I’m really glad to learn that The Dish is returning — especially in a form that will allow Andrew to write fewer but longer pieces than he did in the old days, and, I trust, by such means to retain his sanity. The former Dish was pedal-to-the-metal every single day, and even Andrew, the hack than whom no sharper can be conceived, couldn’t over the long term flourish at that pace, either emotionally or intellectually.
A slower-paced Dish of his own is surely the best venue for Andrew, who is the most independent of thinkers and therefore a constant threat to the “safety” of any colleagues whose mental cabinets have just two pigeonholes, Correct people and Evil people. (Apparently at New York most of his colleagues were two-pigeonholers.) I subscribed instantly, and I know I won’t regret it.
But Andrew is not the only thoughtful and unclubbable journalist who’s going indie these days, and that poses a problem for me. In that introductory message I linked to above, Andrew mentions the similar Substack-based endeavors of Jesse Singal and Matt Taibbi, and while I think both of those guy as are superb journalists, if I were to subscribe to their work as well as Andrew’s that would cost me 150 bucks a year. I still might do it — but that’s a lot of coin for three voices.
There’s an economies-of-scale problem here. At a newspaper or magazine, writers share an editorial and technical infrastructure, so costs of production are distributed. Those who go it alone don’t get to benefit from that, and neither do their readers. So the cash outlay for those readers can escalate in a hurry.
On the other hand, it’s nice when the money you send to pay the writer actually pays the writer (minus Substack’s cut, of course). I have long wished that places like the New York Times and Washington Post had tip jars for the good writers — if I subscribed to the damned things I would have to subsidize the clueless, pompous, self-righteous, yappy-dog incompetents who dominate those once-distinguished institutions.
One hand, other hand, one hand, other hand. The work of the subscriber-supported solo practitioner doesn’t get seen by nearly as many people as something on the open web — but maybe that’s a feature rather than a bug! Fewer morons to insult you without reading what you write.
Given the hostility of our major media venues to anything that even resembles thinking, there’s no easy solution to this problem. Perhaps some kind of non-partisan, non-ideological journal of ideas will eventually emerge — Lord knows there are enough tech zillionaires to fund one — but in the meantime what does a reader do? This reader is gonna look for some fat to cut from his media budget and pay one or two more writers.