Dear Dispatch reader:
Last month, I was reading everything I could find on the future of the Republican Party when I came upon a piece from NBC News about Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, the young Republican who represents a district outside of Cleveland. The story caught my eye for a couple of reasons.
First, Gonzalez is a fascinating politician—a former first-round NFL draft pick who’d gone on to Stanford Business School and then to Congress, where weeks earlier he’d voted to impeach a president of his own political party. Second, I’d spoken to Rep. Gonzalez about all of this and much more on The Dispatch Podcast a week earlier, along with my co-host, Sarah Isgur. I’ve interviewed hundreds (thousands?) of elected officials over more than two decades in journalism, and this conversation stood out. It was a candid discussion of politics and principles, winning and losing—about what really matters in work and in life.
As we were wrapping up the interview, Sarah asked Gonzalez about his NFL career, which started strong but had been shortened by a series of injuries. Gonzalez responded that he’d never before been asked that question in quite the same way. And then he opened up about a very difficult time.
During those three years, I mean, honestly, I battled depression. I had all kinds of issues that I was trying to fight through. I handled it okay. But not great. And when my career ended, there was this period of time where I just didn’t know who I was anymore. I mean, you just feel like you don’t have friends, you don’t know what you’re going to do. You feel that because your whole ego is tied up in this game, and your self-confidence and self-worth… So I didn’t know what was going to happen. But you know what I think I figured out is you just keep moving, and you keep plodding along, and you realize the world didn’t end and your friends still do actually like you—most of them anyway.
Those challenges give him perspective—and maybe even a bit of wisdom—as he handles his work as a member of Congress.
And I’ll say this: If I didn’t have my NFL career, I don’t think I could handle the stresses of this job, because the scrutiny in the NFL is similar to the scrutiny here, especially when you’re not playing well. And also, the fact that I’ve already lost a career that I loved, that I spent my whole life trying to get, and it turned out okay—you know, right or wrong, that puts me in a position where I sort of trust myself to figure it out. If I can’t recover from this politically, which time will tell, I will be at peace with that, knowing that I did this the right way, or the way that I believe is right. Everybody can have a different opinion on that. But the way that in my heart, I believe is correct, that I can tell my kids about someday.
Though the NBC piece didn’t have any of that, the story was nonetheless very well done, adding solid reporting from the congressman’s district. But it also included a claim that wasn’t true—that NBC’s interview was the “first interview” Gonzalez had done with a national media outlet since impeachment. It’s the kind of journalistic chest-thumping that nobody in the real world cares about. But it was wrong, so I dropped the reporter a quick note praising the piece and giving him a heads up about the error.
He replied with a quick thanks and then added: “As for the mention of national outlet, I do understand where you’re coming from. I spoke with my editor on this though and we’re going to be keeping the reference.”
This struck me as an odd choice.
“Huh,” I wrote back. “As I say, not a big deal to us. But now I’m curious: Why would you keep a reference that’s wrong, whether you talked to your editor or not?”
Moments later, a response: “It’s been run up the chain and is being changed to ‘major national news organization.’ Thank you for flagging.”
For a moment after I processed the insult, I was indignant. But my anger quickly gave way to amusement. Who does that? Standing by an obvious mistake even when you know it’s wrong? And then using a non-clarifying clarification to take a petty shot?
Even if I don’t understand this approach, it doesn’t surprise me. There’s a pervasive sense of entitlement shared by too many members of big, establishment media outlets—that somehow they’re what’s most important, even to the point that they’re willing to obscure the truth to protect their own interests. It’s one reason that trust in media—in particular, trust in “major national news organizations”—is so low.
Here, at The Dispatch, we have a different approach.
When we make a mistake, we’ll own it. I hope these moments are rare—we’ve got an entire editing and fact-checking process to avoid them—but they’ll happen. When they do, we’ll announce them prominently and correct them clearly, maybe even ostentatiously. We’re happy to talk about our reporting process—why we pick the stories we do, what experts we choose to consult, how we see reporting as a core part of our mission.
Our members know that we regularly join the comment sections on our articles to answer questions about our work. We don’t have ads in our newsletters or on our website. We’re in business because readers like you decide to trust us to provide them with important news and factual information—and pay us to do so. If we fail to deliver on that promise, we won’t be around for long. In an era where distrust of the media is prevalent and, sadly, often justified, we hope this approach will help demonstrate our commitment to accurate, fact-based reporting and analysis.
As I hope you’ve seen from the materials we provide for free—both in our newsletters and on our website—we’re not an eat-your-peas kind of place. We take seriously our obligations to give you news and commentary that you can trust, but we think we can have a good time doing it. And we’d love to have you join us. We’re adding hundreds of new members each week—people who appreciate our straightforward, fact-driven approach to news and analysis and who are seeking a reliable guide through the chaos of our national debates.
We are offering a 30-day free trial of our annual membership—giving you access to all of our materials. Everything.
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Founder and CEO