In Defense of Substack
I’ve been seeing more and more leftist journalists (is there any other kind of journalist? They’re all leftists) whining and crying about how awful Substack is.
If you don’t know what Substack is, it’s a platform that allows people to publish newsletters that users can subscribe to. By “subscribe” I mean “pay for”, so they’re paid-for newsletter subscriptions. Substack lets their users publish certain pieces for public consumption, and of course, there’s probably newsletters you can subscribe to for free.
Basically, it’s kind of like a blogging platform and newsletter mailer all in one. It’s very popular with authors and journalists who decide to go freelance, such as Glenn Greenwald, Jesse Singal and Andrew Sullivan. Even author Malinda Lo has her own Substack newsletter.
So yeah, various journalists are leaving their publications and deciding to publish with Substack, and leftist psychopaths like “Dr.” Sarah T. Roberts are not happy about it. In fact, she’s published an insane Twitter thread whining and crying all about how Substack lets eeeeeeevil people use their platform.
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So I just have to fisk it, because it’s about time someone actually defended Substack.
Substack is a dangerous direct threat to traditional news media. But more importantly? It is a threat to journalism.
LOL, no it isn’t. It isn’t any greater a threat than any other blogging platform or newsletter service. You can do the same thing on Blogger or WordPress and a newsletter mailing service like MailChimp, yet I don’t see you attacking those platforms. Of course, journalists aren’t freelancing at those other platforms because Substack makes it easy and convenient. If you wanted to achieve the same results with, say, a WordPress blog, you’d have to set it up, choose a theme, then install some plugins that allow you to create a mailing list and more importantly, put content behind a paywall and allow users to sign up for your mailing list and provide payment for your content. I have not used Substack (although I’ve been thinking about it) but I imagine that the mailing list and publishing components are all rolled into one service, and it’s likely pretty easy to use, which is why journalists are flocking to it.
So I don’t see it as a threat to journalism, even if it seems to be the platform of choice for some journalists. Then again, this person is probably computer illiterate.
“Great!” you say! Journalism needs to be disrupted!”
But here’s the problem. Journalists make their name doing reporting. This is governed by norms and practices and by ethics. Flawed and not always achieved, true. But present and guiding what newsrooms do in every way? Yes.
Yes, journalism does need to be disrupted because it’s incredibly one-sided. Of course, the point of this tweet is that Substack does not have the sort of control over content that you get in newsrooms. She calls it “norms” and “practices” and “ethics” (absolute bullshit, there’s absolutely nothing ethical about anything the mainstream media does) but what it really is, is control. She wants Substack to pick and choose what gets published on their platform, and she wants them to censor anything that might go against leftist orthodoxy.
So far, Substack has refused to censor their users the way Facebook and Twitter do. It’s not even a right-wing haven, because the people I mentioned earlier aren’t even right-wingers at all, but they’re not marching in lockstep with their leftist peers, so they’re deemed “problematic” and “toxic”.
People not inside journalism or media may not know the specifics, but they often have a nebulous sense that there are norms — independence, disclosure of compromise, editorial oversight and vetting of the reporting. That’s what makes them trust enough to buy and read or watch.
You mean “that’s what makes leftists trust enough to buy and read or watch”. This really has nothing to do with caring whether or not what people publish on Substack is true – what this is really about is making sure Substack does not publish things that the leftists do not want people to see. They use this “like, omg there’s no oversight and vetting of reporting at Substack, waaaaaah” as a mere excuse.
True, Substack doesn’t “vet” or provide “editorial oversight” of the content on their platform – they leave that stuff up to the authors themselves. You have to trust that the author of the content you are reading is on the up and up, and it writing truthfully. The users I mentioned have already made their names as journalists, working for various publications, so those guys are more trustworthy than some random Substack user you’ve never heard of because of course, they have already built their reputations. Substack is nothing more than a place for journalists to make money entirely, or mostly, on their own. That’s it. You have to make the same judgment you’d make of any blog you choose to read, or Twitter feed for that matter. Why should I trust anything you publish on your Twitter feed? Oh, right, because Twitter censors all the people you don’t like, so that automatically makes every leftist Twitter feed trustworthy.
Oh, if only you could see how hard I’m rolling my eyes right now.
What is much less obvious to them is what it means when there is a reporter who makes her name in a newsroom — traditional paper or fully online outlet — and then leaves for Substack (or any analog). Taking that name, reputation earned from work done in the context I just stated.
That name and reputation earned is THEIRS. They have every right to take it somewhere else, wherever that “somewhere else” happens to be – a newsletter on Substack or a WordPress blog or even a LiveJournal blog, like the one George R.R. Martin uses to continuosly promise that he will FINALLY finish Winds of Winter. You’re pissed because journalists, the decent and honest ones, are likely sick of being forced to be mouthpieces for the Democrat party. No, they’re not necessarily conservative or Republican, but they’re not liking what they’re seeing on the left, but they’re stuck writing whatever the editor of a given newsroom or newspaper or online outlet wants them to write, even if it’s lies or half-truths. It’s so cute how this stupid woman thinks that every mainstream news outlet is totally honest and doesn’t ever lie or exaggerate at all you guys!
