got funded first would be the one I wrote. I would set the bar based on how much I thought it would take to do the story — $100 to get a review of some anti-abortion book no one wanted to read but wanted to know all about, or $500 for a day of following around a Rachel’s Vineyard group, things like that.
My biggest frustration as a writer who focuses on areas with low abortion clinic and health care access is how often an outlet tells me what I want to cover isn’t national enough. Of course it isn’t. That’s why it needs attention. Clinic Stories is a chance for the audience to decide what they want without a publication deciding what they want to read for them.
That’s what I really like about your writing. You make us understand why it’s important. And why we should care.
I had said I would start as soon as I had the first $5000, and I meant it. It’s roughly titled “Chicago” at the moment, and looks at the abortion battle starting in the mid 70′s when the Chicago Sun Times had some reporters go under cover in the cities abortion clinics to expose the practices there. It then traces the rise of Pro-Life Action League, and how they grew as an organization and their tactics from “99 Ways to Stop Abortion,” then into the current state of one clinic in the city, which is being protested by both them and a new Chicago faction of Abolish Human Abortion. I hope to have it ready for release September 1st on the new website, where those who aren’t Clinic Stories members will be able to download a copy for 99 cents. Members will have it delivered via email a few days earlier.
Fascinating! I had no idea bout the Chicago Sun Times history – can’t wait to read more!
The Chicago Sun Times article is one of two major pieces that abortion opponents point to when they say abortion providers give abortions to women who aren’t pregnant, even though that happened over 30 years ago. Like I said, nothing changes much in the battle at the clinics, it just all comes back around. After the first piece, we’ll set up a vote for the next story, with three clinics offered as possibilities. Although I personally am rooting for the city of Fargo to win, since Personhood will be on the ballot in North Dakota in November.
What do you see as the long-term feasibility/sustainability for a project like this? How long do you see it carrying you & your work?
The full amount I’m fundraising for will pay for a year’s worth of stories at one a month, which would allow in depth research, travel to clinic sites for interviews and first hand accounts with people on both sides of the debate. I have no illusions that it will be fully funded right away, although the faster that happened the more stability there is to the project, obviously. But I’m in it for the long haul. Every $5000 results in a new story, even if it takes more than a month to make that happen. These stories need to be told, even if that takes longer than I hope. On the other hand, if it funds earlier, I’d love to be able to take any profits that come from the per article downloads and use that to fund the work of other reproductive rights reporters trying to do the same thing. Travel expenses are the biggest barrier to this sort of reporting, and the reason why mainstream publications seldom go into smaller, more rural, non-coast areas themselves but rely on re-packaging local articles. I want to break that barrier down when it comes to reproductive rights coverage.
To learn more about Robin and join me in supporting her in her effort to report on abortion, check out Clinic Stories’ fundraising page on Rally.org.