Please welcome to the Editor’s Q&A corner TheMighty.com Editor-in-Chief, Megan Griffo.
Q: Tell us in your words what The Mighty is and who its for.
A: The Mighty is a platform for people to share real stories of health — both challenges and triumph. Right now we have more than 8,000 contributors sharing stories about their disabilities, chronic illnesses, rare diseases, mental illnesses and more. It’s a community built on trust, connection, and resilience. Really, it’s for everyone — we all have a body, and even if at the moment we’re relatively healthy, we all have loved ones going through a health challenge.
Q: We spoke on my podcast back in 2015 when The Mighty was still fairly new. Catch us up on the last 2 years!
A: I can’t believe it’s been so long! Our contributor network has expanded in both perspective and subject matter. We now have more than 8,000 contributors writing about a few hundred conditions. A majority of them are writing about their own conditions, but we have parents, loved ones, doctors, teachers, therapists, caregivers and more also contributing, as well as more than 200 nonprofit partners. To keep up with these submissions, we’ve expanded our editorial staff; we have full-time mental health, chronic illness, parenting, cancer and disability editors and part-time editors tackling everything else. We’ve also grown a small video team that often turns contributor submissions into videos so our Mighty readers have more ways to access these stories.
We’ve introduced more fleshed-out editorial guidelines to ensure we’re covering health responsibly and respectfully, and now contributors and new users can submit their stories directly to the site vs. emailing us (which was the process back in 2015).
Readers can now register on The Mighty and create a profile, which allows them to follow both writers and topics on the site. This creates a personalized newsfeed and in the near future will come with more features. In 2015, you really could just come to the site and scroll around for what you were looking for. Now, if for example you’re interested in reading about only cancer and anxiety, you could “follow” those topics, as well as contributors who share often in those spaces. To date, we have more than 650K people who have registered, so hopefully these feeds are helpful, though we’re in the process of making this experience even better.
Q: What is important to know about both your readers and those who write for The Mighty?
A: This may sound like an odd answer, but people should know both our readers and writers care deeply about the communities they’re in. They share their stories to help others like them or to find others like them, and the comments and interactions we see on the site and on social media are fueled largely by empathy and support. When you write for our site or when you engage with our content in any way, you’re really engaging with a community rather than an article.
Q: What qualities stand out to your editors when they are reading submissions?
A: I forget how I answered this in 2015 but it’s probably not much different now: the level of honesty always stands out to us. The fact that people are willing to talk about difficult aspects of health and share intimate parts of their lives always amazes me.
Q: We talked about this in 2015, and I’m curious if it has changed. What are some of the topics/formats that seem to resonate the most with readers? Are there any topics you are particularly on the lookout for?
A: If anything, the topics that resonate most with our readers have just expanded, rather than changed. We now have more writers with more conditions, some extremely rare, talking about all aspects of their lives — from the day-to-day realities of their health to their advocacy efforts to social justice issues and more.
We are always on the lookout for submissions about rare conditions particularly because these people have such a hard time finding resources, support, and sometimes even another person with their condition. We believe connection is so important in a person’s health journey so if we can help facilitate these interactions by finding writers with rare conditions, it’s possible for us to them amplify their voice and reach a large audience.
I love that our site has seen different formats resonate. We’ve had “viral” listicles, longer-form essays, poems, etc. No one style really stands out to us when we’re fielding submissions.
I would encourage people to share whatever part of their health story is important to them, but we do look for submissions that discuss an aspect of a diagnosis that maybe isn’t talked about much or is considered taboo. We also look for stories that respond to the news, since almost every major news story affects a health community in some way. We want to make it OK to discuss all aspects of health online. We also want as many perspectives as possible on the site so all people feel represented in their health journey — if you feel like you bring something new to the site, submit to us!
Q: Can you share links to some recent posts that embody the tone and voice your readers love?
Q: You’ve changed the submission process quite a bit from the days of ’email us your post’! What does the current process entail?
A: The process is simple, but we’re still working to improve it. Once you make an account, you can submit a story. You’re asked to fill out a few fields that help us speed up the process on our end and organize submissions (i.e. listing the overall topic of the post, giving a suggested headline, etc.). Once you submit your first post, you should hear back from an editor within 48 hours. If it’s accepted for publication, your post will be published usually within 1-3 weeks (we’re still trying to improve this turnaround speed). You get an email the day your story goes live. In the mean time, being accepted as a contributor gives you access to our Mighty Voices Portal (MVP), which is where you can now submit more stories if you so choose and also see the progress of your current submissions. I should mention, an upgraded version of MVP is in our near future.