And starting an outlet in which they are both reporter and editor without oversight, and in a subscription model that puts their material under the cloak of darkness. It is the allure of skirting those norms for quicker, dirtier reports, as well as the big money, that draws them.
Oh, wow, I love this whole “a subscription model that puts their material under the cloak of darkness.” Okay, so by this asinine logic, any newspaper that actually charges for their content, and even puts online versions of it behind a paywall, is also guilty of putting their material “under a cloak of darkness.” This bitch is insane. How dare they publish without some Democrat editor making sure they don’t write anything that might make a Democrat look bad! Well, I will admit that they probably do make more money for themselves publishing on Substack than they would working for a newspaper or shitty website like BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Would she still be saying this kind of stuff if these journalists had just set up a WordPress blog on GoDaddy with their own domain name and some WordPress plug-ins to help monetize and distribute their content?
Not only are they earning off of the subscription model, many high-profile writers are paid directly by Substack to be exclusive – it’s the influencer model.
So? This, obviously, is probably one of her reasons for why Substack must start editorializing their content, because of the exclusivity of certain journalists. Substack is making a name for itself as a platform for freelance journalists, and she cannot stand the fact that it isn’t subject to the same “quality control” (i.e., censorship) that mainstream media is subject to.
In this way, an investigative reporter who has earned her bona fides in a newsroom and under both strict editorial AND journalistic principles, has just cashed out and turned herself into an opinion writer. She likes it because she’s finally got her independence from an editor.
You say this as if it’s a bad thing. You also assume that a freelance journalist publishing on Substack is dishonest and wouldn’t employ strict editorial and journalistic principles. If you were to ask any of the journalists on Substack, they’d probably tell you they left and started publishing on their own precisely because the mainstream media no longer operates under any ethical principles of any kind. I thought independence was a good thing for feminists anyway. Oh, if it means telling the truth about what’s actually happening in this country, that’s not good.
I mean, there’s a lot of leftists among opinion writers. So? Publishing on Substack doesn’t automatically make someone an opinion writer. Once again, this person is just angry that these journalists are no longer subject to the propagandists that provide “quality control” for the mainstream media outlets.
AND she’s getting paid. A lot.
But she’s no longer a journalist. She is, at best, an opinion writer.
So, the general public sees her name, knows her reporting history, and signs up. Not knowing the difference.
I’ve got news for you. Rachel Maddow isn’t a journalist either. She’s a the TV equivalent of an opinion writer – a pundit. I don’t see you denouncing her or any other prominent political pundits.
I mean, I bet this idiot thinks Brian Stelter is a “journalist” but if you’ve actually watched his program, he’s no more a “journalist” than anyone publishing on Substack. He frequently injects his opinion into his work. The same can be said of pretty much each and every single “journalist” on CNN.
Furthermore, a great deal of the left’s activism is done by opinion writers. The opinion pages of The New York Times is very popular among the left and a lot of their insane ideas, ideas that Democrats in Congress eventually weave into their bills, is published within the NYT opinion pages.
This idiot also assumes that the average person will see a journalist’s Substack page and won’t know that this journalist is writing opinion or “facts” or whatever. Some propagandist from NYT or CNN isn’t combing through the journalist’s posts, removing anything that might discredit the current Mainstream Narrative, and we just can’t have that!
This is why Substack is incredibly dangerous and damaging to the fourth estate (journalism), one of the few failsafes against anti-democratic maneuvers when at their best. We really can’t afford to lose that right now.
This perhaps is the most irritating part of this thread so far. This moron acts as if mainstream journalism, the outlets that have “fact checkers” and “editors” and whatnot are automatically better than a freelance journalist posting on a Substack site. Then has the nerve to say that the mainstream media is a “failsafe” against “anti-democratic maneuvers” – the same media that works with Big Tech sites like Twitter and Facebook to suppress actual news stories, like Hunter Biden’s laptop?
Twitter nearly squashed that story, of which was broken by hte New York Post. They suspended the Post‘s account and deleted the tweet that contained a link to their story on the laptop, and basically deleted any other tweet that linked to the story. Facebook did the same. How the hell is that not anti-democratic? And this was by the mainstream outlets you freaking cherish so much.
Oh, and let’s not forget the recent story to be subject to leftist censorship – the stolen Presidential election of 2020. President Trump recently gave a speech at CPAC and of course, YouTube deleted each and every single instance of it. They’ve basically banned any talk of how the 2020 election was stolen, and any video discussing the matter is removed. How the hell is that democratic? Seems pretty damn anti-democratic to me.
