As both a staff writer and a freelancer, Punteha van Terheyden has been sharing “true life” stories of real people for many years.
But last summer, she had a week where incredible stories she pitched to newspapers and magazines in the UK weren’t being picked up.
“They weren’t landing like they normally do,” she says. “The reason for the no’s didn’t feel right for me.”
One of the stories she believed was worthy of publication was about a man who was in the process of divorcing but found himself out of his family’s home, feeling alienated and like his children were turning against him.
Try as she might, she couldn’t find an outlet willing the story. She had a theory as to why this was happening: In the UK, readers seem more interested in hearing from a woman’s point of view when it comes to emotional stories, rather than men.
“In my experience in the British media, women’s stories are preferred,” van Terheyden says. “I’d get sent out daily on a door knock, when a story had just broken, and they’d always say, ‘get the mom, get the sister, get the daughter.’ The only time they asked for the man was if the woman was dead.”
Now she’s preparing to launch a new platform, Lacuna Voices, that will be a home to stories that deserve readers’ attention.
“As a platform, I want it to be a collection of voices to fill the gap,” she says. “All these people who have amazing stories to tell, that are worth hearing about.” Topics are open but will likely include mental and physical health challenges, parenting issues, lifestyle issues.
One of the issues van Terheyden hopes to focus on is endometriosis, something that one in 10 women live with, but do so silently and without their stories told in the media.
“It’s not sexy enough to get into newspapers,” she says. “So many women are suffering from this, they want to talk about it, they want to read about it.”
She’s also going to use the platform to address something that’s bothered her in her freelance career: Writers who submit stories will be paid when the story is completed, without having to wait for its publication.