Skip to content
The Dispatch’s Founding Manifesto
Go to my account

The Dispatch’s Founding Manifesto

A brief word from the founders about what we’re doing at The Dispatch—and why.

We launched The Dispatch in 2019 as a digital media company with three primary products: a website, newsletters, and podcasts. The goal was to create a place where thoughtful readers can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary that doesn’t come either through the filter of the mainstream media or the increasingly boosterish media on the right. Importantly, we wanted to build a genuine community, with regular engagement between those of us who work here and the readers and listeners who pay our salaries.

The internet puts an unimaginable amount of information at our fingertips, and yet it makes knowledge and wisdom harder to grasp. Social media connects people in meaningful ways, but also manages to make it more difficult for us to understand each other. It is less a World Wide Web linking us all together than an accelerant, quickening trends long in the works. Our confidence in the institutions that once anchored us was declining even before the internet became a fixture in our lives, but its arrival has only made us feel even less fixed to a common landscape. 

Nowhere is this more true than in the world of journalism. Not only do we have too much noise and not enough signal, but the signals we should be heeding are often discounted as noise and the noise is marketed as prophecy. A great deal of excellent journalism is still available to those who want it, but one has to seek it out like a tourist trying to find a chapel amidst the neon signs of some dystopian red-light district. 

The demand for “clicks” required by the dominant revenue structure of journalism today drives a need to pimp “hot takes” that, as the name suggests, shed more heat than light. The balkanization of the media landscape and the commodification of cheap opinion encourages outlets to emphasize quantity over quality. It’s easier, and considerably cheaper, to provide quick outrage to an audience eager for affirmation than it is to produce good reporting and thoughtful, fact-based commentary that might challenge consumers—and citizens.

If the media business is on shaky ground so, too, are our political parties. Partisanship may have been stronger in the 1850s, 1930s, or 1960s, but the parties themselves have never been weaker. They are less functioning organizations motivated by a patriotic vision of what is best for the country—or even themselves—and more like competing brands willing to change their products based on whatever will sell this quarter.

Though it may seem like an oxymoron, the country’s extreme partisanship is actually a function of this party weakness. Healthy parties mediate passions and reject passing fads in favor of long-term success. As party power has diminished, media organizations have moved in to fill the void. Many news outlets do the work once properly carried out by the parties: opposition research, ideological messaging, and even political organizing. As a result, much of what passes for political journalism is really party work by proxy. 

This is true across the ideological spectrum, but it is most worrisome on the right. The conservative movement was not intended to be a handmaiden to a single political party. What is good for the Republican Party may be good for the conservative cause, and vice versa. But that is not axiomatically so.

It would, for instance, be an unalloyed victory for conservatives—and America—if the Democratic Party fully rejected socialism, abortion-until-birth, and its growing obsession with wholesale gun confiscation. But that would not be good news for a Republican Party and conservative media complex increasingly invested in a strategy of polarization and demonization of Blue America.

This points to the original purpose of the conservative movement, not just to defend those ideas, institutions, and principles that make America an indispensable nation, but to persuade those who disagree with us. And persuasion is impossible in a hyperactive climate of paranoia, exaggeration, and willful blindness to the splinters in our own eyes. 

We didn’t launch The Dispatch as an indictment—of a politician, party, or institution. We didn’t launch The Dispatch to change the world, to reimagine news and information, to fix the internet, or to ignite a movement.

We launched The Dispatch to do right as we see it, by providing engaged citizens with fact-based reporting and commentary on politics, policy, and culture—informed by conservative principles.

No, we had more humble objectives. We launched The Dispatch to do right as we see it, by providing engaged citizens with fact-based reporting and commentary on politics, policy, and culture—informed by conservative principles. And, importantly, to offer a community and forum for thoughtful discussion and civil disagreement.

We aim to be timely and topical, yes, but not be slaves to the relentless pace of the news cycle. We slow things down, deliberately—because we think the times require more deliberation. Whenever possible, we try to pause and think before we react, to research and report before we share our views. The daily race to be wrong first on Twitter can be entertaining and instructive, but we’ve never been interested in entering the competition. In short, we try to zig in an era of zagging.

We don’t apologize for our conservatism. Some of the best journalism is done when the author is honest with readers about where he or she is coming from, and some of the very worst journalism hides behind a pretense of objectivity and the stolen authority that pretense provides. When we provide analysis, we endeavor to describe the opposing points of view with honesty and charity. When we report, we do so without concern for whether the facts prove inconvenient to any party or politician. We test our own assumptions and, we hope, challenge our readers to do the same. We expect people to disagree, but we hope they see that we come to our positions honestly, without some unstated agenda.

This approach has inevitably run afoul of partisan agendas over the years. That’s not only okay, it’s by design. We believe telling the truth is always its own defense.

We do not believe such a mission requires the sort of eat-your-spinach humorlessness or finger-wagging that often accompanies such endeavors. This would not have worked if we failed to provide what all readers should demand: lively and engaging writing that values the reader’s time. 

So, we started fresh. We rejected the advertising that makes clickbait seem so necessary. While we want as many readers as possible, we do not care a whit about traffic for its own sake. That’s why much of our content is delivered via newsletters, all of which are uncluttered by distracting ads. We don’t sell or rent our lists to low-class marketers, disreputable spam merchants, or political groups seeking to make a buck on outrage.

We don’t subject our readers to auto-play videos, pop-up or pop-under ads, or any of the clickbait boxes that even respectable news outlets use to monetize actual fake news. If you see an urgent message from some group that needs your credit card number to avert catastrophe, please contact customer service—because that means we’ve been hacked. In every regard, we prefer to err on the side of providing a quality reader experience, both in terms of substance and presentation.

Membership, for us, isn’t just a fancy word for subscriber. We want friends and participants, not just customers.

This means we have put our faith and our prospects in the hands of those who want to be part of this. Membership, for us, isn’t just a fancy word for subscriber. We want friends and participants, not just customers. That’s why including our members in the conversation is central to our structure, not some gimmicky add-on.

When we launched, we were a small and merry band, boarding a pirate skiff with limited provisions amidst choppy waters crammed with well-equipped battleships, barreling through the smoking wrecks of larger vessels that came before us. But we quickly found that we were not alone. There are many out there, of all ideological persuasions, hungry for what we are offering. As Basil King said, “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.” The mightiest force out there has been the readers eager to come along for the ride. 

If we’re wrong about all of this, we’ll fail. But failure in a good cause is better than triumph in a bad one. Besides, if we didn’t think we were right about what many people desire, we wouldn’t have tried this in the first place. 

We not only hope you’ll come along for the ride, we hope you’ll help with the rowing.

Steve Hayes is the editor and CEO of The Dispatch.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, enormous lizards roamed the Earth. More immediately prior to that, Jonah spent two decades at National Review, where he was a senior editor, among other things. He is also a bestselling author, longtime columnist for the Los Angeles Times, commentator for CNN, and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. When he is not writing the G-File or hosting The Remnant podcast, he finds real joy in family time, attending to his dogs and cat, and blaming Steve Hayes for various things.