I cannot forget to mention the whole Russia hoax that same cherished fourth estate you love so much promoted for Trump’s entire term as President, and impeached him for. To this very day there is no evidence whatsoever that even a jot or tittle of that ridiculous story is true, yet the mainstream media dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop story as “Russian disinformation” – you clowns are still clinging to that story, despite the fact that it’s been discredited already.
No, you can’t afford to lose your absolute monopoly on the news. You can’t afford to lose the so-called “fourth estate” as a propaganda mouthpiece for the Democrat party.
Please, do not write for or pay for Substack. I have to say it. I believe it’s dangerous. Take heed. You read it here first.
Oh, I’m going to completely disregard your plea and sign up for an account at Substack. It’s not dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you’re not interested in reading anything there or publishing there, don’t. Nobody’s forcing you to.
BY THE WAY, I am not taking about Substack for basket weaving or 30 Rock fandom or whatever. I’m talking about stuff purporting to be serious. Opinion can be serious but I believe lines are being intentionally blurred BY SUBSTACK.
This is libel right here. It’s a flat out lie at the very least. Substack isn’t intentionally doing anything other than letting their users publish what they want. It’s only dangerous because someone might decide to read something Andrew Sullivan has published on Substack rather than whatever lies someone’s belched up on The Daily Beast or any mainstream media outlet – take your pick.
There is also a long tradition, for example, of industry-watching newsletters written for fund managers, investors and so on. Back into the mid-20th century, easily.
I feel there is a very worrisome conflation with Substack, however, that capitalizes on established norms, blurs lines and takes advantage of its readers. I don’t like that.
How the hell does it take advantage of its readers? And how the hell is it blurring the lines between opinion and news? You, so far, haven’t offered any substantive proof of these claims. Why should I heed anything you say?
Also: I am making a very specific critique about journalism and tech. If you are talking about something else, I’m not going to engage anything but that. Any people trying to get me to talk about just being mad at good writers, blah blah woke, it’sa non-starter. General warning.
No, we all know what you’re really talking about – you want the Democrats to continue to exert strict control of the flow of information in this country. Substack stands in the way of that, and you’re mad about it.
Oh, one more thing:
Substack is paying for its big influencers on the platform. Their choices of whom to pay and support are not value-neutral. It’s not “just a platform.” It has made editorial decisions without calling them that. Beware.
No it hasn’t. All it does is allow people to publish on their platform – period. Furthermore, both Twitter and Facebook make editorial decisions as well, but you clearly have no problem with that, because they only editorialize your ideological enemies. So far, Substack hasn’t decided to editorialize the content on its platform to the Democrats’ liking, and, for the trillionth time, you don’t like that.
Aaaand one more thing: aren’t we to a point by now were we can dispense with the fantasy that Silicon Valley VC-funded services are a “countervailing force to MSM”? That might literally be the most ridiculous assertion I’ve heard yet, and yet I understand the genuine impetus.
But if you think this you’re being hoodwinked.
It is only ridiculous to you, a genuine Party Member whose loyalty to the Party is absolutely unquestioned. Of course, you can’t stand that the Democrats are losing control of their Ministry of Propaganda, aka the MSM. So of course it’s ridiculous to you, a brainwashed idiot stooge for the Democrats.
Also: the state of corporate media is a disgrace. They’ve dug their own grave quite handily but if you think that SV is going to rescue journalists and journalism, you’re tripping. SV capture the newspaper press into its logics of impressions, its ad revenue schemes, its CMS.
Everyone is guilty here. Substack isn’t going to save you.
I’m off Twitter for awhile. Hold it down for me.
Well, it is, and if you’re going to acknowledge that, you shouldn’t be surprised that people are gravitating towards sites like Substack. No wonder journalists are leaving corporate media and striking on their own.
It’s a disgrace because it is entirely one-sided and works to promote and cover for Democrats, while lying and destroying Republicans and anyone else that disagrees in the slightest with the Democrat narrative. Nobody is looking to Substack to “save” them. They just want the news unfiltered and unbiased. Apparently, there’s journalists in this world that would like to provide the news unfiltered at the very least, and while they may be biased, they are upfront and honest about that bias.
Fortunately, lot of people on Twitter are seeing through her bullshit. I love how she announces she’s going to be away from Twitter – rather convenient, so she doesn’t have to deal with any replies refuting her silly nonsense.
Anyway, if you want to read a leftist’s defense of Substack, check out Matt Taibbi’s take, which has the same title as mine. In my own defense, that’s what I titled this post before I read his. But anyway, I am not a fan of his in the least, but this isn’t really a right-wing/left-wing thing anymore.
Anyway, I set up an account at Substack, and my publication is called Deplorable Elaine and I just might post my movie reviews there, or something. Not sure as to what I will do with it just yet.