Two way-out ideas for freelance travel costs

We freelancers are always bumping into obstacles. Like, how to pay for our reporting trips. Here are two ongoing, creative approaches to freelance travel.

Freelancer Amber Nolan has come up with jethiking, or really Cessna hiking. She’s used that to bum flights to 13 different states. I love the idea, though I’m not sure it’s a great way to cut your expenses for freelance work. For one, there is no network of pilots willing to tote along a hitchhiker, so you can’t guarantee you’re going to be able to get some place when you need to be there for reporting. Her site suggests that the last piece she did was published in May, and involved travel by kayak. But she appears to have a TV show in the works, based on her travels. If there were a network of pilots offering up rides like this, there might be some way for freelancers to actually leverage this sort of thing, especially travel writers.

Chris Killian, a freelance political journalist and SPJ member, spent two months covering the presidential campaign in the swing states by living out of an old van. He set up his own site, SwingStateStories, where he published the bulk of his reporting, which was supported by Kickstarter funding. But he also landed this meaty cover story in the Christian Science Monitor’s Weekly. The numbers do keep this in perspective: he raised $4,472 on Kickstarter, and that’s what supported his two-month trip. He ran out of money before he could make it to Florida. But it is a sign of how unconventional methods are viable, depending on your costs and your interests.

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  • Robyn Davis Sekula

    Thank you for this post. I agree with your actions and support you and SPJ. We are not a breaking news organization, and we don’t need to act with haste. We can consider issues, discuss those issues and make decisions together, as happened here.

  • Danielle McLean

    Thanks so much Dana for speaking out!

    I think laws that allow discrimination do harm the journalism community and is definitely
    something we should condemn. Here’s why:

    -Lets say a gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender journalist wants to write a story about a private company. Could that journalist be discriminated against by that company and not have the ability to cover
    – What if that journalist is covering a political rally being held at a privately-owned function hall or small business? Could that journalist be stopped from covering that rally on the basis on religious freedom?
    – What if that journalist was working for a religious newspaper or a newspaper that has religious owners. Could that journalist be fired for being who they are?

    Part of our mission is perpetuating a free press. We should condemn laws that possibly limit members of our organization’s ability from carrying out that mission.

  • Hootyman

    SPJ should look into the “journalists” who’s “reporting” incited an online mob to shut down Memories pizza shop. Seems they specifically sought out a Christian owner to get their “gotcha” quote – but didn’t bother asking vendors of other religions – also they did not answer queries as to how many businesses they went to before getting what they were seeking (the pizza shop is over 40 miles from the news station reporting it).

    Then, to make matters worse, another journalist jumped in to mock the pizza shop (retweeting obscene posts that were put on the businesses Yelp reviews) THEN falsely and publicly made an accusation of fraud at the people who setup a GoFundMe page to help the business which had been shut down due to threats.

    Also, various journalists failed to report that the pizza shop proudly serves LGBTQ customers, but would refuse to participate in a same sex wedding if asked. Note that the pizza shop has never been asked by a customer to cater a wedding either same sex or traditional – they were only responding to a hypothetical question from a reporter who had been seeking such an answer for days from various businesses (and finally found one).

    In summary, we have a story of “journalists” working hard to create a story, not report it – THEN reporting it in the most sensational way to cause harm to the business (either leaving out or misquoting the fact that the pizza shop serves LGBTQ customers and has never been asked by them to cater a wedding) – THEN another journalist mocking the business for being shut down – THEN that same journalist publicly saying they filed a fraud complaint with no evidence against the people who started a GoFundMe page for the business(she falsely said she attempted to contact the fund originators before she claimed fraud – she didn’t) – THEN attempted to say she was only concerned for the business (after posting comments of outrage that they were raising so much money and re-posting obscene Yelp content that was being used to attack the business).

    Certainly not journalism’s finest moments….

  • Hootyman

    Oh – did I mention the “journalist” mocking the business, then complaining their GoFundMe site was raising money, then filing a false fraud complaint and publicly stating the fraud charge, then saying they were only concerned for the business; not only works as a journalist but TEACHES journalism at Virgniia Common Wealth University.



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