Q: You now have monthly blogging prompts. How do those work?
A: You can see our monthly challenges on our submissions page; contributors also get a weekly newsletter so at the end of each month, they’ll get the new challenges in that email too. We create these challenges to help people if they want to write a post about their health journey but don’t know where to start. As opposed to sharing a post that goes over your entire diagnostic journey, we prompt them with ideas that help them focus on one aspect of a condition or one moment they’ve experienced as a result of it. The blogging challenges are totally optional – we accept stories covering all subject matter at any point of the year, but sometimes we’ll come up with challenges that have to do with the time of year (for example, a gift guide challenge around the holidays).
Q: Contributing writers should read through your guidelines before submitting something. You suggest including at least one photo with a submission. What tips can you give someone who is a writer, but maybe a hesitant photographer about what works well on the site?
A: We love receiving personal photos from contributors, but it’s also not a requirement that they submit a photo with each story. They can opt that we choose a stock image. (They do, however, have to upload a photo for their profile, but this doesn’t have to be of them. We understand some people are uncomfortable with that.) Sometimes we encourage a personal photo for story submissions because it lets the reader know this story is coming from a real person and not something they’d read in a doctor’s office pamphlet. At the same time, we train our editors in finding great stock images that don’t feel stocky, so don’t be worried if you don’t have a photo to submit with a piece — we’ll find a good one or work with you to find one that we both feel comfortable with. If you do submit a photo, we do ask that you try to find the highest quality ones, because we do stretch them out.
Q: You are open to previously published work – yay! What about original work that the writer wants to republish elsewhere after it is published on your site – any guidelines for that?
A: Our contributors retain their author rights, so if you publish an original post on The Mighty, it’s up to you if you want to submit it to other sites. We do ask that you not submit to us if you’re planning to submit to another site that will ultimately own the rights to the story because then we’d have to go through the steps to take your story down, if that makes sense. We also have a ton of media partners who syndicate our work, so, for example, if you’re looking to get on The Huffington Post or ScaryMommy, you may want to submit an original to us, and we can help facilitate that republication. Our goal is to help our writers get in front of as many people as possible.
Q: You don’t currently pay writers, and I know many writers come back to write for you again and again. What are some of the non-monetary benefits they enjoy?
A: It depends on a writer’s incentive, but across the board I think people come back for the community. We’re really growing into a space to find people like you and educate people who aren’t like you. We do our best to discuss the hard topics in a responsible way and to frame these stories so they appeal to a large audience, particularly through social media.
The comments and emails we get on/about stories are unlike any others I’ve seen in my career — I hope as a writer, reading a comment like “I’m crying right now because this article is exactly how I have felt every day for 30 years and this is the first time I haven’t felt completely alone.” (That’s a real comment, by the way.) is a fulfilling experience. But we realize that’s just the first layer. Our (small) tech team is hard at work to create more community features for both contributors and users.
We’d also like to create more opportunities to amplify our contributors’ voices, from syndicating their work with our partners, to facilitating speaking and writing opportunities, to coordinating support groups, to working with hospitals… I could go on for days about the big plans we have. But really, we’ve found writers come back because of the human connection. Even our editors, who are all connected to a health community in some way, operate more like community leaders. We all feel connected to the people who submit to us — a few contributors have become my friends.
We do realize that some write for our site in hopes of monetary compensation, and that’s not lost on us. We’re currently talking out different models that may allow us to do this in the future.
Q: What’s next for The Mighty?
A: So much! I get excited thinking about all we want to do in the next few months alone.
You can expect to see our platform change in the next year, offering more ways for people to contribute to the site and engage with each other in ways that is not necessarily submitting a full article. I’m sorry that sounds so vague, but I’ll update you when we have more details.
Our biggest goal is to provide the community with ways to connect with each other so they can find the kind of support they need. For some this means organizing a rally, for others it means asking a question that helps them get through the day or getting more information about a treatment they’re considering. Our overall purpose has not changed: We want to help people in real ways, and we’ve only scratched the surface.