23 December 2016

One year since Cripping The Mighty

It's a year since #CrippingtheMighty happened. In short, The Mighty, a disability-focused site, publishes content that is damaging to people with disability. A number of disabled writers and activists spoke up on social media, and created a lot of content about the issues, offered advice to writers and editors, and a few of us (now former) writers were thrown out of The Mighty writers group - probably because we were too outspoken for them. I wrote about it here and here - and there are lots of others who did too. You can read a Storify of tweets and articles here

The best thing to happen was that I met amazing, likeminded people - and I've gone on to write lots of articles this year - and been paid for them!

Despite the commentary around it, and a number of us trying to work with The Mighty, they continue not to pay writers, and continue to produce inspiration porn and divide the disability community. It's concerning to see The Mighty used as as resource to teach people about disability, and to connect people with disability. They are looking at changimg, though. However, I imagine most writers would prefer to be paid for each article rather than through a best performance system, or not at all, with forecasted revenue potentially going to not for profit. Just pay the writers. 

In an email last week, Mike Porath, founder and CEO wrote:

 As we complete our second full year of operation, I wanted to give you a brief update on The Mighty, ask for your thoughts on a key initiative, and encourage a few of you to take a larger role in our community. 
First, the update: Together with your help we are growing our community and helping so many more people. When we launched The Mighty in 2014, our stories were viewed 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. Now our stories are being viewed 2 million to 3 million times a day, including our videos. If you want insight into our operation, the effect our stories are having on people, how we are growing and where we’re going from here, please check out my post from a couple months ago
Second, a new initiative: to fund our growing operation, we will begin partnering with brands as sponsors and begin experimenting with different ways to drive revenue. Over the coming months, these experiments will only cover a small fraction of the costs to run the site, but they will help us determine the best ways to grow The Mighty into something that helps far more people in many more ways. 
As we enter into this new phase, we want to get your thoughts on ways we can contribute a portion of the revenue to the community. Here are just three possible examples: 1. Our plan from the beginning was to contribute a portion of our revenue to nonprofits that are working with The Mighty and our contributors. 2. A performance-based payment model for contributing writers. 3. An operation that helps companies (our future sponsors) hire more people with disabilities and other health conditions.
Again, as we begin to bring in revenue (we’ve made no revenue up to date), any initiative we fund will be fairly small, but we have a very big vision of what The Mighty can become and expect there will be many ways for us to contribute to the community as we grow. Please take a few minutes to give us your opinions on this matter and others in this survey here.
Third, an opportunity: Have you ever considered working for The Mighty? We are getting about 1,000 submissions a week from contributors, far more than our small team of editors can handle. We're hiring part-time editors in several of our sections. To find these people, we'd like to start with you: the people in our community who know us as both a site and brand, and the conditions we cover. We're thrilled at the idea of having some of you join our Mighty team. 
These positions can be remote and have flexible scheduling, but they will also require a great amount of training and eventually, fast editing with thoughtful ways to frame stories. To apply to take an edit test with us, fill out the application form here. We hope you'll consider applying, but we can only bring on a few paid positions right now, so please do not be discouraged if you are not initially selected. If you have any further questions about our hiring process, please reach out to community@themighty.com. We'd also like to encourage any college students to reach out to that email address if you are looking for an internship. We'd like to reiterate: we are so excited at the thought of you joining our Mighty team and grateful for what you've helped us create so far. We've truly done this together.

Mike Porath
Founder and CEO, The Mighty

The fabulous Alice Wong interviewed a number of us who took part in Cripping the Mighty - all former writers - and here's the result on Disability Visibility Project

One thing I didn't say in my spiel, but wish I had, is that people who keep writing and sharing The Mighty posts are perpetuating the problem. It is not a site that supports disability rights. It doesn't pay writers. It doesn't respect advice from actually disabled people. It caters to the inspiration porn loving, medical model following, burdened parent. I have lost respect for writers who continue to write for The Mighty knowing the problems, and the feelings of many disabled people.

Since last December, The Mighty has categorised impairments. They have dedicated Facebook pages per impairment, and readers can search the site and view articles on the impairment they choose. I don't understand the divide by categorising impairments. So medical model focused. If you have cerebral palsy, why not learn about autism, or if you're a parent of a child with Down syndrome, why not read how the experiences across disability types can be similar.

It also takes advantage of writers who feel this is the best opportunity they can get. There are SO many more ways to get your voice heard. I've seen many disabled writers published in the mainstream - really making waves. I've been one of them, writing for the ABC and News.com.au this month. It's been a huge reach and a brilliant opportunity. 

As I learnt from Cripping the Mighty, and in my other areas of work this year - there are hundreds of actually disabled media makers out there. We've come together to highlight important issues including the impacts of the US Presidential Election, assisted suicide, the murders of disabled people, and of course media representation. We mobilise on social media. And these are the issues The Mighty isn't covering. 

There is no reason for our voices not to be centred in the media. Nothing about us without us. 

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