If Someone’s Indispensable,Treat Them Like They Matter

Miss the newsletter in email? You can find them here, too! Here’s the newsletter from Tuesday, February 2, 2021.

One of the first things we agreed on for Pipe Wrench was that we wanted to respect our contributors as much as we respect our readers. A magazine where you’ll always find something fascinating to read? Yes. And a magazine that supports creators editorially and financially.

Like many other publications, we’re nothing without freelancers. Yet writers encounter the same issues again and again: chasing payments on overdue invoices, wrestling with rights grabs in contracts, hustling for rates that become less and less worth it. Still, freelance writers and artists create beautiful things every day, while working side jobs to pay the rent that a nominal fee can’t pay.

Freelancers deserve better. So our first steps as an organization were:

  1. Incorporate, to have an actual business;
  2. Start a Slack instance, to have a place to share funny tweets; and
  3. Reach out to the Freelance Solidarity Project at the National Writers Union for help creating equitable contracts and contributor guidelines. 

After a series of the world’s most efficient and painless Zoom meetings — truly, the beauty of solidarity touches all aspects of life — Pipe Wrench has our first unilateral agreement with FSP, clearly outlining our responsibilities to our creators. We have a companion contract we’re proud to offer, with all-too-rare provisions like graduated payments (including 50% up front, to ensure people are compensated for their work while they’re actually doing it) and full rights retention after a 90-day exclusivity period. No one creates their best work when they’re worried about money, or are pulled in 10 different directions, or don’t feel like they have both autonomy and support. When writers and artists do have those things and can really dig into their subjects, the end product benefits us all.

Creators have been fighting for more leverage in contract negotiations since time immemorial. If you know a freelancer, are a freelancer, or just care about working people earning fair pay on their own terms, we’d love help starting more conversations about these values. Mention us on Twitter and we’ll get some threads going — or reply here to let us know your ideas on how media can become more human, sustainable, and just.

The week in Pipe Wrench

You mean, aside from launching?

  • We’re reviewing the 50+ pitches we’ve already received (thank you!) to zero in on the Pipe Wrench-iest longform stories.
  • We’re familiarizing ourselves with the 140+ people (thank you again!) who’ve told us they’re interested in contributing conversation pieces. 
  • We’re starting on the next phase of our website, i.e., a home page layout that’s a fitting frame for the rich tapestry that will be Pipe Wrench No. 1.
  • We’re lining up more editorial partners, to keep building out a mutual support network for independent publishers.

While we build, some reading

Michelle admits that she didn’t read a whole lot this past week because HELLO WE LAUNCHED A MAGAZINE but also can’t stop thinking about this blog post on the unanticipated effects of Covid-19. It’s heartbreaking and heart-affirming all at the same time. People are generally awful, except when they’re beautiful.

Catherine spent most of her scrolling time this week reading about how journalism organizations can pivot to trust. She also read every caption for Season 4 Episodes 1-3 of Call My Agent because she is hopelessly monolingual. Every other caption; the actors are too stunning, one of them is also called Catherine, it drives her to distraction.